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Exploiting Virginia Tech, take four

by Jeremy Hooper

So first we told you how Phil Magnan of the Biblical Family Associates was parlaying the VA Tech massacre into a refutation of hate crimes legislation. Then last week we showed you a VA Tech-centric press release from the Concerned Women For America's Matt Barber, in which he said things like:

"The FBI's latest statistics show that there were zero 'hate crimes' murders committed against homosexuals or those perceived to be homosexual in 2005; yet we already know of thirty-two so-called 'hate crimes' murders committed against perceived 'rich kids' in a single day. But under H.R. 1592, those 'rich kids' would shamefully be denied the same protections and justice as homosexuals. The whole 'hate crimes' concept really places logic and reason on its head"

Oh, and we also saw the Family Research Council's Tony Perkins echo the sentiment:

Under this legislation, the crimes at Virginia Tech, which some are calling one of the deadliest rampages in U.S. history, would not be punishable to the level of these so-called "hate crimes." If the House approves H.R. 1592 and the Senate follows, a homosexual would have more federal protection under the law than the 32 victims of last week's massacre.

Well, better late to exploit senseless tragedy than never, says Focus on the Family, whose Tom Minnery has offered these thoughts on the organization's Citizenlink news site:

The man who murdered 32 people said in his diatribe he was angry at ‘rich kids.’ And that is not a hate crime under the language of this law,” ... “Had he killed transgender people -- that would have brought the federal government into it as a violation of the hate-crime law.”

So our first response is, of course: Do these kids ever have an original thought? Seriously, don't any of them ever year to break from the lock-step march and stray from their talking points and actually posit an nonconforming, fresh idea?

However, moving on from contemplating the shared brains of our opposition, our second thought is: Have you guys no shame?!?!?! Because not only is it highly inappropriate to try and use this senseless tragedy for your political gain, but it's also WILDLY off-base! The VA tech incident involved a madman who appears to have randomly killed any and everyone who was in his path of terror. Yes, he cited "rich kids" as something he hated. He also cited "deceitful charlatans," the women who had rejected him, and virtually the totality of his campus, nay, world! While we will give the religious right clever points for trying to position "rich kids" as a targeted population sect, this is extremely disingenuous, as well as offensive to the memory of the slain! It gives far too much credence to Cho's disturbed rants, and even sort of makes it sound like the victims did something to earn their fate (have money and possessions).

As we said in our first response to this disturbed attempt to capitalize on tragedy: While the VA Tech incident was horribly tragic and horrifying, the sad fact is that the act would hold an extra layer of alarm if they were specifically meant to send a message to a larger sect of people. That's not to slight any of the victims, as murder is murder. But you cannot deny that if the tortured soul who opened his fire at a church, synagogue, African-American rally, gay bar, or women's conference, the national conversation would be a different one. Not a more tragic one -- but a different story with more frightening implications for a certain community of people!

These "pro-famiy" types are almost making it sound like HR 1592 would give the gay community some special gift that makes them jealous. The actuality, however, is that WE are jealous of those who have never been persecuted for living their truths! We hope to NEVER be in a situation in which we would need to be assisted by HR 1592. We also hope that our religious opposition will never be in a situation in which they will have to employ the CURRENT FEDERAL LAW that protects them from crimes in which they were targeted because of their religion. However, if we should find ourselves in a situation in which our house was covered with graffiti reading "ALL FAGS MUST DIE," we would want to see that perp punished in harsher ways than the criminal who covered our neighbor's house with the painted message, "MOW YOUR LAWN!" While the spray paint used to write the messages may be the same and the cleanup bill may be of equal cost, the two scenarios would have far different implications for both us personally and society at large. And the same goes for violent acts committed against our person. If we're beat up for holding our partner's hand, that is different from being beaten because someone just wants to blow off some steam. It doesn;t make us "special" to receive and extra layer of protection for bias-motivated crimes; it makes us just a little more protected from those who think we are eSPECIALly disgusting and deserving of hurt!

We hope as this debate continues to chug along, our opposition will cut out these duplicitous messages, which are SO OBVIOUSLY meant (a) to tug on the heart strings of a nation still mourning this senseless tragedy, and (b) make it seem as if the gay community is insensitive to what happened in Blacksburg. Just like they more than likely realize that their "thought crimes" line of logic is fallacious, yet stay on that message in order to exploit the fact that most of their followers will just accept what they are telling them, we truly think they MUST realize the difference between an actual bias-motivated crime and a mentally disturbed individual's senseless act of violence. As horrible as it is to say: Had this massacre been on a Christian campus and the 32 were killed because of their faith, they might start to see the difference! If such were to happen, we can say one thing without hesitation: Even now, with all of the attempts these kids have made to keep us unprotected, we would be on their side, working with them to curb religious bias!

Dr. Dobson Asks the Nation to Oppose Hate-Crimes Bill [CitizenLink]

**We do want to mention that we have had several email exchanges with Phil Magnan (the first man mentioned above), and he has proven himself to be a very nice guy who is quite willing to listen to our logic.

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Your thoughts

Besides, they ignore the fact that this act of madness took place in Virginia. Trust me, if Cho had been taken alive unless he was mentally incompetent he would have faced execution. Only Texas exceeds Virginia in putting murderers to death. It's not an accident that the Beltway Sniper was tried in Virginia first. After Maryland finishes up he'll be shipped back and put down like a rabid dog.

Posted by: John | May 2, 2007 4:00:44 PM

One more thing: the FBI statistics are not complete. See Box Turtle Bulletin for more.


Posted by: John | May 2, 2007 4:19:37 PM

"While we will give the religious right clever points for trying to position "rich kids" as a targeted population sect, this is extremely disingenuous, as well as offensive to the memory of the slain! It gives far too much credence to Cho's disturbed rants, and even sort of makes it sound like the victims did something to earn their fate (have money and possessions)."

I actually disagree with you here, Jeremy... Saying that a murdered man was killed for being gay (eg, poor Matt Shepard) isn't saying that he did anything to earn his fate - so saying those poor unfortunates at VT were killed for being "rich kids" says nothing bad about them - it merely says something of the jealous nature of their killer (assuming it's true, of course).

The one protection the rich have in America that I think they shouldn't is the protection from the high levels of taxes they would be bearing anywhere else in the world.

I actually think the hate crimes bill would be better if it didn't specify groups, but merely said that the additional punishments would take place if the person was targetted because of a group that he or she belonged to. There could then be a list at the end saying that "There groups include but are not limited to...", followed by a list of the currently proposed protected groups.

That way, if a person *was* beaten up for being born the child of rich parents, they'd be protected - as would a clown, if he were targetted because of belonging to a circus; a chorister for belonging to a choir; a member of the local chess club for being a nerd... you get the idea.

I think people should be more mature than to beat up on others for being members of groups that annoy them. Why bother to single out the groups? All people should be protected from hate - not just those who tend to recieve more of it; and certainly not just those whom it is politically correct to protect.

Posted by: Anon | May 3, 2007 3:07:57 AM

Anon: Your idea for these laws are nice in theory. It would be very hard in practice, though.

As for the "rich kids" thing: I do think it "sort of makes it sound like the victims did something to earn their fate." The victims were not, in fact, all rich. Or all kids. They were tragically in the wrong place at the wrong time. Making it sound as if the 32 were all part of a large minority sect known as "rich kids" is a tad bit offensive to their legacy, IMHO. And it's also an oversimplification of the motives, since Cho lashed out against LOADS of things, not just "rich kids."

If you say someone is murdered for being gay, then you are saying they were murdered for what they are. If you say someone is murdered for being "a rich kid," you're sort of implying that they were killed for what they have . We'll have to agree to disagree, but I find the religious right's classification of the victims as "rich kids" to be a little disturbing.

Posted by: G-A-Y | May 3, 2007 8:55:59 AM

We do disagree on some things, Jeremy... but not on all the points you've mentioned...

I agree that mislabelling anyone is a tad offensive - especially when it's done just to make a political point. That's why I added the "assuming it's true" to my post - the post was made on that basis, even though I personally don't believe it.

What I disagree with you on, though, is the inherant difference between being born with a different set of attractions to the norm, and being born the child of parents with posessions. You think you have control over the second. I don't. While the victims in this case aren't "rich kids" - or even "kids" at all - I would have no torubles protecting "rich kids" from acts of violence, since I went to a school where if you arrived dressed as if your parents had the money to look after you, you got beaten up.

My parents had less money than most other families - my mother's back got broken in the car crash, and we'd been a "role reversal" household up until that point, so we ended up a family with 7 kids, on social security. However, my parents would tell me that I "Can't go out that door looking like nobody loves you!", and make sure I looked presentable... and as such, I often got beaten up for being a "rich kid".

(okay, I was an annoying brat for other reasons... most kids are to some extent... But you tend to remember the things people accuse you of when they're wrecking your bike - especially the things that just weren't true).

So, yes, I find the religious right's classifications of the victims as disturbing as you do. However, I see room to protect people for being percieved to be part of many other groups than the ones listed. I see no point in discriminating at all - if a crime was caused by a bias, because of a real or percieved group a person belongs to, then I think that crime deserves to be treated as a hate crime.

No matter what the group in question was.

Posted by: Anon | May 3, 2007 4:53:46 PM

Anon: I actually don't think we're really disagreeing on much of anything. We all would like to see discrimination of all sorts wiped away.

Posted by: G-A-Y | May 3, 2007 5:08:19 PM

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