When events like the shootings in Kansas or the stabbings at a Pennsylvania school happen, what follows tends to be pretty predictable.
The suspect’s motives are parsed vigorously, especially if he is killed. The media, especially near where it happened, construct extensive timelines and profiles of the victims.
And then, between those for and against gun control, it’s the wars of words, which tend to be just about the same every time, with rote recitations of talking points, dubious statistics and misattributed quotes. When logic fails, volume steps in, precipitating a serious need for aspirin to take care of the resulting headache.
What’s overlooked (and ironically, generated) much of the time is what often lies at the heart of such attacks: hate.
Frazier Glenn Cross (also known as Frazier Glenn Miller) is the suspect in the shootings Sunday at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City and the Village Shalom Retirement Community in Overland Park, which resulted in the deaths of three people.
Video of Cross, 73, after his apprehension shows him yelling “Heil Hitler,” and the Southern Poverty Law Center reports that he’s the founder and ex-leader of the Carolina Knights of the Ku Klux Klan and the White Patriots Party.
Monday afternoon, Overland Park Police Chief John Douglass said investigators had determined the shootings could be classified as a hate crime, which as a federal crime could put the death penalty on the table. Federal authorities confirmed later Monday that they believe the murders were indeed hate crimes despite the fact that the victims were Christian; the gunman’s perception and bias are what make it a hate crime according to the law.
Small consolation for the families of William Lewis Corporon and his grandson, Reat Griffin Underwood, killed at the community center; and Terri LaManno, who was visiting her mother at the retirement center.
The Anti-Defamation League reports that a total of 751 anti-Semitic incidents happened in 2013, down 19 percent from the same period in 2012, but violent assaults against Jews or those believed to be Jewish nearly doubled: 31, up from 17 in 2012. League Director Abraham H. Foxham said, “the high number of violent in-your-face assaults is a sobering reminder that, despite the overall decline in anti-Semitic incidents, there is still a subset of Americans who are deeply infected with anti-Semitism and who feel emboldened enough to act out their bigotry.”
In 2012, another white supremacist, Wade Michael Page, attacked a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, killing six people and wounding four others before taking his own life. Attorney General Eric Holder, at a service for the victims, labeled the murders a hate crime.
In the space of a year (2012), reported the Bureau of Justice Statistics, anti-Hispanic attacks more than tripled.
The FBI defines a hate crime as an offense such as murder, arson or vandalism, but with an added element of bias against a victim’s race, religion, disability, ethnicity or sexual orientation. Its latest statistics on U.S. hate crimes reported 5,796 hate-crime incidents involving 6,718 offenses in 2012, down from 6,222 incidents involving 7,254 offenses in 2011. There were 7,164 hate-crime victims reported in 2012, down from 7,713 in 2011. Race crimes still make up nearly half of the hate crimes reported.
The FBI report notes that though there was improvement, “the numbers show that we as a nation still have a way to go toward alleviating these crimes that have such a devastating impact on communities.”
Anger and retribution are just two more of the faces of hate, and something we see entirely too much of.
In March 1998, Andrew Golden and Mitchell Johnson opened fire on students and teachers exiting Westside Middle School in Jonesboro, Ark., after Golden had pulled a fire alarm. Four students and a teacher (Shannon Wright, who had been my lab partner in my college biology lab) were killed and 10 others were wounded. Case files show that when an officer asked why the boys had done what they’d done, they said it was because of anger.
Not long after his apprehension in the April 15, 2013, Boston Marathon bombing that killed three, suspect Dzohkar Tsarnaev reportedly told authorities the attack was in retribution for Muslims hurt and killed in wars in the Middle East. His brother Tamerlan was killed in a police shootout in the days after the bombing. Dzokhar is still awaiting trial.
Both attacks had been planned for a long time, and once in motion proved just as unstoppable as the hate behind them.
While hate commands a lot of attention in crime, in everyday life, it’s hard to find something that at least one person doesn’t hate, whether it’s Taylor Swift, sunrises or fuzzy baby animals. And yes, we all have at least a little bit of hate in us; the trick is not surrendering to it.
Some people automatically (and blindly) hate anything different from them, and when that irrational hate takes over so completely, much of the time nothing good comes of it, as recent events have shown.
In politics, it seems you couldn’t throw a rock without hitting one or two people who hate Barack Obama. He could cure cancer, and people would be angry that he didn’t do it sooner. Yet he was elected president twice, so …
Scientists at the University of Pennsylvania found they could measure what they call “dispositional attitude,” and said some people are just more likely to focus on the negative regardless of the topic. That doesn’t mean it can’t be changed; the haters, though, have to be aware of that tendency and actively seek a different way of doing things.
But when it seems that so many people thrive on hate, the odds of them changing don’t look good. Any valid points they may make end up being buried in their vitriol.
There will always be people who see only the thorns when they see a rose bush in full bloom. Trying to get them to appreciate the beauty and scent of the flowers will result only in higher blood pressure for you … which will probably just make the haters happy.
A lot of the time, all you can do is not engage with a hater, especially one who enjoys with sadistic glee the act of antagonizing others. The idea of karmic payback means nothing to them, and trying to reason with them will prove futile.
And if that hater is related to you, all I can say is good luck.