But evil can't happen here

The Sinclair Lewis novel, "It Can't Happen Here," was about the conquest of the United States by communism. Perhaps more provocative than the plot was the book's title. It reflected the widespread assumption by people that the places where they live are immune to evil or catastrophic events.

When a community is touched by a monstrous crime or murderous act of nature, its residents are left dumbfounded at how the snake infested their Garden of Eden.

Last week, it was reported that on Feb. 19, two young men in Sylacauga, Ala., confessed to beating to death a gay man before setting him on fire. The president of the City Council was quoted as saying, "This is not the type of place where this happens."

That, of course, is what they said in Laramie, Wyo., when Matthew Shepard was murdered because he was gay. That also is what they said in Jasper when James Byrd Jr. was murdered because he was black. And that is what they said in Boulder, Colo., when JonBenet Ramsey was murdered for whatever reason.

The crimes of men and women are not determined by geography. Violence and hatred are not confined by borders on a map. They are defined by borders of the heart and mind.

Sadly but undeniably, wherever there are people, horrors will occur. The challenge remains for people to replace hatred with love, to reach a place in their hearts and minds where such horrors are more rare and their neighbors' shock even greater.

Tuesday, Mar 9,1999

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