Over the past couple of weeks we’ve seen brutal assaults on three gay men along the Wasatch Front. Today, following the third report, we’re starting to ask what’s behind these attacks. Is this “typical” homophobia run amok? Is it some organized group of domestic terrorists targeting gay men in our communities?
I don’t have the answers to who is behind it, but I do have a few thoughts regarding what is behind it. First and foremost, I think it’s important to note that today’s technology makes it easier to get this news out to more people than previously possible. Blogs, social media, and traditional media outlets spread news like this farther and faster than ever before. This, in my opinion, is a good thing. It helps to shed light on issues that might have gone unnoticed in times past. It does also, however, make one wonder about how often this may have happened in prior years, but the reports were not made as public as these more recent atrocities. That being said, it in no way diminishes the seriousness of these recent attacks and the need for all of us to work together toward eradicating this violence in our midst.
The trend that I’ve seen over recent years is that we, as a society, tend to dehumanize those with whom we differ or disagree. This underlies the more obvious issue of violence. When we detach ourselves from others, when we create easy-to-apply labels to people, we make it easier for us to hate them. The step from hatred to violence isn’t a far one, especially when the object of said hatred is something or someone that we picture as less than ourselves.
We see this in all aspects of our lives – in politics, in business and in our personal dealings. We all have a tendency to categorize and label the people we encounter. That’s human nature. What we shouldn’t do, however, is apply those labels in such a way as to be demeaning or dehumanizing. I’ll admit it, I’ve used the term “Teabagger” to describe those on the far right of the political spectrum. While I’ve yet to have a reasonable encounter with any of those folks, it is still wrong of me to paint them with that dehumanizing brush.
We need to come to a point with ourselves where we can respect the differences we have with other people and understand that while we may disagree, we’re all humans and all worthy of respect. That’s not always easy to do, especially when you’re trying to respect someone who shows nothing but disdain and hatred for you, but, when has hatred ever overcome itself? Hatred and violence only beget more hatred and violence.
I’ve seen some remarkable things happen in this community in the wake of the first two attacks. Many people have come together, helping to raise funds for the victims and to raise awareness of the problem. These are the types of acts that will ultimately end the violence. When communities come together in support of each other, real change will take place. In hearts, in minds and in bodies.
In the meantime, we need to look out for each other, we need to continue to work together, and we need to do our part to end the dehumanization that is helping to fuel this violent outrage. We can’t stop what other people think and feel, any more than we can stop how they act out on that. What we can do, however, is not give in to it ourselves.