Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Mythologizing Matthew Shepard

Our own Mtr. Ann Fontaine has a thoughtful and timely essay up on the Daily Episcopalian about the mythologizing of Matthew Shepard and others:
Sunday, October 12, 2008 was the 10th anniversary of the death of Matthew Shepard. Many churches and others are holding memorial services and recalling the terrible events of the weeks prior to his death. Wyoming, where I live, is searching its conscience once again about how this son of our state was cruelly beaten and left to die tied to a fence post on the prairie. As I read the news articles and essays about this event I wonder about how a man becomes a myth. I wonder if the Matthew known by his parents, family and friends is slipping from their hands and hearts.

Re-member-ing Matthew Shepard


James said...
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James said...

Heroes always lose their human characters. Matt was fully human and out looking for a "good time." That doesn't excuse what happened to him.

JFK became a myth in one instant. MKL became a myth in one instant.

That is part of our culture; we need icons who were not human. The Greek word hero means exactly that.

Counterlight said...

I have no idea why Matthew Shepard became such a powerful symbol. Some people say it was because he was young blonde and cute; but, there were plenty cute bond gay boys who were murdered before him, and no one raised any kind of fuss then. As I pointed out on my own site, If Shepard's death has any meaning, then it's because it finally focused public attention on the violence and brutality that have always been there in their midst.

Марко said...

There is a glimpse of a very much alive Matthew Shepard being interviewed in the documentary film "Dear Jesse." When I think about Matthew Shepard, that candid and refreshingly sassy human being on film is what comes to mind (although I won't ever get his brutal death and the anguish of his family out of my mind). My friend and fellow soldier, Barry Winchell, a gay man, was beat to death with a baseball bat on an Army base in 1999. I used to think about his life, his humor, and some of his struggles with the rigors of military life when I remembered him. Got to where I didn't think about the murder details that much. Barry was dyselxic and I remember him struggling to memorize sections of an Army Field Manual to try and get promoted. Recently, one of the conspirators involved in his murder was released from prison into a halfway house. That got me to thinking about Barry's violent death all over again, sort of made me re-experience the fear, panic, and grief afresh. And I started having these very vivid, involuntary, mental slide shows of the awful crime scene and autopsy photos I saw at the court martial of his killer. I didn't know Matthew, but I knew Barry very well. There was a movie made about Barry Winchell called "Soldier's Girl." Barry's mom approved the project and I was interviewed by screenwriter Ron Nyswaner for the film. I have an unopened DVD of the movie and I could never bring myself to watch it. I am not sure why. I just can't watch it.

Kurt said...

Well done, Mother Ann.

FranIAm said...

I had read this over there= it is nothing short of brilliant and very true.

James said...

Marko, I didn't know you knew Barry. I was so sick when I read of his death. Blessings on you and on him.

dr.primrose said...

The San Diego paper had another good editorial against Prop. 8 today -- Equal rights: Inflammatory TV ads pollute Prop. 8 debate.


When confronting the weighty question of whether to amend the state constitution, voters should make a decision based on common sense and fairness – not inflammatory television ads that generate more heat than light. But when the issue is as emotional as gay marriage, this may be too much to ask.

There has been a remarkable turnabout in the polls regarding Proposition 8, the initiative that would change the California Constitution to ban gay marriage. As recently as Sept. 18, according to a Field Poll, the initiative was losing by a significant margin – 55 percent to 38 percent. Today, according to more recent polling, the measure to bar same-sex marriage is suddenly slightly ahead.

What changed? For one thing, the “Yes on 8” forces have recently waged an offensive but terribly effective war on the airwaves to convince voters that, if they don't draw the line at gay marriage, before they know it their children will learn about same-sex unions in public school.

How shameful. That is not what this debate is about. Parents have the right to be notified if such a thing is discussed in class, and to remove their children if necessary. The ads don't mention that.

Nor is this debate about the hubris of San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, an outspoken supporter of gay marriage who a few months ago celebrated a legal victory by taunting the other side that marriage equality was coming “whether you like it or not.”

It was a dumb thing for Newsom to say, and now the statement is being prominently featured in hard-hitting radio and television ads put out by Proposition 8 supporters. Newsom comes across as arrogant in trying to force his wishes on everyone else.

Enough with these petty political games. This is serious business. Let's shelve the theatrics, and think about what would be best for all Californians. The answer begins with equal rights for everyone and a No vote on Proposition 8.

Марко said...

James, I knew Barry well. A year after he died, I "adopted" Pat Kutteles, Barry's mom, as a second mom. I try to stay in touch with her and Barry's step-dad, Wally. They are strong and decent people and very easy to love. It is hard to believe we are a approaching a decade since his murder. Now he would be around 31-years-old if he had lived. There are still hate crimes in the USA. Some things haven't changed. Peace, Mark

James said...

Blessings on you, Marko. I agree with you in that it's difficult to believe their murders were ten years ago.

And yes, not much has changed in regards to hate crimes.

Ann said...

And now this:
Prank?. What would you do?