Most everyone has heard of and knows about Matthew Shepard, but for those of you who don’t, Matthew, or “Matt” for short, was a 21 year old student at the University of Wyoming who was beaten, tortured, and tied to a barbed-wire fence and left to die near Laramie, Wyoming on the night of October 6, 1998. Matt was found by a cyclist who thought Matt was a scarecrow. He died six days later in a Hospital in Fort Collins, Colorado, on October 12, from severe head injuries. Shepard was gay, so this was considered a hate crime.
One of the two men convicted of the murder said it wasn’t a hate crime, but that they “just wanted to rob him and beat him up.” Coincidentally, after leaving Shepard to die, these two men went back into town and beat up two Hispanic men. I suppose that wasn’t a hate crime either.
But I ask you, how is this okay?
Kim and I lived in Southern California during the Rodney King riots. One of the graduates in my counseling caseload, a young lady, came home from her shift at a fast food restaurant and told her parents that she was going to sit on the front porch and eat her dinner before she went to bed. Her parents found her beaten body on the front porch steps the following morning. She had died and no one knows why. No one knows who did it. Her parents are left with many questions and precious few answers.
To be very clear, I’m not taking any sides other than to say that we have a growing problem in our society where people are attacked and hurt . . . sometimes killed . . . because he or she is somehow different from us, or because he or she has different beliefs than we do, or because he or she looks different than we do.
I’m worried that we’ve “accepted” that people aren’t worthy of respect because of these differences. And how is that even possible? How is it that individuals or groups of individuals are not worthy of respect?
I'm fully aware that there are groups who espouse hate simply because of differences in race, in religion, in politics, in just about anything that isn't equal to or the same as their own race or religion or political belief. I don't understand them and I don't know that anyone does. I kind of shake my head in wonder at them, perhaps shake my head in equal parts of disbelief and disgust.
But, I think I’ve become Intolerant of Intolerance. I sincerely hope I’m not the only one.
There is no excuse for unkindness. There is no excuse for disrespect. None.
I think there are many teachable moments where we can help kids . . . and each other . . . to understand that sometimes our words and our actions hurt others. I think it is important to teach each other that it is simply unacceptable to be disrespectful of another or to withhold acceptance of an individual or a group simply because he or she or they is somehow different from us. If we ignore these teachable moments, if we accept the ugliness of others and if we ignore acts of unkindness and disrespect, we become just as unkind and just as disrespectful because we ignore it.
Ignoring and doing nothing, saying nothing is passive acceptance. Is that what we want? Is that how we want to be measured? Is that how we want to be seen and be judged? I’m hoping that you and I, each of us, grow to be Intolerant of Intolerance. Otherwise, we really have no future. None. Something to think about . . .
Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!