For the week of October 14 thru October 20, 1998  

Shocking murder

The torture murder of a University of Wyoming student was a horrifying example of what bigotry can produce.

Police said Matthew Shephard, 21, was lured from a bar, pistol whipped, burned, then tied to a wooden fence and abandoned to the raw Wyoming weather last week. Shephard was a homosexual. He died of his injuries Monday.

Two young men, both high-school dropouts, were arrested and charged with his murder. One woman was charged as an accessory and another may be charged. Both of the men reportedly made anti-gay comments to police when arrested.

The nation was shocked and revolted. Anti-hate groups and public officials including President Bill Clinton condemned the murder.

The English language is insufficient for this kind of inhumanity. There are no words strong enough to condemn or words consoling enough to comfort.

Trial and conviction of Shephard’s attackers will not be enough to lay this ghastly story to rest.

Anti-hate laws like the ones in Idaho are a good start, but there is more to be done. By the time the laws are invoked, hate has already targeted a new victim.

Only education will end the hate that begets violence. At the very least, parents, teachers and communities must talk about hate and teach compassion, talk about differences and teach understanding. We must not be silent and allow hate to pass unnoticed or unchallenged.

For now, we mourn the death of young Shephard and hope for better days and better ways.


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