Clearing up Hate Crimes in Aroostook County; It’s Not Who We Are
In recent weeks you may have read a handful of headlines about hate crimes in Maine and the increase in such cases. A Biddeford man was sentenced to 3 years in prison for a series of hate crimes with his uncle in 2018 and last week the Attorney's General office did not pursue charges of an alleged hate crime in Presque Isle. I don't know of anyone who enjoys reading their hometown name and the term "hate crimes” in the same headline. After reading the comments online, I came to see that many people do not know what a hate crime is, by law.
The Legal Definition:
According to the Maine.gov website, a person may not by force or threat of force, intentionally injure, intimidate or interfere with, or intentionally attempt to injure, intimidate or interfere with or intentionally oppress or threaten any other person in the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege. This law is written further to ensure that we all have the right to engage in legal activities without facing the threat of harm from others.
In order for someone to be charged with a hate crime there needs to be proof that the person purposely sought out the victim based on their race, religion, disability, ancestry, or sex. A back and forth of yelling in a parking lot is most likely not a hate crime unless the language becomes more aggressive and specific. Have there been hate crime hoaxes? News surrounding Jussie Smollett and Bubba Wallace are a few of the more known hoaxes we've come to learn about in recent years but that doesn't mean that all claims are a hoax.
Who do you think you are?
I have said it before and I will say it again, there are bad people. There are ill-intended individuals that do walk among us, even here in Aroostook County. However, there are 99.99% good-willed and honest people living in The County who just want to keep living their simple life in this corner of the world.
I became very frustrated reading the comments made online last week about the people of the towns I know and grew up in and around. This is not a place of hate. There are not large swarms of angry bumpkins with pitch forks and torches ready to chase you out of town. Let's not forget how many times our communities come together and raise tens of thousands of dollars for individuals and families hit during hard times. I've seen benefit suppers with families receiving over $30,000 in donations in one night. The generous spirit to help someone in need is still going strong through a pandemic.
Let's not get caught up in the hype and the 24-hour news cycle that is mostly opinion, with a little fact thrown in once in a while. Keep it simple. Be kind. Here are a few more reasons to love Aroostook County life...