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Revisiting Issues of Hate

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I've blogged about hate before, but recent incidents move me to return to this issue.  It continually astounds me that hate is so prevalent in our country...our world.  Again, it's the hatred that lies "dormant" that seems to surprise people most.  We've grown accustomed to wars raging around us, bombings taking the lives of hundreds of civilians, villagers being cut down by machetes, women being raped....We say we're horrified by these types of actions and some of us protest them...even become activitists....as we need to.

But more attention needs to be given to the everyday hate that lives and grows among us...prejudice, discrimination, bullying, teasing...

Because of the recent murder of Dr. George Tiller along with the murder of Stephen Tyrone Johns, security guard at the USHMM, hate has stepped to the forefront of commentary by the media and journalists.  I want to share a few pieces that have especially attracted my attention in the past few weeks:

Let's not forget as time passes and these horrific incidents fade from memory that we must be constantly vigilant and pro-active in this challenge to address the hate which is the underlying cause of so much intolerance...and to address the fear which is the underlying cause of so much hate.

Let me also share an excerpt from a letter written by Sarah J. Bloomfield, Director, US Holocaust Memorial Museum on June  11, 2009:

"This incident underscores why the Museum is so important. The Holocaust did not begin with mass murder. It began with hate. The Holocaust reminds us of the dangers of indifference and unchecked hate--and that each of us has a responsibility to stand up to it. Nothing teaches that lesson more powerfully than the Museum.

It is unconscionable that such an act of violence, fueled by hatred, would occur at our Museum, a sacred place of memory. Yet, despite our grief and outrage, we will reopen on Friday with a renewed commitment to the urgency of our mission."

Let us not allow terrorists of any kind determine how we live our lives.  And let Anne Frank remind us:

"I keep my ideals, because in spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart."

peace to you all, Deb

A Big Lie? Crisis in Darfur

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The atrocities in Darfur have gone on for too many years. When I see photos and video coming out of Darfur and talk with people who have been there to personally witness the results of the brutality of this genocide...I don't know what to think. While the world has taken some notice of what is taking place there, it hasn't been enough.

I commend the various humanitarian organizations which have become involved in trying to provide some aid to the people affected by the genocide, but now they have been ordered to leave the country. I applaud the International Court's issuing an arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir for a five-year campaign of violence in Darfur and charging him with acts of genocide. I am encouraged by President Obama's appointment of a special envoy to Sudan, retired Air Force General Scott Gration. These are all critical steps in helping to end the crisis in Darfur.

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But does everyone see this as a crisis? I want to share with you an e-mail I received from the Save Darfur organization (www.savedarfur.org) which works so hard to help address the issues in Darfur. The e-mail provides a link through which you can let President Obama know that you support continuing efforts to help the people in Darfur, especially as they face an increasing crisis due to the removal of humanitarian aid groups by order of their president.

"A big lie." That's what Sudan's ambassador to the United Nations called a U.N. report that there are "over 1 million people at life-threatening risk" due to the government of Sudan's decision to expel aid groups.

But we know the truth: there is a dire crisis in Darfur. We can't wait another day for bold, agenda-setting leadership. That's why I just added my voice to a letter from the Darfur activist community calling on President Obama to take bold action for the people of Darfur, and I hope you will too.

http://action.savedarfur.org/campaign/jointletter

The rainy season in Darfur is coming soon, and it will only make matters worse for those at risk without the aid groups. We must help the groups get access to Darfur again.

darfur 4.jpgMake sure President Obama hears from you!

http://action.savedarfur.org/campaign/jointletter

This is not a political crisis...this is a humanitarian crisis...help make a difference...pay attention to what's happening in the world around you...help raise awareness!

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Peace, Deb

Photo credits: (top to bottom)

"Hate"...a word that is used very casually by most of us in our daily lives..."I hate having to get up so early in the morning."...."I hate broccoli."...."I hate the cold." "I hate it when it's so hot."...."I hate paying bills."....Used in these ways, the word is fairly innocuous, although it does contribute to the loss of power the word has in other situations, particularly when directed toward another person or group of people. Several years ago I became aware of how much I was using the word and resolved not to use it anymore because although the feelings connected with using "hate" in conversation were strong, they really weren't the feelings I believe are causes of "hate." I do pretty well with this vocabulary limitation, but do slip up on occasion.

I don't know if I've ever actually hated someone.  I can think of several times in my life when I've had very intense feelings about someone because of something he/she has done or said and perhaps at those times I really thought I hated them.  But I've come to feel that "hate" goes well beyond anything I've ever felt toward another person...and perhaps I've just been fortunate to never have anything said or done by someone that has created such impassioned response from me.  I have no doubt this surprises many people.

hate: (www.dictionary.com)

-verb (used with object)

  1. to dislike intensely or passionately; feel extreme aversion for or extreme hostility toward; detest: to hate the enemy; to hate bigotry.
  2. to be unwilling; dislike:
  3. -verb (used without object)
  4. to feel intense dislike, or extreme aversion or hostility.
  5. -noun
  6. intense dislike; extreme aversion or hostility.
  7. the object of extreme aversion or hostility.

Based on these definitions, hatred is a very subjective matter...hard to measure. But in terms of legislation of crimes motivated by hate, is it really so subjective?

"A hate crime, also known as a bias crime, is a criminal offense committed against a person, property, or society which is motivated, in whole or in part, by the offender's bias against a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, or ethnicity/national origin." http://www.fbi.gov/ucr/cius_02/html/web/offreported/02-nhatecrime12.html

This may be the FBI's definition of a hate crime, as it is for several individual states in our country, but it's not the definition according to current federal legislation which excludes "disability and sexual orientation". Most recently, legislation often referred to as the Matthew Shepard Act, legislation to correct this omission was vetoed by President George W. Bush last fall.matthew_shepard.jpg

Last week, the Matthew Shepard Act was reintroduced to our House of Representatives:

"On a vote of 249-175, the House passed and sent to the Senate a bill backed by the new Democratic White House to broaden such laws by classifying as "hate crimes" those attacks based on a victim's sexual orientation, gender identity or mental or physical disability.

The current law, enacted four decades ago, limits federal jurisdiction over hate crimes to assaults based on race, color, religion or national origin.

The bill would lift a requirement that a victim had to be attacked while engaged in a federally protected activity, like attending school, for it to be a federal hate crime...

Conviction of a hate crime carries stepped up punishment, above and beyond that meted out for the attack. The bill would allow the federal government to help state and local authorities investigate hate crimes."   http://uk.reuters.com/article/usTopNews/idUKTRE53S8IM20090429 (April 29, 2009)

Take a few minutes to watch this clip from The Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBC last week where Rachel talks with Judy Shepard, Matthew Shepard's mother and Executive Director of the Matthew Shepard Foundation:

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/26315908/#30508882

This bill now goes to the Senate. President Obama has promised to sign the bill if/when it reaches his desk.

We KNOW that attacks happen that are directed at people for reasons of a victim's sexual orientation, gender identity or mental or physical disability...verbal AND physical assaults perpetrated on people no reason other than these presence of these characteristics...no different from race, color, religion, or national origin.  These crimes ARE different from attacks on people for personal reasons such as revenge, betrayal, murder, etc. and "random" crimes like burglary, vandalism, and even murder. Violent or non-violent, hate crimes are a different category of crime and our laws need to provide protection for all citizens and non-citizens from being targeted because they're "different".

The fact that legislation is needed to deal with "hate" crimes is distressing in and of itself in our country. But it IS!!! Let's not be discriminatory about who does and doesn't deserve protection and justice.

Contact your senators to let them know your feelings about this...whatever those feelings are....they need to know.

Peace, Deb

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I invite you to check out the following article regarding clergy members, including the Right Reverend Gene Robinson, lobbying US Senators about this hate crime legislation: Clergy gather in DC to lobby for gay rights

By BRIAN WESTLEY
Associated Press Writer

Months after giving an invocation at a kickoff event for President Barack Obama's inauguration, the U.S. Episcopal Church's first openly gay bishop returned to Washington on Monday to persuade Congress to pass an expanded hate crimes bill. V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire is among more than 300 clergy members...

Click here to view this content.

Forgiveness...Jean Paul Samputu & Ingeli

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Jean Paul at UNHLast evening, April 27th, it was a pleasure to see my dear friend, Jean Paul Samputu, and the newly restructured Rwandan musical group, Ingeli, perform at UNH.  The Strafford Room at the MUB was nearly full as the audience was treated to traditional Rwandan music, drumming, and dancing along with original compositions by Jean Paul.  It didn't take long for many audience members to get onto their feet, move to the front of the room, and DANCE!!!!! I was also delighted that two of my former students, Rachel and Kara, were instrumental in organizing this event...awesome!!! 

I'm always tremendously moved by hearing and seeing Jean Paul and others who perform with him.  He is a survivor of the Rwandan genocide 15 years ago, although he lost his parents and several siblings in the atrocity.  He is also a survivor of the aftermath of the genocide, struggling for yIngeli @ UNHears with alcohol and drugs as he fought with himself and the world to come to terms with the loss of family and the destruction of his country.  When I first met Jean Paul several years ago, I was immediately swept up by the spirit and energy of his music.  But even more unforgettable is the conversation I had with him after his performance when he shared his story of recovery with me and told me how he has forgiven all the perpetrators of the killing of his family members.  It was inconceivable to me that he could open his heart so fully that he could forgive the people who brutally murdered people he loved.  I knew immediately this was a person I wanted to get to know more about and I felt a special connection with him that is rare.

Ingeli @ UNH 2Over the years since I met Jean Paul, I have been so privileged to have opportunities to not only work with him, but to spend time talking with him and becoming his friend, and he mine.   He and some of the other performers he's worked with have stayed in my home a few times and brought memorable events with them....I will always remember Jean Paul's impromptu musical composition of "Deborah's Cats" (at the time I had six of them) inspired by his wife's fear of them while staying with me. In fact, when I saw Jean Paul last night, he asked about the cats!

Jean Paul's ability to forgive and his belief in the power of forgiveness inspires not only me, but many, many other people.  Jean Paul travels the world performing his music and speaking about forgiveness, peace, and reconcilliation. Last night as he spoke about his own forgiveness of the man, a neighbor of his family, who murdered his parents, the room was very still as we all absorbed the power of his actions and words.  He then went on to tell us that he now works with this man as well.

Jean Paul works tirelessly to spread the word about the power of forgiveness and to bring

P4272256.JPGhope to others.  He also has established a foundation, the Mizero Foundation (www.mizerochilren.org) to help children who have been orphaned by the genocide - lost parents during the killings or due to HIV/AIDS infection - by getting them off the streets, helping build schools, etc.  A group of these children have been trained in the traditions of Rwandan music, dance, and drumming, and tour the United States periodically.  As a result of his important work, the United Nations has named him an Ambassador for Peace.

Jean Paul has once again brought together a group of Rwandan musicians, Ingeli, which is now touring the United States.  Through this group, as well, Jean Paul continues to reach out to others to share the message of hope and reconcillation through music.

Ingeli @ UNH 3Seeing, hearing, talking with Jean Paul always leaves me with much to think about.  He always leaves me at peace and re-energizes me personally and with my work.  Hate...fear...anger...they're all destructive.  So much of that comes from lack of understanding and being influenced by others who harbor these feelings.  Again, so much education is needed to help address the challenges we face around us and so much good is done when it's done face-to-face and we get to know those we fear and hate.  Jean Paul is doing remarkable work.  I know first-hand the impact he has on people...not just me...I've seen him with teens, very young children, adults, young adults...and no one is left untouched by his message.

"Forgiveness is the most powerful weapon against terrorism and atrocity."          Jean Paul Samputu

JP @ UNHmerci beaucoup, mon ami, Jean Paul!

Peace,
Deb