By Anonymous on October 03, 2008

It has been 10 years since openly gay college student Matthew Shepard was brutally killed in Wyoming. On Oct. 6, 1998, he was beaten and strung up on a fence. He died six days later.

Unfortunately, little has been done to curb such attacks, and elected leaders at the state and federal level are largely missing-in-action when it comes to protecting our lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) loved ones.

In the days and weeks immediately following Shepard’s death, numerous elected leaders promised swift action to pass federal hate crimes legislation that would protect LGBT Americans.

Ten years later, the bill, which bears Shepard’s name, has never become law.

The need for the law is as urgent now as it was in 1998. Hate crimes against the LGBT community increased 24 percent nationwide last year, according to the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs. Especially startling increases occurred in Michigan (up 207 percent), Minnesota (up 135 percent) and even in Los Angeles, which saw a 100 percent increase in anti-gay violence in 2007.

Anti-gay murders doubled, the coalition reported.

In California, student Lawrence King was gunned down in his school by a classmate who believed King was gay.

In Colorado, Angie Zapata, a young transgender woman, was attacked and killed while on a date.

In South Carolina, Sean Kennedy was viciously beaten outside a local gay bar, and later died from his injuries.

And right now, in the nation’s capital, the gay community is on heightened alert following at least three anti-gay attacks in neighborhoods generally considered safe for LGBT Washingtonians.

Those numbers, and those stories, should shock Americans and spur them to take action.

Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) recently partnered with Sean Kennedy’s mother to launch a petition calling on lawmakers to pass, and President Bush to sign, the Matthew Shepard Act.

The bill would provide much-needed assistance to state and local law enforcement agencies in investigating and prosecuting violent, bias-motivated crimes. Virtually every major law enforcement organization in the country has endorsed the bill, including the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the National District Attorneys Association, the National Sheriffs Association, the Police Executive Research Forum, and 31 state attorneys general.

Our country cannot wait another decade, and endure countless more attacks on our families, before Congress takes action.

In Matthew Shepard’s name, let’s get it done.

Steve Ralls is communications director for PFLAG. He can be reached at pmproj@progressive.org.

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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