October 11, 2008

October 11, 2008
Thanks for stopping by to check out what is going on in my life this weekend. I hope you are having a safe and great weekend yourself.

How's it your weekend going so far? Mine started off pretty good. I had a great night's sleep which for me is rare. So that helped get things started off right. I wish we could have had a weekend without constant threats of downpours but we can always use the rain and I just had to adjust plans I had made.

But now I would like to reflect on something that happened a decade ago. Do you remember Matthew Shepard?

A decade after a gay college student was beaten, tied to a fence and left for dead, many in Laramie, Wyoming, a small college town, are still struggling with the aftermath of a crime that triggered nationwide sympathy and brought a re-examination of attitudes toward gays.

Ten years ago, 21-year-old Matthew Shepard died after being beaten and left in the cold by two men he met in a bar. Residents were shaken by the brutality of the crime, and the media descended on the town trying to explain why it happened. Nestled in a valley between two mountain ranges, Laramie has a population of about 27,000, including roughly 10,000 students at the university.

There was a gay community here in the fall of 1998 when Shepard enrolled at the university. He joined its Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered Association, a student group with about 50 members.

Shepard died Oct. 12, five days after his 5-foot-2, 105-pound body was found lashed to the lonely fence outside town. He was beaten so severely his skull was fractured in six places that the bicyclist who saw him initially thought he was a scarecrow lying on the ground.

The two men who killed him are serving life sentences in prison.

Residents disagree whether Shepard's death was a hate crime, a drug-induced robbery that went too far or both. Prosecutors' cases included evidence with elements of robbery, drugs and hate against gays, but the court only determined that the men were guilty of murder and not why they killed Shepard.

Whatever the case, life in Laramie and hopefully the rest of the United States changed.

One of the things that the Matthew Shepard murder did was it reminded all of us, and it continues to remind all of us, that there is no place that is immune from random acts of senseless violence that plague our country, our society.

Laramie was thrust into the national spotlight by media attracted by the murder of a young gay college student in a small Western town. It also produced an outpouring of films, books and plays. Some of the coverage attempted to blame Laramie for somehow creating the murderers. Osborn recalled seeing one TV report quoting a local man at a bar as saying gay people should expect to be attacked in Wyoming.

There wasn't much in the way of publicly marking the 10-year anniversary of Shepard's death. A week ago, the university dedicated a bench that had been donated by a foundation set up by Shepard's parents to help support gay youths.

Osborn, Buchanan and others say the best way to honor Shepard is by treating gays as they would heterosexual people.

So take a moment of contemplation and reflection. We need all the good energy going out there to offset the negative in the world.

I'm just sorry it took the death of a young, gay man to teach us the lesson. I have had the fortune of meeting his mother, Jean Shepard at one of the many events she has spoken over the years since Matthew's death. I admire her taking a tragedy and making good out of it.

Wishing you health, hope and happiness.

Big bear hug,

Daddy Dab