The death of Matthew Shepard, 21, at the hands of two men about the same age shocked and outraged the entire world. There have been countless acts of bias attacks, often ending in deaths of lesbians and gay men, before Matthew's death, and there is every certainty the madness will continue, as evidenced by the police brutality inflicted against a peaceful but boisterous throng of protesters here in New York a week after the young man finally died in his sleep a few days after the savage attack.
The worst pain in the world is to be the survivor, especially when you are surviving a child. The only thing that can possibly be worse than surviving your child is to lose that child to such a horrible act--beaten, tortured, tied up and left in the cold.
It is hard to imagine what sort of cold existence people like this have. Hatred is a complete envy of love, and it's ultimate rejection. What sort of lives do the perpetrators of hate crimes have? Did their parents love them at all? Did anyone ever encourage them, tell them they could be whatever they wanted to be with hard work and perseverance? Or did someone tell them that they couldn't, because of The Other, and blame The Other for their problems? Did no grandmother love them, no matter what?
Love means wanting to be with others, to make things work. Love is what makes us want to be together again, perhaps believe in Heaven, and be reluctant to leave one anothr. Hate is the force that keeps people alone. Anger is the heart's reaction to Love betrayed. Hate is the force that keeps people convinced they are right among all the others they think are wrong. Hate is the force that brings only questions. Love is the force that brings the answers.
From all accounts of Matthew Shepard's life, from those who knew and loved him, he was someone who wanted to make a difference. He cared deeply about others and felt that if he made a difference even in one other person's life, his life would have been a success. An old Jewish train of thought is that when you kill one person you kill the world. It is usually rooted in the ideas of that person's potential to bring more children into the world. However, when you see the outpouring of love and sympathy this man's death has elicited, you can clearly see how little deaths are inflicted upon hope worldwide.
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