Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

Hate Is In The Air: The Awful Cost of Demonizing LGBT People

Hate Crime Arson in Florida is one symptom of growing violence against the LGBT community.

Hate Crime Arson in Florida is one symptom of growing violence against the LGBT community.

Sarasota, Florida – The Associated Press carried this headline at 2 a.m. on September 11: Investigators Search for Man Who Set Fire at Gay Nightclub. According to the Orlando Sentinel, Sarasota County Sheriff’s Department officials say that neighbors of the popular gay nightclub reported it being on fire at approximately 9 a.m. this past Sunday. Officers are searching for a man in a dark, long-sleeved shirt and light colored shorts, carrying a gas can, who walked up the door of Throb Nightclub, and had his image captured by a surveillance video camera. He allegedly started the fire and ran from the scene. Authorities of the Florida State Fire Marshall’s Arson Unit and the sheriff’s office are asking the cooperation of the public in the search for a hate-filled perpetrator.

This troubling story caught the attention of Vicki Nantz, documentary film maker and LGBT advocate, who traces this anti-LGBT violence back to the speech and actions of Texas Senator Ted Cruz, Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk jailed for contempt of court for refusing to issue same-sex marriage licenses, and her attorney and co-founder of arch-conservative Liberty Counsel Mat Staver. Nantz, Producer/Director of films investigating violence against women and the LGBT community, warns her Facebook friends on this 9/11, “Be safe out there, everyone. Hate is in the air.”

What 9/11 has to do with an outbreak of anti-LGBT violence in southwest Florida fourteen years since the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center Towers, the Pentagon, and the highjacking of United Airlines 93, drew the attention of Diana Butler Bass, the widely acclaimed commentator on the United States religious scene. Bass wrote on her Facebook wall for September 11, “One day, someone will write a book about how, in the early 21st century, we went from fearing and hating terrorists to fearing and hating people of differing political opinions. The sad and haunting legacy of 9/11 is thus.”

Fr. Mychal Judge and Mark Bingham, gay heroes of 9/11

Fr. Mychal Judge and Mark Bingham, gay heroes of 9/11

The disrubing irony of the heightened atmosphere of anti-LGBT rhetoric and violence on the 2015 anniversary of 9/11 noted by Nantz and Butler Bass is the courageous role openly gay heroes played on September 11, 2001. The Rev. Fr. Mychal Judge, Franciscan Chaplain of FDNY and one of the first firefighters to die in the collapse of the World Trade Center Towers, won his title as “the Saint of 9/11” that day. Avid rugby player Mark Bingham was one of the brave and desperate men who stormed the cockpit of UA Flight 93 over Pennsylvania, sacrificing himself to bring down the jet liner before its hijackers succeeded in crashing it into the White House or the U.S. Capitol Building. Both were openly gay men who threw themselves into the breach for their fellow human beings at a time of crisis and disaster. Both died sacrificially, not as any of the demeaning epithets being aimed at LGBT people by Cruz, Huckabee, Staver and their ilk since the Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage in all fifty states, but as American heroes.

Butler Bass makes a convincing connection between the fear of terrorists stoked by politicians and pundits since the original September 11, and the demonization of persons of differing political views today. Fear not only twists the guts of the public. Its primitive energy offers craven haters with an ideological agenda to advance a ready vehicle to advance it. And she is also right that fear of the other has seeped so deeply into the American psyche that no community is immune from the temptation to spread rumor and innuendo against those who oppose them politically. Some LGBT people, for example, have indulged themselves in making cruel comments about the physical appearance of Kim Davis and her marital history. The vulnerability of LGBT people in America, however, calls for a reconsideration of post-9/11 manipulation of public fear.

Nantz helps us see that the threat of acts of violence against the lives and property of LGBT people is not simply another example of the political system in the Washington beltway gone awry. It has real consequences, from the arson at a gay nightclub to the epidemic murders of transgender women of color throughout the country. The hate in the air in post-9/11 America is a combination of the historical cultural loathing of LGBT people, and the cynical manipulation of a once-supreme white patriarchal group by the likes of presidential candidates and their legal and media henchmen. While they would deny any connection between their incitement of anti-LGBT sentiment and any outbreak of violence, their words and deeds are in the background of every hate crime perpetrated against the sexual and non-normative gender communities of America, and the reach of their cynical ideology is increasingly global. This anniversary of 9/11, our LGBT neighbors, families, co-workers, and friends are less safe in their persons, jobs, and property than they were even a year ago.

How we have declined from honoring the LGBT heroes of September 11 for their courage and sacrifice, to this 9/11 anniversary when anti-LGBT fear is being manipulated by calls for so-called “Religious Liberty” (read, “the re-imposition of oppression against gay, lesbian, transgender, and bisexual people”), is the book that cries out for someone to write. Hate is in the air this 9/11, and what it portends is something every American should be worried about.

September 11, 2015 Posted by | 9/11, Anti-LGBT hate crime, Arson, Diana Butler Bass, Flight 93, Florida, Fr. Mychal Judge, Gay Bars, gay men, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, hate speech, Heterosexism and homophobia, Kentucky, LGBTQ, Liberty Counsel, Mark Bingham, Mat Staver, Mike Huckabee, New York City, Pennsylvania, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, religious hate speech, religious intolerance, Same-sex marriage, Special Comments, Ted Cruz, transgender persons, Transgender women, U.S. Supreme Court, Vicki Nantz Films, Washington | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

9/11: Remembering the Fallen on the 11th Anniversary

The body of Fr. Mychal Judge, Chaplain of the Fire Department of New York, is carried from the chaos of Ground Zero on 9/11 [photo by Shannon Stapleton of Reuters].

New York, New York – September 11, 2001 is being recalled across the world today.  On this 11th anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Towers in New York City, the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and the thwarted attack on the U.S. Capitol thanks to the heroic action of the passengers aboard United Flight 93 are remembered by a somber and far less naïve nation than the one which awoke to the horror of 9/11.

2,996 people died on that awful day, including the 19 men who hijacked four airliners, and 2,977 victims.  Among the victims were the 246 passengers aboard the planes.  2,606 died in the Twin Towers. 125 died in the Pentagon.  The vast majority of victims were civilians.  At the Pentagon, 55 of the fallen were military personnel.

Of the heroic acts on 9/11, none were greater than the sacrifices made by the first responders. The Fire Department of New York (FDNY) lost 343 personnel that day.  75 firehouses suffered the loss of at least one member of their team.  FDNY also lost its chief, its commissioner, its marshal, its chaplain, and many specialty and administrative personnel.

Collateral losses of first responders due to illness and injury sustained on 9/11 continue to this day.

Unfinished Lives salutes the fallen of 9/11 by choosing one among them all to serve as their representative: Fr. Mychal F. Judge, OFM, Chaplain of FDNY, who died offering comfort and assistance to the dying and wounded in the lobby of the North Tower of the World Trade Center.  Witnesses testify that Fr. Mychal died when debris from the falling South Tower rocketed into the North Tower Lobby with a velocity of over 100 mph. The medical examiner certified that Fr. Mychal succumbed to blunt force trauma to the back of his head.  His victim number is 0001, acknowledging that his body was the first to be recovered and carried from the scene. Among the unforgettable scenes of that awful day, the image of Fr. Mychal’s lifeless body being borne away by his comrades, a modern day Pietà, is a stand out. He was an exemplary man, a dedicated priest, and, among other dimensions of his life, a gay man unafraid to own who he was among his colleagues and before the world.

Amidst the terror and the death of 9/11, the courage, loyalty and love of Fr. Mychal stands for the suffering and hope of all the fallen and their families.  Much has changed since the trauma of that day, but the wounds to the American consciousness remain fresh. May we never forget. May we honor the dead by rededicating ourselves to improve the circumstances of the living, even as we strive to create a better world.

September 11, 2012 Posted by | 9/11, Fr. Mychal Judge, gay men, GLBTQ, LGBTQ, New York, Remembrances, Roman Catholic Church and Homosexuality | , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on 9/11: Remembering the Fallen on the 11th Anniversary

   

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