Editorial by Ginger Casey of the Columbus Dispatch
Social Intolerance Took Toll on the Innocent
Elvis is dead. So are Barney, Floyd, Princess, Buddy, Love, Bella and Ethel. They died on Easter, burned to death in their barn in southern Ohio, when someone set the building on fire after spray painting messages to their owner on the outside.
On a day when many were contemplating everlasting life and candy-bearing bunnies, Brent Whitehouse, who lives with his mother on a farm above the county fairgrounds in McConnelsville, woke to see a flickering orange glow coming from outside. Moments later he was tearing frantically at the door of his barn as flames burst through the roof. He could hear his horses screaming inside but could not get the door open.
The fire was so intense, a tractor inside the barn melted. But what was left on the building, still smoldering the following day, was the remnants of spray paint and its searing message: “ Faggots are freaks,” and, “Burn in hell.”
The Quarter horses Whitehouse raised were like children to him. He says he cannot understand why anyone could kill such innocent creatures. Well, whoever did it obviously thought they were making a point about Whitehouse’s sexual orientation. That because of who they thought he was, his horses deserved to die, shrieking in panic and pain as the flames ran through the barn. That because they thought Whitehouse is gay, his horses should be killed to make a statement about homosexuals.
Buddy was only a week old, standing on spidery, wobbly legs. Love was full with her own foal, due any moment.
The capacity for cruelty of this magnitude in the heartland of America should be a wake-up call for anyone who cares about the welfare of animals and the rights of all of us to love whomever we want. Killing these horses most assuredly killed whatever shred of decency might have been in the heart of the person or people who tossed the match. And now that they have murdered these beautiful animals, who knows where they’ll go next? Maybe Reno, Nev., where a couple of guys out drinking shot up a group of 10 wild Mustang horses with an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle for kicks a couple of years ago. Or Laramie, Wyo., where 21-year-old Matthew Shepard was viciously beaten, tied to a fence and left to die because he was gay.
Such disregard for life, such brutal allegiance to hatred of a particular class of people doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Or maybe it does. Perhaps the people who killed these horses were never taught to respect life as children; perhaps they never knew anyone gay growing up. And as we know, demons fill the void for most of us, demons and fear. It is only through the light of love and kindness that we emerge blinking and squinting into our humanity.
We can only hope, or pray, that those who live in the darkness of ignorance will see the light. McConnelsville is a small town in a small county of 13,000 people. Sooner or later, someone will talk, fueled by liquor and bravado, or by the incentive of the reward money, which grows larger every day. Then, whoever did this will be brought to justice. So we can say, as a people, that we will not stand for this. Not for these horses, not for Whitehouse or for anyone gay who wants to be able to live freely, openly and without fear in a country that was founded on personal liberty. But to do that, someone will have to step up. I will say my own prayer that someone will.
The message that was scorched onto the side of the barn is ironic because we already know who is more likely to burn in hell, if indeed there even is one. It most certainly will not be the man who loved these horses. But it most surely will be that person or people who walked past Elvis and Barney and Floyd, past Princess, Buddy, Bella, Love and Ethel, and set the barn on fire, knowing that when the flames began licking at their stalls, the horses would be trapped. With any luck, and by the grace of their own creator, these people will someday know that same feeling. For eternity.
- Arson That Killed Eight Horses Investigated As Anti-Gay Hate Crime (lezgetreal.com)
- Ohio fire marshal: Fire that killed 8 horses arson (dispatch.com)
- Arson Fire That Killed 8 Horses Eyed as Hate Crime (foxnews.com)
- 8 horses killed in possible anti-gay attack (msnbc.msn.com)
- 8 horses killed in possible hate-crime arson (msnbc.msn.com)
- Hate Crime: Ohio Anti-Gay Arson Kills 8 Horses (bilerico.com)