While there is no shortage of events that one might find disturbing, I can’t imagine one more so than to think that one has been the target of a hate crime.
Hate crimes have special legal status at both the federal and state levels. That status is due to the fact that a hate crime has hatred as its motivation. Although we might find the commission of a hate crime as an act of violence, a hate crime may also be a symbolic gesture.
Without any actual proof, it would seem that we were the target of such a gesture.
Last Sunday morning, my son-in-law left to go to work. Sean is an unflappable guy who takes things in stride. When he came back into the house, he looked pale. At the end of our walkway to the street, he told me, was a pool of blood—lots of blood, deep red and deep. It was completely contained in a wide oval, with no signs of anything (like an injured dog or cat) having been dragged there. There was a faint human footprint heading away from the pool.
The police came and after a lot of investigating they determined that the evidence pointed to this incident as an intentional act.
We wear our politics on our sleeves and on placards on the front lawn. We support the concept of empathy and humanity as expressed by Chabad. We also support the Black Lives Matter movement, and we fly a Pride flag in support of the LGBTQ community. We display yard signs for candidates we support.
Our signage is meant to recognize and honor those who might walk or drive past our house. They are not there to be provocative or to inspire the hatred of those who might disagree with our simple values.
But we can think of no other reason why this intentional act of spilling blood at the foot of our walkway occurred.
I certainly don’t care to sound alarmist, and this incident could have been some kind of particularly unfunny practical joke. Either way, it seems that some kind of animal was sacrificed to harvest the blood to fill our walkway.
That’s sad and pathetic.
To my way of thinking, hate crimes are acts of cowardice. The anti-Semitic pamphlets and flyers we’ve found under our windshield wipers over the years were delivered by people who want no conversation. Those papers are threats meant to intimidate.
Since 1968, when Congress passed, and President Lyndon Johnson signed into law, the first federal hate crimes statute, the Department of Justice has been enforcing federal hate crimes laws. The 1968 statute made it a crime “to use, or threaten to use, force to willfully interfere with any person because of race, color, religion, or national origin. It seems limited to protecting those participating in a federally protected activity, such as public education, employment, jury service, travel, or the enjoyment of public accommodations, or helping another person to do so.”
In 1968, Congress also made it a crime to use, or threaten to use, force to interfere with housing rights because of the victim’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin; in 1988, protections on the basis of familial status and disability were added. In 1996, Congress passed the Church Arson Prevention Act. Under this Act, it is a crime to deface, damage, or destroy religious real property, or interfere with a person’s religious practice, in situations affecting interstate commerce. The Act also bars defacing, damaging, or destroying religious property because of the race, color, or ethnicity of persons associated with the property.
In 2009, Congress passed, and President Barack Obama signed, the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, expanding the federal definition of hate crimes, enhancing the legal tools available to prosecutors, and increasing the ability of federal law enforcement to support state and local partners. This law removed then-existing jurisdictional obstacles to prosecutions of certain race- and religion-motivated violence, and added new federal protections against crimes based on gender, disability, gender identity, or sexual orientation.
The Act is named after Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr.
Shepard was a student who was tortured and murdered in 1998 near Laramie, Wyoming. The attack was spurred by his being gay, and the trial employed a gay panic defense. Shepard’s murderers were given life sentences—in large part because his parents sought mercy for his killers.
Byrd was an African American man who was tied to a truck by three white supremacists, dragged behind it, and decapitated in Jasper, Texas, in 1998. Two of Byrd’s murderers were sentenced to death and executed in 2011 and 2019, respectively, while the third was sentenced to life in prison. All the convictions were obtained without the assistance of hate crimes laws since none were applicable at the time.
The murders and subsequent trials brought national and international attention to the desire to amend U.S. hate crime legislation at both the state and federal levels. Wyoming hate crime laws at the time did not recognize homosexuals as a suspect class, whereas Texas had no hate crime laws at all.
It could be argued that all crimes have an element of hate: crimes of passion and whatnot. But for an impoverished man shoplifting groceries to feed his family, that is a crime based on love.
There is no place in a civilized society for hate, which shows how far we must grow to become a civilized society.
Photography by Courtney A. Liska
With summer near its end and vegetables are ripe and abundant, it’s time for this great lasagna. Substitute the suggested veggies with anything you have and like.
7 oz ricotta cheese
1/3 cup chopped pitted black olives (optional)
1 tbsp. chopped fresh thyme
2 Tbsp. fresh basil, chopped
1/2 tbsp dried oregano
2-3 cloves minced garlic
4 cups prepared pasta sauce
1 lb. lasagna pasta
Freshly ground black pepper
2 small zucchini, diced
2 small summer squash, diced
3/4 cup bottled roasted red pepper, diced
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
Heat oven to 375°F. Mix goat cheese, olives (if using), thyme, basil, oregano, and garlic in a bowl; season with salt and pepper. Spread 1 cup pasta sauce on the bottom of an 8″ x 11″ baking dish. Add one layer of lasagna and season with black pepper. Add a layer of zucchini, squash, and red pepper. Dollop spoonsful of ricotta cheese mixture over vegetables and spread to cover. Repeat layers, finishing with pasta and sauce. Sprinkle Parmesan on top, cover with foil and bake 40 minutes. Uncover and bake 5 minutes or until top browns. Let stand 10-15 minutes; serve.