When Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann decided to run for President, she suddenly recalled that she grew up in Iowa - the state that has the all-important first Presidential caucus in the nation. She was from America's heartland, indeed the heart of America's heartland. Michele was from Waterloo, Iowa, a mom-and-apple-pie community of traditional American values if ever there was one. And not only was she from Iowa, John Wayne was too! Could it get any more American than that?
Well, as most of the world now knows, John Wayne (the actor) was actually from Winterset, Iowa. Waterloo was a one-time residence of John Wayne Gacy - a psychopathic serial killer.
No doubt the local Chamber of Commerce appreciated that tidbit coming to light.
Waterloo is back in the news, and again it is for something very ugly. In the early morning hours of Friday, August 19th, a nineteen-year-old gay black man was kicked to death on a public street in Waterloo by an angry crowd shouting gay slurs.
The victim, Marcellus Richard Andrews, was a former cosmetology student who was studying interior design at a local community college. He was also the captain of a church drill team.
In their initial investigation police determined that the killing was a a follow-up to actions that occurred earlier in the day. They regarded it as a fight and refused to classify the killing as a hate crime - even though witnesses heard the attackers yelling "faggot" and "Mercedes" (a feminization of the victim's name) as they repeatedly kicked the young man who was down on the ground. Marcellus received multiple direct kicks to the head, and his official cause of death has been listed as "blunt force trauma to the head."
But it wasn't a hate crime. Hate crimes don't happen in mom-and-apple-pie places like Waterloo. If they did, property values might go down.
The police in Waterloo initially said that no gay slurs were used, but finally admitted that the fatal incident did include "offensive and disparaging remarks." They were quick to add, however, that it did not rise to the "threshold" of a hate crime - primarily because the victim knew his attackers.
The accepted terminology in some quarters quickly became "a brutal fight." But it wasn't much of a fight if it only produced one victim.
Five days after the incident no arrests had been made, and even though police stated that they had suspects, no arrest warrants had been issued.
Michele Bachmann, who has voted against federal hate crime protections and regularly opposes anti-bullying policies, has remained eerily silent on the killing of the Marcellus Andrews. She obviously did not cause the murder of this young man, but the anti-gay attitudes of candidates and politicians do play a role in perpetuating hate - and ultimately hate crimes. That is shameful. These same individuals have the power to lessen hate, if they would only choose to use it.
Those with the power and the influence should serve as forces for peace and understanding. I suspect that is what Jesus would do.