For Matthew…

I sit here now and wipe away a tear.  October 7 marked the 10th “anniversary” of the death of Matthew Shepard, and I just finished reading an article about the events of that day and the several days that followed.  It’s hard to believe that it has been 10 years since the images of Matthew became the images of hate crime victims.

I’ve come to ask myself if we are so full of hatred in today’s times that we can’t just let other people be themselves.  Why is it that people think that killing someone that is gay is going to change things?  Where is the logic and rationalization?  There is a lot of anti-gay talk that is out there….usually fueled by the far-right and by those who just don’t really know what they are talking about.

We are supposed to be a spiritual people, and yet it seems like we preach and practice hatred before we even give thought to love.  Whatever happened to obeying the commandment of loving thy neighbor? Shouldn’t we be focusing on that?  Doesn’t it make more sense to love each other and be accepting of each other rather than resort to hatred and violence?

I know there are a lot of people out there that believe that homosexuality is wrong, and I’m not here to debate it or try to change anyone’s mind or beliefs.  We could all talk and argue until we were blue in the face, and it wouldn’t do any good.  And in that case, we just have to agree to disagree.  But the one thing we should be agreeing upon is that hatred doesn’t help anyone.

I’m setting aside the social injustices for a moment here. This is much bigger.  When did “gay bashing” become ok with the mainstream?  Or does it just seem like it?  As a gay man myself, there have been times when the idea of me being hurt because of my sexuality has crossed my mind.  And I know that it’s something my parents worry about….whether they are drawing upon Matthew’s death or just the hatred that is visible in our nation, I cannot tell.

I am fortunate to live my life openly and to be myself. But that openness can come at a price.  I never know when I might cross paths with someone who is so full of hate and rage that it gets taken out on me.  Messages that are floating around these days are mixed…and with the fast flow of information and ideals, it’s easy to corrupt someone’s way of thinking and influence their sense of logic.  And that is truly sad.

Why do we find it easier to hate rather than love each other.  And just by loving each other and embracing each of our differences doesn’t mean that we agree with things.  As I said, I’m not here to change anyone’s mind on homosexuality.  It’s more along the line of just accepting and tolerant of each other.  Just because you are tolerant or accepting of someone who is gay doesn’t mean that you are suddenly pro-gay on social issues.  It just means that you’ve chosen to love your neighbor rather than resort to hatred.

Take my parents, for example.  My coming out didn’t go over as well as I would’ve liked.  My dad blames himself for it….and mom was raised Catholic (as was I), so that should give some indication as to how well that went.  They’ve gotten better with it through the years, though they’d still prefer not talking about it at all.  They are tolerant and accepting of me….and I have opened their eyes to the bigger world.  I know that if they meet my friends and, hopefully someday a boyfriend, that they would be polite and courteous as they have with my straight friends and with my sister’s boyfriends.  But that doesn’t mean that we stand on the same side of social issues.  They might be accepting of me and tolerant of other people and their differences, but they still have their own minds when it comes to society.  So though I might be out there using the power of my words at times to try to move society forward on certain issues, I know my parents are on the opposite side of me on some of them.  And that’s ok with me.  They don’t try to force their stuff on me, and I don’t do it to them.

It’s that art of acceptance and tolerance that they have shown to me that needs to be practiced by society as a whole.  Just because you don’t agree doesn’t mean you have to hate each other.  There is still a thing called being respectful. I am a spiritual man myself.  I do believe in God.  And growing up, I do remember being taught that God loves everyone…no matter what. So I wonder why it is that we can’t love each other in that same way.

So as I look back over at the magazine article still open on the desk, I see the pictures of Matthew Shepard looking back at me.  And as another tear comes to my eye as my mind drifts back into the past, I can’t help but wonder what kind of contributions Matthew would have made to society if he hadn’t been killed, and how many lives he would have touched.

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