My favorite quote is from former South African President Nelson Mandela’s 1994 autobiography, “Long Walk to Freedom,” in which President Mandela wrote:
“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin or his background or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”
These days more-so than ever before, that thought is so true and applicable to the great battles being waged by American conservatives against other Americans. It is an unceasing war where innocents, children mainly, lose their lives and in many cases their souls to the hatred espoused by the right.
I’ve gone from being a political journalist to being a war correspondent reporting on the casualties of this war as good people, decent people, are killed or die by suicide because they have lost all hope.
This past Friday night, a beloved member of a small tight-knit community in the San Bernardino Mountains adjacent to Lake Arrowhead lost her life to the hate that has consumed the cultural and political landscape of the United States.
Laura Ann Carleton was murdered by a 27-year-old man, who had been exposed to a steady diet of homophobic and transphobic hatred, lies, and propaganda that culminated in his anger taking the life of Carleton, a mother of nine children in a blended family, a loving wife of nearly three decades, and a beloved business owner who was an integral part of the community of Cedar Lake.
His hatred of the LGBTQ+ community was documented by Sheriff’s investigators and journalists reviewing his social media history and posts.
The reason Carleton was cut down you ask? Because she was an important and steadfast ally of the LGBTQ+ community who proudly displayed her commitment to this besieged minority community by flying the symbol of its spirit, a Pride flag, publicly, outside at her place of business.
She was murdered for flying a Pride Flag- let that sink in for a moment.
Canadian writer, journalist, novelist and anthologist Michael Rowe reflecting on this heinous crime wrote in a Facebook Post on August 21st:
“Quick exercise: take the phrase, “these are good, decent people who simply take issue with the LGBTQIA lifestyle,” and substitute literally any other minority group for “LGBTQIA.” What happens then? When you do that, are they still “good decent people?” Maybe ask Ms. Carleton’s annihilated husband and her now-motherless children.
“As for me, I’m tired of the “thoughts and prayers” sop, and I’m tired of bigoted straight people’s primitive religious superstitions—pardon me, “religious freedoms”—taking precedence over the safety and freedom of queer people and their allies. And I’m especially bone-tired of the people who hate us being accorded the “good, decent people” designation in “debates” about our humanity, just because, apparently, in the general consensus, “alphabet people” still don’t really rate.”
I’m in complete agreement with my journalist colleague and likely more so than bone-tired as I have literally like many in the LGBTQ+ movement and community been on the front lines waging this warfare against a segment of society who actually don’t possess a shred of humanity.
Recently, the war has been focused on “parental rights,” directed at the LGBTQ+ community, most especially transgender and queer youth, in a campaign of terrorism designed to erase trans youth from existence. The right wants to forcibly inflict pain and suffering all in the name of “their” rights as parents to raise their children but the consideration for other people’s children be damned.
These campaigns are at a local level, school boards, state legislative bodies, all in what arguably is clearly defined as stochastic terrorism. Let me quickly trot out the definition of that term for those unaware:
“Stochastic terrorism is the public demonization of a person or group resulting in the incitement of a violent act, which is statistically probable but whose specifics cannot be predicted.”
Translation: Lone wolf attacks such as the murder of Laura Ann Carleton, fomented by the hate, lies, and propaganda from anti-LGBTQ+ hate groups.
To reiterate and add some terms: an entity (an individual or group or organization) acts as a stochastic terrorist by demonizing a target entity which motivates a third group, the terrorist entity, to carry out a terrorist act against the target. This terrorist scenario is stochastic because with the public demonization of a target, a terrorist act against the target is not certain but is made more likely. It is also stochastic because the identity of the terrorist and the timing and means of the attack cannot be predicted.
Let’s pin the tail on these jackasses. Less than fifty miles from Cedar Glen is Chino, California whose school board just passed a policy to require ‘Outing’ trans kids to parents or guardians under the guise of ‘parental rights.’ Never you mind that in most cases those children are not Out to their parents for a damn good reason. The term that best applies here is “non-affirming homes.”
And how did this school board arrive at its decision? A radical right president elected with an anti-LGBTQ+ agenda fed by the lies and propaganda of groups like Florida-based ‘Moms for Liberty.’
Plus, the Chino school board meetings were heavily attended by such “luminaries” as the Proud Boys, a nationalistic white supremacist group which also hates on the LGBTQ+ community. Terms like “groomer,” “paedophiles,” and other such rubbish tossed around during the meetings and in fact by a couple of the speakers- most hiding behind “family moral values” and ‘parent rights.’
Light a match and start a fire.
I am NOT claiming that the shooter in the murder of Ms. Carleton is directly related to the actions in Chino, and in fact currently three other Southern California school districts as well. But, what I am saying is that all of this hatred, amplified by far-right media, social media, and hate groups has caused stochastic terrorist acts against the LGBTQ+ community to become the norm versus the exception.
Which leaves me to ply my profession as a journalist these days as a combat correspondent, grieving at the losses. Laura Ann Carleton the most recent casualty along with LGBTQ+ kids who have lost hope and died by suicide as they cannot see any victory, normalcy, just being accepted as human beings.
“People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite,” Mandela wrote.
These days, teaching people that Love is Love- will require greater effort and frankly stronger measures to protect the LGBTQ+ community, its allies, and its kids.
Elections matter folks and most assuredly so do words.
Brody Levesque is a veteran journalist and the Editor-in-Chief of the Los Angeles Blade.