I was overseas when Matthew Shepard was murdered, and even from as far away as China I caught the news. This means it was a big story at the time, because a lot of news, including important stuff, just doesn’t make it out there unless you really pay attention.
From the beginning, I knew there was more to the story than a simple matter of stereotyped Wyoming rednecks killing an innocent young gay man. If you grew up in a place like Seattle or San Francisco in those days there were plenty of stories that matched the Matthew Shepard case. So I assumed it was a run-of-the-mill robbery/murder committed by junkies (drug abuse – mainly speed and heroin – was a big problem back then in both urban and rural America). That the victim was gay didn’t seem out of the ordinary at all. Many, many gay men were involved in the drug scene in the 90s — especially meth and ecstasy. They may still be, but I don’t live on Seattle’s Capitol Hill anymore, so I wouldn’t know.
Around fall of ’92, I knew a kid who was murdered in similar circumstances, and it was a horrific murder, too. I was friends with his cousin, who was a blonde hippie girl. The boy was a low level dealer — a meth addict who peddled drugs and stole to support his habit. I had no opinion about him either way; he was just one young hustler among many who drifted in and out of the cafés I frequented in my late teens.
He lived with a hippie couple, and some dispute arose amongst them over theft of electronic goods. The couple decided to take revenge. They got him high, lured him out into the woods, and while all were out of their minds on speed beat him and then hanged him from a tree in the forest near Issaquah. There he swung for some time until the female hippie spilled the beans, and then both were arrested, tried and sent up to the state penitentiary.
I have no idea whether the kid was gay, but he may well have been. In any event, it didn’t matter, because there was no political point to be made. It was just another pointless murder over contraband and drug money. This is exactly what I assumed the Matthew Shepard murder to be, and it turns out that’s pretty much what it was.
However, the difference in the Matthew Shepard case is that it occurred in a conservative town in Wyoming instead of a West Coast city. Therefore, in the febrile imaginations of leftists around the US, the place must be crawling with murderous Christian rednecks. Never mind that gay murder is far more common in Seattle than in Laramie — it confirmed exactly what progressives wanted to believe about small town America.
Whatever the circumstances of the murder, Matthew Shepard deserved justice. It doesn’t matter whether he was killed by a redneck or by someone who happened to be his sex and using partner. Nor does it matter that he was gay or a drug user — he was a human being who had a right to live. Justice has been done in this case, and it must be kept in mind that the people of Wyoming ensured that.
However, the manner in which this murder has been used to smear an entire people is shameful. The fence where Shepard was killed is displayed as though it is the cross, and his story told as one of persecution at the hands of an evil people. There are very strong parallels to the blood libel — the ritual blaming of the Jews for the crucifixion, among other supposed crimes. I am not bringing this up to appeal to liberal sensibilities, but because blood libel was a fact. It was used systematically to justify expulsions and violent riots, the Spanish Expulsion of 1492 probably being the best-known example.
There was a criminal trial of Jews in Spain shortly before the expulsion edict. Some Jews, among them conversos (Jewish converts to Christianity), had been accused of killing a Christian boy in a mock crucifixion to ridicule and demean Christianity and Christians. It quickly became a famous case, and inquisitors themselves arrived on the scene, forcing confessions through the rack and waterboarding (it is a little-known fact that waterboarding was one of the primary interrogation tools of the Inquisition, and probably where the CIA got the idea).
Confessions were made, and executions carried out. Queen Isabella specifically cited the case in justifying the edict of expulsion, and Jews were kicked out of Spain with little more than the shirts on their backs.
While the Jews who were convicted may or may not have murdered a Christian boy – it is impossible to know for sure today – it was wrong to hold an entire people accountable for the actions of a few convicts. But it was politically expedient, because such is the nature of mankind.
Today, it is not the Jews who are subject to collective blame by the ruling class, but non-progressive whites — white Christians, to put it bluntly (blacks are subject to a similar collective blame, but not officially these days). Victims of pointless violence at the hands of criminals who hardly represent the people they live amongst are recast as martyrs, then used to bludgeon the founding culture of the United States with guilt and blame.
From a Dan Savage editorial accusing Christian conservatives of being “eliminationist” and akin to National Socialists:
American Christian conservatives are attempting to introduce a new kind of anti-gay hatred: an eliminationist homophobia. In his book “Hitler’s Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust,” author Daniel Goldhagen describes pre-war German anti-Semitism as unique and murderous, which he termed “eliminationist.” German Christian churches inspired visions of Jews as “Christ-killers,” and Jews came to be regarded as a poisonous anti-race that had to be eliminated in order to purify German culture. In America at the end of the 20th century, some American churches are creating an atmosphere of intolerance and hatred, with church-inspired visions of gays and lesbians as Christ-rejecters, and homosexuality as a “behavior” that must be eliminated to purify American culture.
Christian conservatives have attempted to distance themselves from the violence visited on Matthew Shepard. They must not be allowed to do so. Conservatives like to talk about accountability, so let the religious extremists who help make anti-gay violence a daily reality for gays and lesbians across this country be held accountable. The violence in Laramie is a deadly consequence of the hateful anti-gay rhetoric and eliminationist “ex-gay” ad campaigns.
On reading the above, it looks as though Savage wants to do away with conservative Christians (the overwhelming majority of Christians). Who is fanning the flames of hatred here?
Trayvon Martin, more a victim of recklessness and poor judgment than premeditated crime, was used in the same manner against the same target. There is no end to the search for martyrs. It is a relentless war of blame, and the idea is to justify collective punishment, including affirmative action, discrimination in access to government institutions and jobs, demographically targeted laws such as “hate crime” laws, and anti-discrimination laws that force Christians to act against their conscience in order to make a living or to keep their organizations from being sued out of existence. In some cases, it is responsible for violence perpetrated against innocent people, as in the case of a man in Seattle being forced to apologize at gunpoint for being a white male last month following the Trayvon Martin verdict. It is a systematic political assault justified by false stories and a twisted narrative, and it’s getting dangerous.
But maybe that’s the point.