Late Saturday night, on a Greenwich Village street, eight blocks from where I live, a gay man, Mark Carson, was shot in the head, and killed, by a gunman shouting homophobic slurs. It was the worst of a series of so-called "bias incidents" that have happened in and around this supposedly tolerant neighborhood in May.
The Carson story has been covered to death by the media, and every time I walk out of my house to run some errand on 6th Avenue, I can’t help but be reminded of it. I’m sure it’s been contributing to the vague sense of nausea I’ve been feeling all week.
But I also think the story goes far beyond an anti-gay hate crime provoked by people feeling threatened by the legalization of same-sex marriage in a dozen states. It strikes me as a story about another crazy person with a gun who, before he shot Carson, was threatening a bartender on West 4th Street. But it primarily strikes me as a story about the economy, which, as far as I can see, isn’t getting any better.
When an economy goes bad and stays bad for an extended period of time; when it seems as if the government is incapable of doing anything about it or doesn’t want to do anything about it; when people cannot find decent jobs; when they lose their homes; when they can’t afford to pay for medical care; when they’re being crushed by debt; and when they see a tiny sliver of the population grow wealthier and wealthier, people look for convenient and vulnerable targets. The classic example, of course, is Nazi Germany and the Jews. And in Manhattan, where the economic disparity becomes more apparent every day, especially downtown, it appears as if gay people are providing a very convenient and visible target for anybody looking to express their frustration with the current state of the economy.