Hate 2000 Newsletter
In Flanders fields the poppies grow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
---John Archibald McCrae, May 3, 1915.
Our newsletters of late have been more reflective, and it may well be that they are too reflective. More properly, the member of our group who drafts these things has possibly been reflecting far too long. However, we hope that the wait for this one has not been too discouraging.
We have been asked to dedicate this newsletter to Matthew Shepard, whose death five years ago last October led to the starting of this website. We beg pardon to some of our readers who have been a little irritated at our dwelling too long on his story. But we proceeded to do so nevertheless. As his death recedes further into the ages, five years seems to be a reasonable milestone. Additionally, one of Mathew's relatives particularly requested it.
With that in mind, we quote Dr. McCrae's poem "In Flanders Fields". He wrote it the morning after burying one of his closest friends, Alex Helmer of the Royal Canadian Artillery, who was killed in the Second Battle of Ypres. As a war poem, it has held up over the nine decades since because it speaks to universal questions, by no means answered now. The dead do live on, at least in their memories, and we best honour their lives and memories by using the 4rest of our lives to complete their work. "The foe" of the poem is not by any means as clear as it may have appeared to the poem's first readers in Christmas, 1915.
Even if its only context were war, at least General William Tecumseh Sherman would have noted that things are never that clear even then. You do indeed have an identified enemy in the field (as soldiers in Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq may sometimes observe, if you're so lucky). But there are larger nemeies which led to the moment of battle for the moment. That can include war itself, as General Sherman never failed to note. If war is nothing but the continuation of politics by other means (Field Marshall Von Clausewitz), and politics nothing but relationships between people (Aristotle), that makes for far-reaching implications for all of us. In the end, how do we treat each other? As many of us learned on September 11, 2001, some unhappy answers to that question can travel around the world.
Things can connect in strange and terrible ways. There may be no connection at all behind a lot of coincidences, but sometimes the coincidences force to ask whether there may not be a connection, however distant. October 12 is a date which presents such a coincidence. This was the date of Matthew Shepard's death following an attack based on hate and fear of the unknown. It is also the date of the death of several hundred people following a bombing in Bali base on hate and fear of the unknown. that last anniversary, for the number of people involved, affected the people of Australia even more than the attacks on September 11 did the people of the United States. Apart from a violent response born of hate and fear, there's no obvious connection. But maybe all our activities are so closely related in this small world, and there is a remote one.
It is, of course, easier to lament than to find remedies. We would wish to concentrate on the latter, without losing the ability to feel sorrow at undeserved hurts to others. But we best serve the dead and hurt by seeking remedies.
There've been quite a few changes on our website since we last wrote. Some of them, such as the demise of our old message board and guest book, were not our doing or choice, but such seem to be the ways of the world in cyberspace. We're trying to rebuild with replacements.
Many more were of our doing. We've been working more on our "How You Can Help" page. This is now more than giving examples of grander things, such as changing laws. We now are trying to give examples of how individuals can alter other individuals' lives and attitudes. We started with an example given by one of Matthew's relatives. We hope that any of our readers will feel free to share other experiences of where they have, or could, make a difference. We can too often think that's only "the great and good" who can do things, or that the things done have to be great and grand. They don't. The little changes we make to our own lives, and those around us matter a lot more.
We've been putting some work into our Matthew Shepard memorial. We've been finding that it (and the other memorial pages on our website) seem to attract the most attention, and we are hoping that people will feel able to contribute to some new sections, as well as to continuing to add memorials to others well worthy of recalling.
The new sections of that one memorial are as follows. One is devoted to contributions by anybody who knew Matthew personally, and who feel able to share personal memories of him. A second is meant for people who wish to share memories of what they were doing when they first heard about him. A third which is very closely related is devoted to a discussion of how learning about him changed one's life. Finally, we have a section for people to share examples of how prejudice and discrimination have affected them personally. The last we think very important: it's not some great theoretical issue, but something that affects real people in real situations, and we wish to show the human face on hatred.
This allows us to note that we are considering ALL forms of hatred, prejudice and discrimination. We were recently reminded of one form we might not think of too often by a visitor to a website: there is a prejudice against overweight people, and it was affecting this visitor quite a lot. We are quite as interested in this form of prejudice as we are others. Some of them are things most of us aren't at all aware of.
We are adding our own short memorial pages to other victims of hate and violence.
Meanwhile, we have another person worth a special memory, and, indeed, emulation. Rachel Davis, a 25 year-old woman of Vancouver, British Columbia, saw several men beating up a single man. She went to his assistance, and was shot dead, ironically by the man she was trying to rescue. The point of Rachel's story is not that it can be dangerous to intervene in such things. She apparently was well aware that doing this sort of thing can be dangerous. She nevertheless felt that she had to try to save somebody unfairly under attack and did so. She is a woman whose memory is well worth recalling, and one whose moral courage is still well worthy of imitating. Under other circumstances, she might have done some very great good.
As Mother Teresa of Calcutta was fond of saying, "we are not called to be successful. We are called to be faithful!"
An we wish to note the effort of a young man who is still alive, and trying to make something better of this life and world. Kristopher Knowles, of Sarnia, Ontario, is 13 years old. He was born prematurely, and developed a very painful liver disease called biliary atresia. The only known cure is a liver transplant, and most children who have it don't live very long. Kristopher has been aware that death has always been near to him. Last month, he began a cross-country hike designed to raise awareness not only about this illness, but also organ donations generally. He thinks it will take about a year to do, and he will stop if he learns there's a transplant available. Kristopher has managed to talk his older brother, Robert, to continue the trek if that happens. Robert is 15.
This site began in the hope that we could assist a couple of similar hikes, and we obviously wish Kristopher and Robert well in theirs.
We are now in late January, a time in the northern hemisphere when the long nights become shorter, and we see more of sunlight. It seems to give us more hope for a better future, even as the gathering dark of fall seems to turn our minds to memorials of all kind. With these additional points of light among humanity, we conclude, with a belated wish for a happy New Year to all.