Stop Hate 2000 Newsletter June 5, 2000
June (at least in the northern
hemisphere) brings us from spring
into summer. The hope of relaxation and holidays, combined with worry
about whether the air conditioning will work thus begins to dawn. But
we're not quite there yet. The month seems to be spent clearing up old
business, such as getting the last planting in, writing (or marking) final
exams, getting married, and so forth. In any case, it's not usually a good
time for political activism.
That was less true of May. There was, of course, the Million Mom
March, featuring a cast of 750,000, and doubtless a good few elsewhere.
The organizers were certainly pleased: about three times as many people
came as were expected.
Watching this event, as well as the Millennium March in April, we
were reminded that this group began as a resource for a march against hate
and violence. It came off, but not before everybody involved became aware
of the enormous amount of work which these things involve.
We also were
reminded how easily apparently mild differences of opinion and aims seem
to grow into large ones. Both marches suffered from these problems, and
we can only think that it reflects great credit on the people who carried
them through. At least as artistic statements, they seemed to work well.
May, unfortunately, also reminded us of two such events which were
much less happy. May 4 was the thirtieth anniversary of the Kent State
University shootings. The protests which led up to the shootings were
thought of as a kind of artistry. The organizers thought of these protests
as a kind of street theatre, in which dramas of confrontation would be
played out. Confrontation there certainly was, but the script did not turn
out as planned. Most sadly of all, the four students killed were among
the least involved in the whole business. In these dramas, there is no
Even after thirty years have passed, it is hard to work out the
rights and wrongs of Kent State. James Michener tried to do it in a book,
and it's unlikely we could do it in this newsletter. Perhaps the only
uncontroversial lesson we can draw from that experience is to observe
the surprising degree to which individuals on both sides of the firing
line have been able to forgive each other. Of course, there's a lot still
unforgiving. But to see it happening at all is a heartening surprise.
As well, two men were arrested and charged with firebombing a
Birmingham church, thereby killing four young girls in Sunday school. This
happened during the Selma integration march. Some of the older codgers in
our group can still feel the frustration we felt at being a little too
young to join Dr. King's marchers. The dangers were very great, and they
were not underestimated. Dr. King's marchers used a different script,
however. They were better rehearsed, knowing they would have to be very
disciplined and retrained. In the end, they succeeded because their
opponents became ashamed of themselves. The turn of heart is still working
its way through the southern United States: these arrests could only
happen because people's attitudes are still changing there.
Lest we be seen to be casting reflections on the South, we hasten
to add that Dr. King always thought he would have an easier time in the
South than in the North. The people of the South were well aware that they
were prejudiced on the subject of race, and were more willing to speak up
about them. It made it easier to discuss them, and to change them. At
least some have said something similar about the prairie and mountain
West since October, 1998. That may be why "The Laramie Project", which is
now in the New York area, may be well worth seeing.
But Selma was nearly the last of these marches, and it came about
nine years after the nation's conscience had been stirred by a
particularly terrible killing of an inoffensive young black man. It's
still not clear why Emmett Till's death caused such a stir: many such
killings had happened earlier, and, alas, several since. For some reason,
however, people were no longer willing to simply stop with a standard
statement that this was a bad thing. They came to stop and look hard at
themselves, and decided that this had to be actively opposed. And so Dr.
King's work became possible.
The comparison with Matthew Shepard is a little obvious. What may
be less obvious is that all that has followed since can not be left alone.
In a sense, it always will be needed: we do have our darker angels, and
they can dominate us. But even in a narrower sense, time and persistence
are still demanded of us. There will be more occasions when our efforts
will be asked for, and we hope we'll be able to tell you about them as
Apart from all these reflections, good for more serious moments of
summer reflection, we have one item of news, and one reminder.
The Matthew Shepard Memorial Quilt is nearing completion of its
first stage. Perhaps, like the AIDS quilt, it will continue to grow and
expand in the years to come...not, we hope, because there will be more
victims, but because it will bring to mind the stories of others who might
otherwise be forgotten. But in its first stage, it is done. Our highly
talented webmaster will be putting a picture up on our website soon, and
we understand that the quilt will be presented to Mrs. Shepard in August.
We'd particularly like to thank Monie Gebhart for conceiving of this
idea, and doing tremendous work in making it happen.
And a reminder that the case of Mike Batey continues. Have a look
if you think you'd like to help. Also, have a look some of the memorial
links attached to our site.
And, despite all our efforts to make you serious and earnest this
summer, enjoy it, especially if you are going on holidays. We may (or may
not) take a little vacation as far as newsletters go this July...but we'll
The Stop Hate 2000 e-Team
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