And A Tear Fell



 The other night, quite by accident, I stumbled across a movie called ‘The Laramie Project’. Once I read a brief description of the movie/docu-drama, I was instantly set on watching this. I must say this was one of the saddest dramas that I had seen in a while, not because its contents were a shock…but because it actually happened to a real person…and some how it struck a chord in me.

 The Laramie Project is about an incident that occurred Oct. 6, 1998; definitely not a current event…but still very much an important issue. On the sixth day of October 1998, two 21 year old young men, Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson, kidnapped, and beat Matthew Shepard (21); such a beating in fact that he, as an end result, passed away. All three of these young men were citizens of Laramie, Wyoming.

 According to the taped and verbal confessions, at the time of the arrest of the two assailants, I learned some very frank facts. One night, at a bar, Matthew Sheppard (a self proclaimed homosexual), was offered a ride home by Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson. During this ride, Aaron McKinney brutally beat Matthew, with his hands and the butt of his hand gun. When asked, Aaron said that Matthew asked him to stop one time…but after that he was too busy getting beat. Russell Henderson drove his truck to a spot high above the city…where the two tied Matthew to a fence post. While Russell pleaded for Aaron to stop, Aaron McKinney continually beat Matthew Shepard half to death. The college freshman was left there for 18 hours before authorities found him. Matthew stayed in a coma for 6 days, and on October 12, 1998, Matthew Shepard passed away.

 The entire drama was about reactions from the townspeople, since all three were local residents. The reactions were varied, which I found rather disturbing. Some people, of course, were sympathetic and empathetic with the Shepard family; but not all were.

 This was a heinous crime, filled with hate, and bigotry. But the terrible truth is, just like it happened in Laramie, it could and in fact, does happen every day. All Matthew did was be different than other people. Matthew was a gay man, period; that was his crime. The fact that everyone in that town was not appalled by this crime was total lunacy. He was beaten, until they got tired and bored with it…and then he was left to die.

 The sad thing about this incident, which is actually an issue, is that even 13 years later, it still happens. People look away while people are harassed about their sexuality, race, religion, socio-economic background, and social affiliations. How long should we look away? How bad does it have to get? How many teenagers have to die; by their own hand or the hand of others…because they are different? How many times do we laugh it off when we hear people we care about use racial slurs, sexist comments, demeaning words, or phrases? Why is ignorance acceptable?

 Life is so short, to even take one minute to degrade another person…is one precious minute of life…..wasted. Why is walking away so difficult? Isn’t the true strength found in the one who walks away rather than in the one who engages in the fight? We have become a society where we need to tear another person down in order to feel good about ourselves.

 The truly frightening reality is that we, as adults, are training our children to hate. We are helping to raise future bigots; who may be capable of hate crimes. Is this what we want? Would you feel comfortable with this…if Matthew had been your son? As statistics can readily show, Matthew is the rule not the exception. He could have been killed because he was a different race, handicapped, poor, or a variety of reasons…he just happened to be gay. If Matthew had been a heterosexual female with blonde hair and blue eyes…would this crime have been more socially unacceptable?

 We need to take a stand. Stand up and fight for the voices that never get heard…because society is busy judging them. Do what is right…hold your head high and stretch your arms to Heaven…before we let another tear fall.