"Some people weave burlap into the fabric of our lives, and some weave gold thread. Both contribute to make the whole picture beautiful and unique."
As online journalists, we examine our lives closely, looking at our actions and the actions of those around us. Most of our entries involve our day-to-day lives and the people directly in contact with us: our families, coworkers, and friends. Once in a while an event happens that touches our lives that involves someone thousands of miles away... And we are compelled to write about it.
It is these connections that I find fascinating and that draws me to read certain journals. Reading another's perspective on a national or international event brings me closer to understanding that individual. Sometimes I see my own thoughts reflected in the entry. Other times, I am exposed to a new perspective and my view of the event changes in a surprising way. We are growing together.
On October 7th, Matthew Shepard was discovered tied to a wooden fence in Wyoming suffering from hypothermia, welts, abrasions and a fractured skull. Later that week, the event made national headlines when it was revealed that the 21 year old University of Wyoming student was the victim of anti-gay violence. On October 12th, Matthew Shepard lost his fight against his injuries. This incident provoked many journalists to write...
Ray Whiting of Whiting's Writings wrote about the incident when the story just made national news in his October 9 entry. He reflects on the legislative aspects of the incident stating that, "Wyoming is one of the few states that does not have a hate crimes law".
Patrick Cleary of patrick's daily journal explores his inactivity towards gay issues in his October 12 entry. He sees himself as responsible for Matthew Shepard's death. "I feel responsible." he writes. "Inaction is as bad as participation. Silence is worse than agreement." As a gay man refusing to be political about the issue, he believes he has given a political statement. This incident is a turning point for him. "I have been too quiet for too long," Patrick goes on. "I wish I had done more sooner. I can only hope that something I do can prevent this from happening to someone else."
Angela, the 26 year old lesbian of Midas' Hair Dresser contemplates the inner conflict within herself. "When I think of the people who murdered Matthew, I volley between anger and deep sadness," she writes. "I don't see that my hating them can possibly help." Like Patrick, she contemplates action, although not political action. "I think the solution has to do with promoting tolerance, educating people, getting close to people, ending oppression of all kinds, seeing to it that people have jobs and enough money to survive, seeing to it that all people are treated well."
In her October 14 entry of the center cannot hold, Beth felt that she has not done enough after hearing of Matthew's murder. The act is confusing for her. "What drives two men to lure an unsuspecting student out into a parking lot and then beat him and then chain him to a post and then beat him again and then leave him to die?" She concludes, "I think that people, unfortunately, are as capable of great hate as they are of great love" She is an activist and reaffirms her devotion to it because of the incident, "it made me terrified that maybe someday someone I know might be... it made me want to fight harder to make sure it doesn't happen."
Damiana of saranwarp sees the incident stemming from ignorance: "ignorance and the hate derived from it result in awful crimes, the death of someone who was guilty of nothing." She concludes poignantly, "The world is crying for you Matthew - not all of us hate. Some of us see no color except the beautiful variations of it."
In Nova Notes, Al Schroeder contemplates how the attack stems from a deep inner desire for people to "save other's souls" on October 12. Our desire to be judgmental ends up hurting others, we "condemn the wrong person". He revisits his feelings on October 18, after reading damiana's reactions to Matthew Shepard's death and seeing the Christian protestors at his funeral. Being a devout Christian, he reflects on the judgmental attitudes of the protestors and labels them as blasphemers. "To justify your own hate with what you conceive God to be...that seems to me to be blasphemy."
In my search for journals that wrote about Matthew's death, I found a surprising number that lacked any references outside their friends and family. For every journal I discovered that mentioned a national event, there were a dozen that didn't. At first, I was angry with this discovery. Are so many of us merely absorbed with our own lives without regard to the world around us? No. I know that we hear about these incidents (how can we avoid it?) and that we do reflect on them, if even only a little. It's just that many journalists don't desire to share those feelings. The thought of it made me very sad. The joy I get from reading and connecting with other journalists comes largely from these shared incidents. I enjoy a number of journals that do not mention events like Matthew Shepard's death, how much more would I enjoy them if they did?