One of the hardest lessons of youth is to come to terms with the
fact one cannot, acting as an individual, bring a stop to the injustice
in the world by sheer force of will and persuasion. It is better
to persist in doing what one individual can rationally do, than
to capitulate and give up completely.
Like so many other good people who have been stirred by this tragedy,
I did not know Matthew personally, but identified with his struggle
and admired him for it. I have no idea what Matt's political or
philosophical convictions may have been, but I have read repeatedly
that he was a gentle person, kind and supportive.
I have a feeling he would have approved of
much of what is written here.
I would argue elsewhere that it is proper to meet force with preventative
retaliatory force, and I have in mind a specific legal strategy
for accomplishing that, but, for Matt, it is too late for all that.
Matt was said to have been small in stature, but bold in kindness,
and there was no police force or court of law to protect him from
violence in that field in Laramie.
It is enough that we work to achieve the ideas we believe in, to
cherish and nurture the best within mankind wherever we find it.
Somehow, I think Matt would have agreed with that too.
I think there are few of us who did not see photos of Matthew Shephard,
in the press, revealing a youth with the telltale expression of
one who has already endured incredible trial and suffering. It is
the expression of sadness one occasionally sees of another who is
almost without hope of happiness in this lifetime. To see another
photograph with almost a radiant smile is only to accentuate the
contrast. Life as a gay person or other minority can be filled with
every bit as much hope and love as with any other person.
There is another unsung tragedy in almost every gay persons' life
which usually bears testimony only in counseling groups and very
close friendships. That is the unseeing rejection by loved ones,
unearned scorn and punishment by friends, and societal disapproval
and sanctions which accompany the apparently sudden "coming
out process" of a gay or lesbian youth.
Because of this, the high school and college years, which are supposed
to be the most exciting social and intellectual years of the beginning
of adulthood, instead contribute to depression, withdrawal, and
an unusually high gay teen suicide rate.
I don't know the particulars of Matt's development years, and from
every indication Judy and Dennis Shepard were supportive parents.
I do recognize that haunted look when I see it, as I should, in
the social corners and closets of the universe everywhere, on the
streets, in counseling centers, and in the obituaries.
The social costs of that haunted look over the centuries have been
I would want to say that I understand. I would want to say that
we do know that look, yes, yes, of course it has happened, we have
all heard about it, it was someone else we once knew or cared for,
for surely we must have been one of the lucky ones:
|There are times when one is compelled
to express an astonishing regret for having enjoyed life so
much, or at all. I remembered the bittersweet picture of a magnificent
five-mile long undiscovered valley, a whole afternoon's journey
laid out before my naive and trusting eyes. It was the only
time in my life I perceived the future directly, clearly and
distinctly, and I was not frightened.
There are no words, no ways, no things to take back or make it
all right again. May Matthew Shepard rest in peace.
Perhaps Matt's death has helped some of us grasp the fact that
what happened to Matt, as impermissible and unthinkable as that
was, can happen to anyone from any walk of life. If we discover
new strengths and goodnesses which enable us to enrich human life
in ways we were incapable of before, then I would think this further
evidence Matt left this world a more hopeful place than the world
into which he was born.