October the twelfth is my son’s birthday. He will be twenty-eight this year and he’s getting married on the twentieth. He asked my wife (she raised him since he was almost three) and I to stand with him when he gets married. It’s a big month for him and us. I couldn’t help but think about another mother on this day, Matthew Shepard’s. October the twelfth means something totally different to her. On October 12, 1998 her beautiful son left this world, the victim of hate and violence. My heart breaks for her.
There will be no more birthdays for her son. She won’t ever go to his wedding, hold his child, see him grow into the wonderful man she hoped would find love and happiness in his life. Hate took all that away from Matthew’s mother.
I read things today that make me sick to my stomach. Religious leaders calling for our heads, literally saying we should die. Politicians using our rights as bartering tools, or playing to ignorance to drive people to the polls, all in the name of protecting “family values.” Here’s a thought, I believe murder was at the top of the list of “thou shall not” in that bible you so freely quote. Hate is certainly not a family value in my home. You go ahead and preach your hate, encourage violence, and when you meet your maker, may he have mercy on your bigoted, hate-filled heart. I’d like to be a fly on the wall for that conversation.
“Forgive them, for they know not what they do.” I’d love to be able to forgive these hate mongering people and let them meet their own fate, but then I think about Matthew and his mother. I think about the kids being bullied by others who were taught to hate by adults. I’ve worked with kids for many years. Trust me. They have to be taught to hate. It is not an inherent genetic predisposition. That little gay slur you said in the car follows that child to school and comes out of their mouths. They don’t know why they hate gay people. They just know their parents do, so they should to. Congratulations haters, you’ve created another bigot. I just hope you’re there to stop them when that hate grows to murderous intent. Parents create these monsters and then seem shocked that it went that far. Of course, Little Johnny was brought up in a “Christian” home, they just forgot that part about thou shalt not kill.
I could forgive the haters, if I could stop thinking about that lonely kid in the back of the class. There isn’t anything wrong with that kid that a little love couldn’t fix. That child is beautiful and deserves a chance to have birthdays, get married, have a family, pursue happiness in whatever form it be. Bless their hearts. They have to listen to preachers condemning them for loving someone. They have to endure slurs and violence. They have to take on things that would bring most adults to their knees. No, I don’t forgive the haters.
So, while I’m celebrating the beautiful gift I was given twenty-eight years ago, I will think of Matthew’s mother. I will hug my son a little harder. That one will be for Matthew. I will shed tears, and they will be for his mother. I can’t think of anything worse than having to bury a child. Matthew’s mother’s grief was compounded by the senselessness of his death. Do you still think words can’t hurt? Do you still think hate speech is just hot air? Do you think that hating someone because they were created different from you is just fine, as long as you can back it up with some ancient text? I don’t think Matthew’s mother thinks hate speech is harmless and neither do I.