One would think that the story of Matthew Shepard would bring people together over a tragic event. On the contrary, Matthew Shepard’s death seemed to pull the nation apart, due to people’s conflicting points of view. Should Matthew’s heartbreaking death be seen as any other killing, or should everyone take it upon himself or herself to be responsible for what happened to Matthew?
When reading the article “Blood on our Hands”, I believe that the writer had a strong position about his argument. Phil Martin states that everyone should take responsibility for Matthew’s death because people everywhere reject the unfamiliar and label others without thinking about the consequences of their actions. I believe that he is correct that we in the United States do not take the time to understand people who are different than we are. Being in a minority group as a young Jewish woman, I can empathize with the writer when he talks about being angry with self-sanctimonious religious leaders. When religious officials speak out about gays, Jews, Muslims or any other minority they need to realize that people may take their words and apply them. How can anyone be shocked about the death of a gay man, when it is being taught that gay people are not deserving of God?
Nobody’s cause is more important than anyone else’s. Everyone should educate themselves about the differences we face in America. Understanding is the key component to making change happen. If gay activists stood for the equality of women, and if women activists would stand for the equality of African Americans, then everyone would stand for something. They would stand for the equality of all Americans in this country.
The problem with this theory of mine is that people automatically put the blame on others and points the finger the other way. In “Matthew Shepard: What is the Big Deal?” Colby Carter uses personal attacks at gays to bolster his opinion. He states that protestors at a Gay March in New York waved signs reading, “Where is your rage?” in response to the death of Matthew. I think the writer takes the word rage out of context because he insists that gay protestors were using violence to solve the problem. I see people waving signs that display the same message outside of abortion clinics. Anyone can be angry about something they believe in strongly without having someone jumping to the conclusion that they are violent. I also do not think it is fair that Carter uses his own assumptions about gay people to defend his position on the subject. He says that gay people use Matthew’s death to force their lifestyles on the rest of us. He loses credibility in his argument because he has a biased opinion about gays in general. He also does not know for a fact that the gay community wouldn’t give Matthew’s death the time of day if he were a heterosexual male. I think this is a harsh statement that specifically labels gays as close-minded, uncaring people.
After all we elect government officials in the hopes that they will represent us in the best light possible. Our current President is using his own personal beliefs to “better” this country. Even though a large percentage of the population is not gay, why should we vote to pass laws forbidding them contentment? As American citizens aren’t we guaranteed the chance of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? I don’t believe the Constitution only guaranteed these rights for rich, white males.
So, everyone should ask himself or herself if they are partly responsible for Matthew Shepard’s death. For every gay joke that someone tells, or every derogatory statement made to specifically target gays, people need to realize they are contributing to hatred. I believe that Matthew Shepard’s blood is on my hands, because I know that I am not always conscious about other people’s fight for equality. Maybe if someone had taught those two men about the effects of discrimination Matthew wouldn’t be dead. I tend to be a positive person, and I hope that if people take responsibility to learn about others and celebrate differences, then there will not have to be any more Matthew Shepards.
Pastor Martin Neimoller once said, “In Germany, they first came for the communists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist. Then they came for the homosexuals, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a homosexual. Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn’t speak up because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me —
But by that time there was no one left to speak up.” So for whom will you speak up?