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Thread: Hateful letter stirs local support for an Autistic Boy

  1. #1
    and... World Peace! Tonichelle's Avatar
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    Hateful letter stirs local support for an Autistic Boy

    The stranger wanted to tell Maxwell Begley’s family that no woman would ever love him, no employer would ever hire him, and that he should move into the woods, or be euthanized.

    The stranger typed the letter, sealed it inside an envelope, and popped it in the mail. The stranger had time to change his or her mind. Instead, the stranger chose to devastate a family.

    “It made me sick to my stomach to think that somebody hated my son that much and they didn’t even know him,” Karla Begley says, her voice breaking. “But they just hated him because he was different. That’s the only reason they had to hate him.”

    Read the whole article here
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    I put this in politics because I felt this is a bummer topic compared to what we normally talk about in Le Cafe. This article came out last week and I'm still so sick to my stomach over this. Now legal eagles on talk shows/news shows have come out saying this cannot be classified as a hate crime. If this isn't hate, then what is?!

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    I saw this article too, and I was amazed at the sheer brass that anonymity can enable. Apparently there are some people in the world who can't stand to see anyone who isn't (for want of a better word) normal. People who thinks that way are deluded if they think they are normal. They are twisted around inside and seem to be deaf to their own consciences.

    It's not the element of hate that's missing in this act, but possibly the element of crime. I don't know whether it could be prosecuted as a criminal act of any kind. I mean, they don't usually prosecute people for sending hate mail, do they?

    What I would like to see is that the authorities find the person who sent the mail and display a photo of him or her, clearly labeled with first and last name, in a prominent place. Some people commit bad acts because they're eager to get their face in the mass media, but I suspect that people who write venomous anonymous letters are the opposite: they don't want to be known for their "accomplishment." One thing I can almost guarantee: the perpetrator of this vile correspondence does not look like a fashion model (if a she) or a quarterback (if a he).

    Thank God the neighbors seem to have rallied round the family in support of the child and the relatives.

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    and... World Peace! Tonichelle's Avatar
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    True, no physical crime is being committed, but they've made the victims feel harassed and bullied I'm sure. It's incredibly upsetting to them. Today a letter, maybe tomorrow they start throwing things at the house... then the people... that's normally how these things escalate!

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    Wicked Yankee Girl dorispulaski's Avatar
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    That is a dreadful, dreadul thing for anyone to do to anyone.

    I haven't seen any legal analysis on it, as to whether it is a hate crime, Toni. Do you recall why the experts thought it wasn't? Was it because disabled people aren't included as a protected class in the hate crimes legislation?

    If so, I hope that Congress will amend the law.

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    Quote Originally Posted by dorispulaski View Post
    That is a dreadful, dreadul thing for anyone to do to anyone.

    I haven't seen any legal analysis on it, as to whether it is a hate crime, Toni. Do you recall why the experts thought it wasn't? Was it because disabled people aren't included as a protected class in the hate crimes legislation?

    If so, I hope that Congress will amend the law.
    In several articles it was heads of local PD, and IIRC the Today Show had Star Jones and the other two "experts" she's normally with duke it out.

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    Wicked Yankee Girl dorispulaski's Avatar
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    And why did they think it was not a hate crime?

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    Quote Originally Posted by dorispulaski View Post
    And why did they think it was not a hate crime?
    Some said as Olympia - that it's just free speech. I think Star tried to suggest that the disabled were not a race and therefore the hate crime doesn't pertain to them. Another said Canada has different laws than we do. I'll have to look for the articles now... I just remember getting super frustrated with the whole debate.

    What really gets me is these people that are suggesting it's not hate/hate crime would be the same ones calling for the person's head if the note was left at the home of a family who's child was gay/biracial/adopted from another race/etc. If you're born different I don't care if it's a "disability" or "race" or "sexual orientation" - it's still hate to wish evil on them.

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    It didn't occur to me that disabled people were not a protected group. What I was assuming is that a letter in and of itself was not evidence of a crime. Of course any sane person would be just as furious about a letter to a disabled child as he/she would about a letter to a gay/biracial/adopted child. It's unfortunate that often a person can't be prosecuted unless he/she does actual harm. Remember, it's only recently that anti-stalking laws were enacted. People used to have to wait until the stalker physically attacked the victim.

    But in this case, prosecution isn't necessary to bring about justice. This kid isn't being victimized by an entire community. Other members of the community have come forward to befriend the child and his family. What matters is how the child is treated, and this incident seems to have had the opposite effect intended by the letter writer. People are publicly expressing support for the child. As for the idiot who wrote that vile letter, if his/her identity is ever discovered, simple public shaming should be sufficient punishment.

    A situation like this should act as a teachable moment, and so far it seems to be doing so. This is one instance when the mass media, so often maligned for its actions, is actually helping out. Didn't local TV cameras go to the home to tell the child's story?

    By this time, many of you might be too young to remember Ryan White, a young hemophiliac who was one of the first Americans to contract AIDS. In the early days of the disease, there was understandable fear, because no one knew how it was spread or even that it was a virus. But many people and communities used that excuse to behave dreadfully. At school, Ryan was not allowed to eat with the other children or use the drinking fountain and was finally expelled from school. Because AIDS was associated with gay men at that time, people used to yell curses at Ryan. At least one brick was thrown through the window of his family's home. Finally, the White family moved to another Indiana community, Cicero.

    When Ryan went to the new high school for his first day of school, he was personally greeted by the school principal and the district school superintendent, as well as a group of students.

    I always remember this story when a similar situation comes up, because it shows that people can stand up and change the situation. Clearly, there are people like that in this little autistic boy's community. Whether he's personally conscious of their kind actions I don't know, because I don't know how severe his disability is. But it must certainly make a difference to his relatives.

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    Though we scoff at the behavior of the school now when it comes to aids - when all they knew was that contact with bodily fluids put you at risk I can understand why they went to the extremes they did. Granted - it really could've been handled better of that I'm sure... but the fear was more about the disease and how it was spread...

    I remember for years being taught/learning that ANY contact with HIV meant AIDS right off the bat. That anyone who was known to have the virus should wear a mask and gloves... It wasn't until high school, I think, that we heard differently... maybe junior high...

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    Even that early, certain things were evident about how AIDS was and was not transmitted. By the time Ryan White left his original community, it was 1987, and the AIDS virus had been isolated and studied. In the next year, Elizabeth Glaser, who herself got AIDS from a transfusion and passed it to her children, started a foundation that was active in publicizing how AIDS was spread.

    Medical literature was already speaking of how AIDS spread from person to person. It was plain, for example, that children, normally a vulnerable population, only seemed to get AIDS if their mother infected them in utero or through breast milk or if they had a contaminated transfusion. It was easier for a kid to get warts than to get AIDS.

    Even excusing the fear people felt, though, what was difficult to see was the extra intensity of the community's reaction to the White family. How did it keep children safer to throw a brick through Ryan White's window and call him names?

    You're right, Toni, that preventive measures were and are very important in certain circumstances, particularly in places like hospitals, dentists' offices, and clinics. Protective clothing and gear were and are important for emergency and health workers of all kinds. When I took care of my mother, if a health aide cared for her during my work hours, she wore gloves for certain tasks. It's sad but true that in many places in the world, one common method of transmission of the virus is reused medical instruments and needles. So any parent in the early 1980s would have been understandably worried about keeping his or her child safe from this infection. But as we got more information, it became obvious where we needed to concentrate our worries--and toilet seats and silverware weren't the problem.

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    Another article that shows we have a long way to go when it comes to "mentally disabled" peoples in our world. http://news.yahoo.com/petition-calls...001259972.html

    to me this is a bigger injustice than what the current marches in DC have been for.

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    Wicked Yankee Girl dorispulaski's Avatar
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    I've got to disagree with you on the marches in Washington. I agree that the treatment of "mentally disabled" and people who have had psychiatric problems as well, in the US has a long, long way to go.

    However, I've been close to four cases here in CT where the legal system has been shockingly biased against, in one case an African American man, in one case a legal immigrant Hispanic man, and in 2 cases, white gay men. And CT is one of the "liberal" states, so-called. There's still a long way to go there, and it doesn't do any harm to point out inequities in the system, where they exist.

    When the first marches were done, in the days of Martin Luther King, the marchers themselves minimized the women in their groups. This time, I find the same groups, in fact, including some of the surviving marchers from the first march, are featuring the contributions of those women, and making the point that LGBT people, women, and all discriminated against groups should have equal rights-I see that as progress, and a good thing, in general.

    With luck, we'll all learn that people who are not like "us," whomever we each conceive "us" to be, are all people, and entitled to human rights, including the "mentally disabled" and "disabled" in general.
    Last edited by dorispulaski; 08-26-2013 at 10:40 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tonichelle View Post
    What really gets me is these people that are suggesting it's not hate/hate crime would be the same ones calling for the person's head if the note was left at the home of a family who's child was gay/biracial/adopted from another race/etc. If you're born different I don't care if it's a "disability" or "race" or "sexual orientation" - it's still hate to wish evil on them.
    Actually, in many cases, hate crimes that are racially motivated or targeting somebody of sexual orientation are also brushed under the rug with "disability". It's insane how the police departments - and juries - think cases like Trayvon Martin and Matthew Sheppard had no basis of discrimination.

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    If I can copy and paste, here is some detail on what the authorities are considering:

    "Despite the hateful language used, the Crown Attorney's office has advised that the content of the letter falls below the threshold for a hate crime" police said in a recent statement. "However," It continued, "there are other criminal code issues that are being considered. A criminal investigation is currently underway."

    [end quote from news site]

    So the locality is looking into some sort of prosecution. I'm sure that if the cops are able to identify the letter writer, there will be some sort of public announcement, and that alone will open a can of worms that the culprit will find very unpleasant.

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    I think - just like in the Martin/Zimmerman case - the only reason they are investigating is because the media got involved.

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