Saturday, May 2, 2009

HOME OF THE BRAVE? -- A Blog & Poem about the murder of Matthew Shepard

Currently, Congress is considering legislation that would expand the hate crimes law protection to include those attacks involving sexual orientation and gender identity. It is inspired by a University of Wyoming student named Matthew Shepard who was tortured and subsequently murdered near Laramie, Wyoming in 1998 because he was gay. His story and following court case received attention around the country and world.

Contrary to what the foolish Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) recently claimed from the floor of Congress, Shepard WAS murdered because he was a gay man. It was not a robbery. That was the cover story. This came out in testimony during the subsequent court case. You can look it up. Shepard was virtually stalked, targeted, attacked and left to die alone.

President Barack Obama issued a statement in support of what is commonly called the Matthew Shepard Act on April 28, 2009:

"This week, the House of Representatives is expected to consider H.R. 1913, the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009. I urge members on both sides of the aisle to act on this important civil rights issue by passing this legislation to protect all of our citizens from violent acts of intolerance — legislation that will enhance civil rights protections, while also protecting our freedom of speech and association. I also urge the Senate to work with my Administration to finalize this bill and to take swift action."

The bill passed the House on a vote of 249-175 the day after Obama's statement. Now, the bill is awaiting consideration in the Senate. I hope it passes as all our citizens deserve equal protection under the law regardless of color, gender, cultural background, religious affiliation or sexual orientation.

About a year after Shepard's murder, I wrote a poem about my disgust with his murder, this country's hypocrisy and prejudice toward gays and gay rights, but also the sensationalistic media coverage and court case that followed. I thought forgotten in the media hype and attention was the loss of a human being that had his whole life ahead of him.
That was the real tragedy for me.

I hope now something positive can come out of his family's loss and pain. Call your Senators and make sure that President Obama knows that we will be holding him to his campaign promise to get this bill passed and signed into law.




Home of the brave?
Home of the cowards and early graves.
Land of the free?
Land of the intolerant creed.

Homophobic rage
spills over into senseless deeds.
A modern day lynching.
Crushing blows at the
spirit of those deemed different.

His young body
was left
lifeless on a fence in Wyoming.

His only crime was his sexuality.
He stuck his head too far out of the closet and they chopped it off.
He was left twisting in an ill wind of fear and ignorance.
Now, his life is a political football
and a hot potato.

Lost in the debate is the horror
of a young man robbed of his future
and a chance to dream big dreams.

Hate breaks more than our hearts.
It destroys all we dream about.
Killing hope
as surely as a rope
put around the neck of justice

That’s just our humanity hanging there
on a fence
dying over and over again.

George Pappas
Copyright 2009, 1999

1 comment:

Tzynya L. Pinchback said...

This is an intense write with a tone that needed to resonate across this country.