If I rise early enough six mornings of the week, I can start the day with cartoons. Saturdays are guaranteed since the cartoon block runs from 6-9 a.m. Weekdays it is only 6-7. Maybe we don’t need laughs on Sunday?

          Cartoons provide a preventative antidote to the morning news-diversion shows. The best, of course, are the old ones from Warner Brothers. Daffy Duck’s sense of righteous outrage has always held a special appeal. Revisiting Betty Boop and Popeye has given me a renewed appreciation. I like their self-reflective muttering.

          I’m looking for escape, a smile or two. Recently, I got those plus a refresher course in hate crimes and bigotry in general.

          In his eternal effort to eliminate that “wascally wabbit,” Elmer Fudd ordered an ACME Pest Control robot exterminator. It was activated by inserting a card of long-eared Bugs (a jackrabbit from NYC?) into the proper slot.

          The robot made a bee-line to the barn where a long-eared donkey surveyed the world from his half-door. The robot attacked; the donkey retaliated.

          This demonstrates why hate crimes deserve a distinct category. There is an element of premeditation in such attacks. The perpetrator actively seeks particular people to victimize.

          A real world example of this misidentification occurred last month in Utah when Republican state school board member Natalie Cline suggested on social media that a high school basketball girl was transgender. This led to the player receiving online threats and harassment.

          The hater was wrong. The damage was done. Programmed hatred preceded her attack.

          The offending, offensive school board member blamed society and the times instead of her own hateful heart. The full board later censured her. She still maintains she is the victim.

          Equality Utah offered the compassionate common sense comment: “No child, be they straight, gay, or transgender, should be mocked and humiliated by elected officials.”

          No adults should be subjected to this treatment either though it is a staple of many Republican political campaigns.

          One person who will no longer be “mocked and humiliated” by the hate-speak of elected officials is the 16-year-old transgender Owasso teen who died Feb. 8, the day after a brutal beating sent them to an emergency room.

          Nex Benedict lost a fight against three girls who had been taunting him. Authorities were quick to say that the death – which was preceded the morning after the fight by the same symptoms that led to the ER trip – was not caused by trauma from the fight.

          So, a 16-year-old kid – whose transgender status has been consistently demonized by Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt, State School Supt. Ryan Walters and many Republican legislators – did not hear the vicious, despicable hate speech of State Sen. Tom Woods when he referred to them as “filth.”

          Sen. Woods – a Republican as if that isn’t obvious – was on a panel with other legislators when the subject of Benedict’s death was broached.

          The moderator, Cathy Cott asked for a reaction because, “A 16-year-old died after being beaten in Owasso High School, what do you think of that? They were targeted because of some of these bills and some of the things Ryan Walters has said.”

          The good senator was the third person to respond, meaning he had ample time to formulate his cool, casually cruel answer:

          “My heart goes out to that scenario, if that is the case,” said Woods. “We’re a Republican state – supermajority – in the House and Senate. I represent a constituency that doesn’t want that filth in Oklahoma.”

          He must have a very small heart if he can think about a small, dead child and call them “filth.”

          How very brave to attack a small, dead child and a grieving mother. But, Sen. Woods was probably calculating the rise in name recognition his hate speech would generate for him.

          When reporting this story, which originated from the Tahlequah Daily Press, Oklahoma’s KFOR-TV prefaced it with a bold-faced warning: “This story contains disturbing, homophobic and transphobic language. Viewer discretion is advised.”

          As Equality Utah elaborated: “America has a tragic history of moral panics leading to the humiliation and expulsion of minorities from public life. Hysteria often leads to violence.”

          Gov. Stitt and Supt. Ryan Walters might not take public credit for the stochastic violence which their hatefulness stoked against one of the smallest minorities in the state. But, their rabid rhetoric – endorsed by many GOP legislators – created the atmosphere of intolerance where such bullying becomes acceptable.

          Two weeks after Benedict’s death, Stitt said, “The death of any child in an Oklahoma school is a tragedy— and bullies must be held accountable.”

          So, what do you say to the biggest bully in the state each morning while shaving, Mr. Governor?

          Utah’s Natalie Cline is correct when she blames society for her hatefulness. But, it is a society which she, Donald Trump, Stitt, Walters and many others have programmed and which they continuously update to warm the hatred in too many people’s hearts.

            (Gary Edmondson is chair of the Stephens County Democratic Party.)

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