Two summers ago, the beating of a homeless, Hispanic man made the national news. Two men beat this poor man with a metal pipe and then urinated on him.
This drew national attention because the two assailants, as they were beating the man, were reported to have said, “Donald Trump was right… All these illegals need to be deported.”
When Donald Trump heard of the incident, he described it as a shame and then countered, “I will say, the people that are following me are very passionate. They love this country. They want this country to be great again.”
Because the beating and defiling of a vulnerable homeless man has anything to do with making this country great…
Between 1998 and 2013, there were 1,437 recorded acts of violence committed against homeless individuals by housed perpetrators in the United States (and countless more unrecorded acts). 375 people lost their lives as a result of those attacks (3x more than all other hate-crime-related murders combined).
Most don’t make the news.
I remember one of our guests coming in to the Shalom Center one day beaten, bruised, and stitched, his face so swollen he was hard to recognize. He told me a young man jumped out of the back of a pickup truck with a 2×4 and beat him across the face. He was lucky to be alive.
We each build a circle of empathy around ourselves. These circles extend to include those beyond ourselves, those we believe have value and dignity, those we consider worthy of life, and exclude those we don’t. Some of those circles are big. Some small. Some in between. Our greatest societal conflicts emerge in our communal debates over who lives within and who lives outside those circles – the person of color, the LGBT person, the religious minority, the impoverished, the mentally ill, the addicted, the homeless.
It’s our job as a society to expand the circle… to keep including those who have not been included, those who have been marginalized, oppressed, murdered.
It’s not okay to hate.
It’s never okay to hate.