Sunday, October 19, 2008

When intolerance breeds hatred, it breeds violence.

This story didn’t get much play. In fact, the only report I’ve seen was in the local paper, the Kankakee Daily Journal. Even there is was a brief article, only a few sentences. But it is mind-numbing.

A grade school bus driver, Russell Schmalz, apparently decided that a young boy on his school bus was gay. Whether or not he is doesn’t matter, just that Schmalz thought he was. This grown adult, Schmalz is 42, ridiculed the 10-year-old boy as gay and taunted him. Chief Deputy Ken McCabe, of the local Sheriff’s department, reported what happened then:
When the boy got off the bus the driver encouraged several other students to go after him and tackle him. Our investigation shows that occurred.
Police are investigating the claim that Schmalz also got off the bus and physically grabbed the child. This is a 10-year-old child who was assaulted merely because someone said he was gay.

In Salt Lake City a 20-year-old was just arrested for assault. His victim was an 18-year-old who was attacked because the attacker believed he was gay. He was helped in the attack by four other men.

A few days ago, Jordan Smith was walking holding hands with his boyfriend. For that offense Michael Kandola started calling Smith and friend names and then began assaulting Smith. Jordan’s jaw was broken in three places. (see video below)

Just a couple of days ago two men were arrested in Washington, D.C., for assaulting a 23-year-old medical student because he was gay. They hit him with a glass bottle.

Just hours ago a man in New York was convicted for murdering Edgar Garzon, a 35-year-old gay man. Garzon had left a gay club and was walking home when a car with his killer, John McGhee pulled up. McGhee jumped out and attacked Garzon from behind, crushing his school with a baseball bat.

Each of these news stories is recent. I didn’t go searching the records for months past, just stories from the last few days. Earlier, when I was talking to the people promoting Proposition 8 the one I identified as Angry White Guy made a remark about the Matthew Shepherd murder in Wyoming. He was dismayed that this brutal killing got publicity.

He assured me that he didn’t engage in “fag bashing.” I wasn’t impressed that he thought that not beating people up was some sort of accomplishment. “Anyway,” he said, “that sort of thing doesn’t happen very often.”

What I didn’t tell him was that earlier today I had been re-reading the information on the Matthew Shepherd murder. The sheer brutality of it, all because this boy was gay, shocked me at the time. It still disturbs me greatly. I have watched the excellent docudrama on the impact that killing had in Laramie, Wyoming, The Laramie Project. The film is sitting here, but I can’t bring myself to watch it again. I’ve seen it twice and each time I end up an emotional wreck.

Matthew was a 21-years-old student at the University of Wyoming. Two young men, one holding priesthood in the Mormon church, had planned to attack a gay man. In court their girlfriends said they spoke of the crime before they committed it. According to the prosecution, the two men pretended to be gay and befriended Matthew, who was known to be gay. They offered him a ride home but Matthew never made it home that night, or ever again.

Matthew Shepherd was taken to a hill overlooking the city of Laramie and beaten mercilessly. This was not just a common assault. They were unrelenting as they used a pistol to smash in his skull and face. After beating Matthew into a coma they tied his body to fence so he couldn’t get away—as if that were possible in the shape they left him. They helped themselves to his money and his shoes and left him there.

The next morning a cyclist rode past the sight and saw what he thought was a scarecrow tied to the fence. He went closer for a better look and realized it was the limp body of a young man, still alive, but barely. Matthew was rushed to intensive care in Colorado Springs, but he couldn’t survive the brutality of that night.

Now, Mormons will tell you that they oppose violence against gays, they just spend millions to deny them equal rights before the law. What they don’t talk about is that Mormon “Apostle” Boyd Packer published a pamphlet entitled “To Young Men Only” which the First Presidency of the church has published and distributed.

In his talk, this Mormon leader praised a Mormon missionary for assaulting a missionary companion who was homosexual. In this lecture, which mainly tries to convince Mormon boys that masturbation is incredibly evil, the Apostle referred to “physical mischief with another man”. He said that there are some who “entice young men to join them in these immoral acts” and that if that happens “it is time to vigorously resist.” (The video above is Ellen discussing the murder of a young boy in California, earlier this year, because he was gay. The two videos below are a dramatic presentation of the reality of fag bashing from the show Queer as Folk.)

The Mormon leader tells the story of when he was on mission and a young Mormon missionary came to him with something to confess. He admitted that he “floored” the other young missionary with his punch. This “Apostle” then writes:
After learning a little more, my response was “Well, thanks. Somebody had to do it, and it wouldn’t be well for a General Authority to solve the problem that way.
So, the one boy makes a pass at the other boy. The second boy assaults the first boy in response and the Apostle’s response is to thank the boy for engaging in violence and then tells him “Somebody had to to it.” Apostle Packer then says, “I am not recommending that course to you,” but immediately adds a further comment making it quite clear that is precisely what he is recommending, “I am not recommending that course to you, but I am not omitting it. YOU MUST PROTECT YOURSELF.”

The Mormon fanaticism against gays is well known. Mormons believe in a very sexy afterlife where Mormon men, and their multiple wives (they still believe is polygamy in the afterlife) will be screwing throughout eternity producing spirit babies to populate planets. By the way, this is necessary to attain godhood—Mormons are not Christians at all, not in any historical or Biblical sense. They believe that the secret rituals of the Mormon Temple (much of which Joseph Smith stole from his local Masonic lodge) will allow a faithful Mormon to become a God. They are polytheists. When they talk about “Father” they mean the god of this world only. They play down their claim that they turn into a God through their secret rituals, but they believe it. Since one has to be heterosexual to become a God you can see why they are so viciously antigay.

Stuart Matis believed the Mormon theology and so he fought being gay. He would punish himself for having gay thoughts. He hid his orientation from his family in fear. The only person he told was his missionary companion, Clay Whitmer. Clay confessed that he too was gay.

Eventually Stuart’s family asked him if he was gay. He said he was. His family actually supported him. His church didn’t and Stuart was a very loyal Mormon who was trying to “cure” himself. He got very depressed as he fought and fought his natural tendencies. One night, his mother heard him pacing around because of worry. She sat down and wrote a letter asking the Mormon church to reconsider their views.

Stuart also wrote a letter that night but she didn’t know it until she found it the next morning. It was a suicide note. Stuart took a gun and went to the local Mormon headquarters. He pinned a note to his clothes asking medical personnel to not resuscitate him under any circumstances then he put a gun to his head and pulled the trigger. (The video below is a vlog by a 16-year-old Illinois boy discussing the difficulty in learning self-acceptance for gay youth.)

Clay Whitmer says he tried to persuade Stuart not to do it. He wanted to cheer him up but arrived too late. As Newsweek describes it: “A few weeks later, anguished at his friend’s death and tormented by his own long-term depression, Whitmer put a gun to his own head.”

When will the Mormon church learn that they are destroying people? This antigay campaign they are on is deadly. They are pouring millions of dollars into a crusade to write bigotry into the state constitution while their own young people are dying—while their own young are becoming killers. Apostle Packer might think it was cute and funny to tell young Mormon males that he thanked someone for beating up a homosexual, but I wonder if that Mormon boy in Wyoming, who helped beat Matthew Shepherd to death, had read that pamphlet. It was addressed to young Mormon males like himself. After all, you have to defend yourself from these faggots.

The Religious Right has been engaging in a long-term campaign to dehumanize gay people. They have called them every name under the sun and accused them of being the most dangerous threat to civilization, morality and children in the world today. If you continually dehumanize one group of people the consequences are inevitably deadly. Some will take their own lives because they can’t stand the torment, others will have their lives taken from them by moralistic thugs doing God’s will.

What these religious zealots are doing, or trying to do, is create a climate of hatred aimed at gay people. They are obsessed with this hatred and they can’t let it go. They drum it into the minds of the young and those hateful ideas spread around and people act on them.

These are not typical crimes. These are not attacks based on a desire to steal or to secure sexual satisfaction. They are inspired by one thing only—contempt and hatred for someone for who they are. And the Mormons, Catholics and fundamentalists are out there telling the world that this sort of contempt is alright, it is God’s will. And God wants you to strip these people of certain rights because of who they are. Once people buy into this sort of view of a class of people it becomes easier and easier to inflict pain and suffering upon them.

I want to end this post with a video someone created. Elton John wrote a song about the Matthew Shepherd murder. Someone connected that song, American Triangle, with clips from The Laramie Project. Watch it, listen to the words and think. We need to end these tragedies, too many lives have been lost, too much hatred has already been unleashed in the name of God. I can’t speak for God but I can say, in the name of humanity, end the hatred.

PS. The Yes on 8 campaign is spending $25 million to push hatred of gays and portray them as threat to people who love their families. Now, won’t you please contribute to the NO on 8 campaign to fight the hate.

Labels: , ,