Thursday, May 14, 2009

Thoughts About Matthew Shepard

I have been struggling to write about US Representative Virigina Foxx's statements regarding Matthew Shepard for more than a week now. I have fluctuated between feeling outraged, saddened, and curious as to whether it's something people even want to hear about.

Sometimes, I wonder if spiritual violence is something that oppressed people become inured to. I wonder, too, how hearing about these events, not just here but everywhere, affects us, affects you all. To genuinely feel compassion is difficult, because it means opening yourself up to experiencing the pain that other people feel. That's why real compassion is so rare. When I heard that Representative Foxx referred to the hate-based torture and murder of a young gay man and the subsequent push for hate crimes legislation as a "hoax," I gradually became aware of a numb feeling inside of myself.

Those opposed to LGBT rights, when making similar Foxxian claims about the Matthew Shepard "hoax," invariably cite this ABC 20/20 infamous report which BoAsTs about finding "New Details" about the murder. The central claim of this piece is that Shepards' killers murdered him because of drugs, not because they hated gay people. That is the Big Hoax, they claim. What anti-gays do not know or do not cite is that this flawed 20/20 report has been debunked and critiqued over and over again as a shoddy piece of inaccurate, sensationalist TV journalism.

There is little, anymore, that shocks me when it comes to what people will say about LGBT persons and our allies. There's little, really, that surprises me about what people will do to or say about other human beings based on nothing more than their belonging to a particular group of people. And really, I think that's profoundly sad. We are at a place where Virigina Foxx's ignorant statements are the logical consequence of an ideology that maligns LGBT people on a daily basis. Organizations, blogs, and social networking groups exist dedicated to defining LGBT people as Others who are undeserving of respect, dignity, or equal rights. Some Others, we have learned, don't matter when SeNsAtIoNaLiSm is to be done. The murder of a human being can be cheapened because his killers have changed their minds about their motives and have an exciting new story to tell (for now anyway)!

Now, Virginia Foxx claims that she's been receiving death threats. If her claims are true, I find them unfortunate but not surprising. The wind has a way of catching our own breath and blowing it back into our faces. Violence begets violence. Anger and hatred are human problems and we each have a responsibility to end our own participation in the cycle of violence. Unfortunately, too many people- members of the media, politicians, bloggers- have placed themselves completely outside of the cycle and have no awareness as to how they themselves are implicated in it.

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