The GW Hatchet’s Oct. 13 editorial regarding the death of Matthew Shepard, a gay student at the University at Wyoming, struck me with a mixture of both gratitude and dismay (“Death in Wyoming,” p. 4). The Hatchet took the path most newspapers are taking – the 20/20 hindsight, pro-tougher legislation stance.
I imagine no one on The Hatchet staff shed a tear for Matthew Shepard. I believe no one thought about the mother who no longer has a son. And I’m sure very few on the staff, or at this school, could understand the frightening, grueling road of discrimination, intolerance and ridicule Matthew Shepard and others like him have to face.
You ask, “How many more Matthew Shepards have to die before federal legislators realize tougher hate crime laws must be enacted?” But I have to ask: How many Matthew Shepards will hate crime laws SAVE? There still will be bigots who find that a gun or a fist is their main tool for ideological conquest, and no amount of legislation will stop them. What can stop them when their attitudes and actions are a symptom of the society they are in?
Homophobia is as deeply rooted in American values as anti-Semitism was in pre-war Germany – and it is almost as vicious. Society tolerates, even encourages, the demonization of homosexuals based on a few Biblical verses, whose very authenticity is often in question. Religious and political leaders decry the “gay rights agenda,” when it is in fact simply an equal rights movement. Job discrimination, physical violence and marriage restrictions, illegal to any other class of person in America, serve to separate homosexuals from the rest of society and thereby encourages animosity toward them.
Hate crime legislation, while admirable in intent, will not save any other Matthew Shepards. What will save them is when American society realizes gay people are their sons, daughters, friends and co-workers, and understands that discrimination in ANY way against them cannot be tolerated. It is incompatible to our values of freedom, liberty and justice. What will save other Matthew Shepards is when people realize their preconceived attitudes and learned ideology may be wrong.
What will save other Matthew Shepards is when society begins to cry when a gay person is murdered, when society becomes angry at what they have created and when society stands up for what is right.
-The writer is a freshman majoring in international affairs.