Follow by Email

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Matthew Shepard, Twenty Years Later, Rest in Peace

When I was as little girl in Catholic school, I was taught how important martyrs and martyrdom are to our understanding of our faith.

I found the idea unappealing. Why did there have to be such suffering? Why couldn't our moral universe encompass only sweetness and light?

As I grew older, I pondered another question: how could the average decent person, people like my friends, like myself, have supported systems like slavery and Jim Crow?

The martyrs of the Civil Rights movement, like the four little girls murdered in a bomb blast in a Birmingham church, may have taught me something about both questions.

Maybe ugly injustice is not exclusively the product of fanatics. Maybe ugly injustice is a product we all create. There are the fanatics leading the parade, of course, but the rest of us just go along. We say nothing, after someone tells a joke that offends us, we do nothing when the institutions we work for deny equal benefits to selected groups of our fellow employees, we hear nothing when our religious leaders preach a discrimination that Jesus never practiced.

I again ponder martyrdom and the education of the average, decent person in the wake of the murder of Matthew Shepard, a college student, around five foot tall, around a hundred pounds, who was tricked into a pick up truck, beaten, burned, and tied to a fence in a position typical of crucifixion. Later, his funeral was picketed by church members carrying signs reading, "Fag Matt in Hell."

We are shocked. Shocked. After the shock wears off, I hope Matthew's death can teach us as only martyrdom can, what the true face of homophobia is.


Twenty years ago, my short essays were occasionally broadcast via WFIU in Bloomington, Indiana. This was one of them.

On October 26, 2018, Matthew Shepard's ashes were laid to rest in the National Cathedral. Matt's parents had feared that placing them in any marked place would result in vandalism. They hope that, in the cathedral, Matt's ashes will be safe.


  1. Hi there, apologies that this is off-topic, I just wanted to say I loved your book, read it twice. Apparently I do not meet the minimum requirements to leave a review on Amazon, so thought I'd just leave a note here to tell you I'd have given it 5 stars. After reading it I have so many questions I want to ask you, but this is not really the place for those questions. What a life you have led... So far removed from my own reality.
    I wonder about Dr Shermer also. Does he know you published the book? How could he read your emails and not be at least a little bit swayed? How is it that only a week ago he tweeted a link to an article titled "Why we should not be impressed by Eerie Coincidences: Belief in synchronicity is based on the odds of an event AFTER it has occurred". Why does he try so hard to convince himself and others that God does not exit? What did he think when you corrected his grammar in his sex email?
    PS when you first introduced us to Amanda, my thoughts were: what a cool friend, what a rare combination of beauty, intelligence, charisma and wit. Do such people really exist? What are the odds of befriending one such person? After reading to the end, and then finding your blog and discovering how little (or not at all) your circumstances have improved, I cared much less whether Amanda was possible, but couldn't stop wondering how you were possible.

    1. Wow! what a great post. thank you. Why no name? Who are you? Why can't you post an Amazon review?

      As for Dr Shermer. We went our separate ways. i've tried to communicate with him about this book and he becomes defensive. He has had his own problems and that may contribute to his lack of openness.

      I don't follow him so I'm unaware of any of his tweets. I can say that when in conversation with me he was not so dismissive of synchronicity, but we are all allowed inconsistency. I'm constantly hollering angry words at God yet I still believe.