The lead story in the Sept. 7 edition of the Boomerang caused me to reflect on an issue I have thought about for many years- the legacy for the Laramie community created because of the national fervor related to the death of Matthew Shepard and the trial of Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson. The organized fervor sent the message to the nation that the Laramie community was a hot bed of bigotry. The message was false but the resulting legacy has survived to the point of being an urban legend.
At the time of the beating and subsequent death of Shepard the “word on the street” was that two young men mercilessly beat another young man who eventually died and that the beating was related to drugs. The street news was that the men were known users and drug providers (not sellers). Instead of the beating and death of Shepard being a lesson of how drugs can ruin the lives of people the event became a rallying point for an example of society’s hatred towards gays and the “Shepard Story” became the foundation for a movie, musicals and conferences. While the Shepard legacy has undoubtedly served as an awareness for the need of tolerance for different beliefs and lifestyles it is based on only a partial truth. The other truth is that mind-altering drugs often place users in harm’s way and this should be the lesson of the horrible death of Shepard and for the lives of McKinney and Henderson who will never live outside prison walls.
It would be nice if the guest column by Steve Jimenez (Boomerang, Oct. 9) were to be picked up by the national media.
While the whole-truth of the Shepard murder may be unwanted by some the ultimate outcome may be beneficial if the same forces that have fostered the Shepard legend were to publicize the negative results of drugs on the lives of people.