Stop Hate 2000 Newsletter February 7, 2000

Dear Friends,

   

The past month gave us some good news and some bad news. The bad news raises some important questions which sometimes get passed over much too lightly.

First, however, the good news. The memorial quilt had been making progress, if slow progress until it got a major boost. Lee Thompson> (founder of this site) has been able to locate the pieces which were made in the immediate wake of Matthew Shepard's death and displayed in Seattle in December, 1998. However, we still are looking for more pieces, either 9"x9" or 18'x18" with the name of one or more victims of hate and violence. The victims, by the way, don't have to be dead. Sometimes surviving these attacks seems worse than death.

For information about how you can help, contact David Lehning either at 1-800-953-6782 or through (stophate2000@hotmail.com). And pieces should be sent to:

Stop Hate 2000
c/o David Lehning
173 Cedar Street
Bellefonte PA 16827-9736


That brings us to the bad news. You may have heard of the death of Jamie Tolbert. He was beset by two drifters on New Year's Day after leaving a gay bar in Alabama (the drifters were from North Carolina). His body was found near Biloxi, Mississippi, two weeks later, and his assailants were found, along with his car and other effects, shortly after in California. Jamie had been beaten to death. There's obviously some room for doubt how much of this crime was motivated by robbery, and how much by Jamie's being gay. However, being gay (or being thought to be gay) makes you an easier target in the minds of thieves. They think you'll be less likely to complain to the police (and, no doubt, the police may be less willing to bother).

That there should be any media attention at all to this death is one of the results of Matthew's death. As was true of a similar black lynching in the 1950s, society has a whole is much less willing to look the other way. But that didn't put an immediate end to lynching blacks, and there isn't an end to gay-bashing.
Jamie has had a piece made for him in the memorial quilt.

The last few weeks have provided other reminders of the wide
varieties hate can take. In Toronto just before Christmas, Michael Wilson,
a schizophrenic, was set afire by three men, apparently because of his
mental condition. Michael is still alive, but still in critical
condition, and it's still uncertain whether he'll live or not.

These cases were examples of direct victimization. In a lot of ways the indirect ways of hate, including the hate of neglect and indifference, may be the most damaging. The attack on Michael is a reminder how far mental illness itself, as well as the prejudice against it, plays a surprisingly deadly role in society. The after effects of attacks both on Matthew and on Bill Clayton are examples. Both suffered severely from depression, and, in Bill's case, it killed him. It's quite possible that it killed Matthew as well: we never will know how badly his depression led him to make some fatally mistaken judgments on the night he was fatally beaten. Anybody who has had to cope with this plague of modern life will, however, not doubt that it likely played some role.

Last month, this plague claimed another victim. It likely claimed a good few others too, but as Matthew put a face on gay-bashing, or Charlotte Wetzel put a face on the neglect and indifference we too often for children not our own, we had one put on this plague. A very good friend of Lee Thompson's, who, like Lee, suffered from Borderline Personality Disorder, killed herself at the end of the month. Jamie Garris' story is on Lee's website (http://www.virtualapology.com). There is a positive prejudice against people with these illnesses, and, above and beyond that, inadequate help available for those trying to get out of it.

Quilt squares have been made both for Michael and Jamie G.

Finally on the bad news front, one other of our "group" suffered a very tragic loss very recently, although this was simply a tragedy and not a crime. Barb Byars' young grandson, Cody, died from choking on a button. Barb and her entire family are suffering as only those who have lost a child know, and are prayers are with her and them.

So, if we make progress, and in some important ways, we are, we're reminded once again that the battle goes on, and likely will as long as we humans remain imperfect. But that's simply a reason to keep calling on what President Lincoln called "the better angels of our nature" to keep fighting the battle.

The Stop Hate 2000 e-Team

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