Thursday, September 24, 2009

Sticks and Stones Can Break My Bones . . . But Words Can Kill

For some reason, there hasn’t been much in the news about the horrific, violent death of Bill Sparkman, whose body was found yesterday near Manchester, Kentucky. The 51-year-old substitute teacher and part-time census taker was found hanged, with the word “Fed” scrawled across his chest.

I guess his death wasn’t very important—compared, say, to the 168 dead and almost 700 wounded in Timothy McVeigh’s 1996 attack on the federal government. But try telling that to Bill Sparkman’s mother.

People have always groused about taxes, things left undone by the government, and— ironically— interference by the government in their everyday affairs. “It’s just words,” some say. “People like to complain.”

Well, words can kill—and they do.

Just ask the 11-year-old son of Stephen Johns, the guard at the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., who was shot down in June by a white supremacist. Or the families of the hundreds of police, federal office workers, and national park employees who suffer violence each year at the hands of people inflamed by the kind of hate-filled, anti-government propaganda so prevalent on FOX News and conservative talk radio.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, which keeps track of these things, reports that membership in hate groups is up by more than 50% since the year 2000—a time frame that coincides, not coincidentally, with the rise of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Michael Savage (whose pseudonym, interestingly enough, he chose himself).

But I’m not blaming Rush, Sean, or Michael for the atmosphere of violence that is clearly building in this country. Every one of us who willingly listens to these hate-mongers, allowing them to stoke the sentiments of negativity and rage in our hearts, is to blame. Every one of us who mindlessly supports radical organizations that use basically good ideas to support broad, radical ideologies (yes, NRA, I’m talking about you) is to blame. Everyone who habitually bitches about the government without doing something constructive to improve it is to blame.

We in America are not very far removed from the days when hundreds of people were hanged in the South every year because of the color of their skin. We’re only months past the days when people were routinely tortured by Americans in the name of national security. We still live in a country where those who serve our collective interests—that is, anyone who wears a badge or a uniform—may become a target of generalized, anti-government hatred and violence.

There is so much good that needs to be done—and for the next Bill Sparkman, so little time.


Six said...

Glad to know it is the American peoples fault this guy was murdered and not the actual lunatic murderer. How about you show a little respect to the man and let him rest in peace for a few days before you turn it in to some sort of political hay.

Sue said...

Check this out, six.

Please explain to me why we need to wait a few days before crying "foul" that someone is murdered in what has the hallmarks of a hate crime. Such crimes are worse than the simple murder or intimidation or whatever; they are a disease infecting society. That's why they need to be addressed in a different sense than non-hate-related crimes. I don't always agree with Citizen Jane, but in this case I think she has it right. It is the fault of the American People because too often we fail to speak out against the hate we see in our midst. If we don't act to prevent such behavior, we share the responsibility.

Six said...

Explain to me what intended murder is not a 'HATE' crime? How can you minimize the murder of for example a teller at in a bank robbery as somehow not as bad as this man being murdered?

What evidence do you have that this man was somehow a disciple of Fox News and the babbling idiots over there?

Could it be possible that the murderer was a schitzophrenic? Delusional? High on meth? Or how about just a maniac intent on murdering someone and gets some sort of rise out of doing it in the manner in which he did? Perhaps the murderer could also very well be someone who DID do this to send some political message.

Whatever we might suspect the motive to be - we don't know. Give the victim and his family some due peace and let some of the facts bear out before parading his death out as some sort of right-wing evil doing that is the fault of all who, stoke the 'sentiments of negativity' and 'bitches about the government without constructively doing something about it'. (I suspect the definition of 'not doing something constructive' would be defined by CJ as opposing something she supports.)

Whoever committed this horrible crime needs to be brought to justice - swiftly and accurately. Just as much as the murderer who murdered the young girl earlier this year and left her body on the side of the highway I drive to work every day.

Sue said...

You do raise good points, six. To me, "hate crimes" are those that are committed for ideological reasons. Definitely all crime is bad, particularly violent crime. But when the reason for the crime is ideological hatred, I think it makes it much worse. We (society) may not be able to do much about the random killings, robberies, etc., but I think we can and have a responsibility to try to reduce the hate that results in people taking the law into their own hands. And it doesn't matter whether it's the initial killing or a retaliatory lynching.

BTW, I enjoy reading your comments on this blog site. You have some interesting thoughts to share.

Six said...

Sue - thanks for the kind words. Since finding CJ, I do enjoy this blog - I hope I am not too much a nuisance here. I have always felt more at home with people I disagree with than being part of some choir.

To update on this story and follow up on my point:

Turns out that sometimes 'anonymously sourced' information is better checked out before picked up and ran with... looks like the facts being circulated are not quite... well the facts.

Snap judgments based on emotions and lack of actual fact-checking lead to things like... oh... I don't know... INVADING A COUNTRY on a false pretense. I know - that type of well-thought-out, caution attitude is boring and really won't win too many elections or sell newspapers (or blog hits?). RATS - Now I am the hypocrite using this poor man's horrible death to make a point - grr!

Citizen Jane said...

Six, you are most welcome here at 46 Degrees North. I'm a great believer in the old saying, "I find comfort with those who agree with me, but I learn from those who don't." Thanks for taking the time to comment!

Regarding Mr. Sparkman's death, more information is coming out:

Some new details are as disturbing as those in the original report. Asphyxiation appears to have been the cause of death, so it seems irrelevant whether his feet were touching the ground or not when he was found. His body was naked, except for his census-worker badge, which was taped to the body. It seems clear this was a hate crime, although there is still some speculation that he may have stumbled into a drug-manufacturing operation and been cruelly murdered to silence him.