Monday, October 11, 2010

Homophobia and hate crimes

Its election season in America, which means we get the dreary sight of candidates appealing to bigotry to get elected. Today its New York gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino, who declared that children shouldn't be "brainwashed" into thinking being gay is acceptable, and condemned his opponent for marching in a gay pride march earlier in the year. He then tried to deny he is homophobic.

Meanwhile, there was a perfect example of where this climate of hate and bigotry leads in the pages of the same paper on Friday. A pack of young men decided they didn't like gay people - so they kidnapped and tortured three of them:

The spree began last Sunday about 3:30 a.m., when the crew members snatched a 17-year-old off the street, took him to the apartment at 1910 Osbourne Place in Morris Heights and essentially sought to force him to confess to having performed sex acts with a 30-year-old man, one official said.

The boy, who had been trying to join the street crew, was, “thrown into a wall, made to strip naked, hit in the head with a beer can, cut with a box cutter and sodomized with the wooden handle of a plunger,” said Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly, who outlined the arrests at a news conference at 1 Police Plaza with Chief of Department Joseph J. Esposito and other officials.

About 8:30 p.m. on Sunday, the street crew members grabbed a second 17-year-old, took him to the same apartment and grilled him about his contact with the same 30-year-old man, the police said. Then they lured the 30-year-old man to the apartment by telling him a party was being held there and forced the teenager to hit him and burn him with a cigarette, the police said.

The assailants also brutalized the 30-year-old, hitting hit him with a chain, sodomizing him with a small baseball bat and forcing him to drink 10 cans of the alcohol-spiked energy drink they asked him to bring to the party — a brand called Four Loko, Mr. Kelly said. While holding the man hostage, the attackers took his keys, went to his apartment and robbed his brother of $1,000 and two debit cards, Mr. Kelly said.

Hate crimes like this are enabled by politicians like Paladino - politicians who constantly denigrate gay people and cast them as less worthy of respect, less than human. The results of that denigration can be seen in the scars and bruises on those men.

This is why we need to speak out against such hate speech when it occurs: to prevent it from going unchallenged, to prevent a climate of hate and bigotry from growing, to prevent crimes like this.