Today's headlines seem full of horrible crimes — teenagers committing gruesome and senseless murders; a young California mother kidnapped off the street while jogging, then tortured for weeks and branded by her captors; a young father in Georgia convicted of deliberately leaving his toddler son in a hot car to die.
Sometimes I just can't stand to read the stories. But news of another crime, in Cincinnati, Ohio, grabbed my attention. It was a hate crime with a heartwarming ending.
Joe and Pat Jude had been watching over their daughter's house after a job promotion transferred her to Chicago. During the Thanksgiving weekend, as so many Americans do, they travelled to spend the holiday with her. It was a bittersweet reunion, as it did not include their son, who had committed suicide in 2010.
Pat Jude wrote on social media: "He was treated very racist because he was a biracial young man. He was called the N-word, and other unacceptable terms by his fellow students and residents of the town. One of his teachers even called him stupid in front of the entire class." The Judes, an interracial couple, say they have battled all sorts of bigotry throughout their 34 years of married life. But what they faced when they returned from their Thanksgiving break was almost beyond belief.
Their daughter's home, which they had tidied and readied for renters to move in, had been broken into and trashed in almost unbelievable ways. The walls had been spray-painted with swastikas and phrases like "white power" and "die n———." During this obviously premeditated attack, cement was poured into the stove and down the bathtub drain. Walls and staircase railings were kicked in. Water damage caused a ceiling to collapse. This was the house the Judes planned to move into once they retired. The fact that this was not an accepting neighborhood hit them like a ton of bricks.
Who would do such a terrible thing? At this writing, Cincinnati police say they have a person of interest. The charges considered are breaking and entering and maybe, according to Lt. Steve Saunders, "hate bias enhancements, if that can be demonstrated."
Something tells me the writing on the walls is all the evidence police would need for an additional hate crime charge. Can you imagine the couple's phone call to their daughter to describe the damage?
After the sheer devastation of it all set in, Pat Jude did what she has always done: She straightened her shoulders and vowed that racists would not control her family's fate. She started a GoFundMe page to try to raise $2,000 to cover the insurance deductible so they could try to undo the terrible hate done to the home.
Citizens from all over the United States have pledged more than $64,000 to help them. One young woman named Emma wrote, "I'm a poor college student and can't afford much, but I hope this helps!" She donated $5. A woman who gave $50 dollars wrote, "I hope that by (my) giving you know that those hateful people are not what defines our country and that you are loved." Another donation of $50 was accompanied by note from a man named Glenn, who said: "Please keep your faith in humanity. There is more good than evil in the world. Be strong."
Some of the more than 2,000 who responded wrote that they could not afford to give money but they could help with labor, cleanup and painting expertise. One couple offered a gently used bathroom vanity. A neighbor wrote to say she had left cookies on their front porch.
The Judes' tears of anguish have now turned to thankfulness. "The response has been overwhelming and so heartfelt," Pat wrote in an update on the page.
"America has always been made up of beautiful multicultural people and if we all stand together we can show the small minority that makes up this group of people who hate those who don't look like them, that they have no power here," she wrote. And she concluded with an anthem I wish we could all take up: "We are strongest when we stand together!"
Those who blame acts of hate on the current political climate or a specific region of the country are misguided. History teaches us there has always been, and there will always be, those who cannot accept people who don't look, talk or espouse ideas exactly like their own.
It is to those people I say, get out of the way. It is time for America to become a unified country again, a country that accepts all races, creeds, religions and schools of thought. If you think otherwise, it is you who does not belong.
To find out more about Diane Dimond visit her website at www.dianedimond.com. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.