Hate Capital of USA

The DVD of The Laramie Project DVD Cover The Laramie Project could be accused of going straight for the tear ducts but it also has a substantial, and in many ways, subtle argument, which is sustained to the end. It’s a fairly simple argument, in essence; Thou shalt not kill’. Not even if you are the State of Wyoming. Or Matthew Shepard’s killers, Aaron James (AJ) McKinney and Russell Arthur Henderson.They were of the same age as Matthew, their very early twenties.

The Project was the gathering by members of the Tectonic Theatre group of viva voce witness from the people of the town of Laramie about the killing of Matthew Shepard. (Laramie is the seat of the University of Wyoming, but is comparatively small, with a population of slightly less that 30,000. It has very few minorities’ some Latin-Americans, and a tiny number of African-Americans this is quite relevant, as this was a prime piece of white-bread’ America having to come to terms with a particularly brutal crime.

Matthew Shepard Head shot of Matthew Shepard at Wikipediawas robbed, ferociously assaulted, and left tied to a wooden fence in the open Wyoming countryside on the night of 6 / 7 October, 1998. Apart from his wounds Mathew suffered the effects of hypothermia; being in the centre of a large continent, Wyoming can get extremely cold for almost half the year. He died in a Fort Collins, Colorado, hospital on the night of 12 / 13 October. One piece of information I had not known before seeing this film is that Matthew was born premature, he was physically fragile and slight. He was born in Casper a similar town to Laramie, in the middle of the State Laramie is close to the border with Colorado one reason why he was brought to Fort Collins. He was a handsome, blue eyed, fair haired young man. The people of Wyoming, and Laramie, could not turn away from the fact that he was blood of their blood and bone of their bone.

Some attempted to do so, one man chaseSean interviewer off his porch, a woman points out that a veteran State Trooper ( one of our own) had been killed, in an accident, on the same night as Matthew, she also implied that he was flaunting’ himself and was a bar fly’. I assume that we are supposed to disapprove of this, and admittedly, it is just a bit cold-blooded. People who lived in Belfast over the past four decades will recognize the state of mind. It is also a way of avoiding the issue of responsibility.

Many interviewees stated that they were shocked that the killers came from Laramie (another trope from the war in Northern Ireland: the outsider’ plea when we knew quite well that the killings, bombings, burnings, and banishings were being carried out by our near neighbours, near relations: and ourselves. This is not to suggest that the emotions felt by the good people of Laramie were not heartfelt (but I did, and do, harbour a suspicion that some might have comforted themselves if the victim had been Black, Latino, or even redneck’, like McKinney and Henderson.)

The latter, or their relations, attempted to float a vague class’ excuse Matthew Shepard was evidently well-off (his mother was a university teacher, and his father worked in oil’). He (Matthew) had travelled in Europe, spoke French and Italian and had attended several universities. They attempted the classic queer-bashers plea, the Gay panic’ defence, as it is described here, (formerly homosexual panic’, or in the UK the Portsmouth Defence’ which NIGRA campaigned against for decades). This consists of the argument that this wicked person made a sexual advance to me, and so being a true red-blooded heterosexual male, I felt the need to beat him to a pulp, and leave him to die’. The victims are invariably smaller than the attackers, are taken by surprise, and are alone. And the attackers, in the course of protecting their manly virtue, almost invariably steal anything they can carry away. In this case, apart from the contents of Matthew’s wallet, it included his shoes, which partially accounts for the hypothermia. A deliberate ploy? It was a quite cold-blooded, thought-out crime.

The details of Matthew’s injuries shocked everyone involved in the investigation of his killing, including the policewoman who was called to help when a Good Samaritan found him. (She is brilliantly played by Amy Madigan, Matthew was HIV+ and she got substantial quantities of his blood on her hands. She had cut them in several places when trying to save Matthew an upbeat moment at the end of the film is her barbecue celebrating her HIV negative status). Matthew was unrecognisable, covered in blood, and tied to the fence so tightly that it took and experienced police operative quite a long time to cut the twine used to tie him up. These are classic Portsmouth Defence’ signs designed to destroy the victim’s humanity it did not succeed in this case. And has, thankfully, become defunct as a ploy in law courts.

Moises Kaufman (played by Nestor Carbonell) directed the stage original of this drama. A number of big names’ play very small parts, like Joshua Jackson and Summer Phoenix, and Peter Fonda and Steve Buscemi, as medical personnel, and Francis Sternhagen (a famous Broadway, or more likely, off-Broadway performer) who plays the policewoman’s mother. Of the Tectonic Theatre team, James Murtaugh had the less than pleasant task of playing the Reverend’ Fred Phelps, who inevitably made an exhibition of himself, (and his children) at Matthew’s funeral. Michael Emerson played the Phelps-like Reverend’, and Tom Bower the sympathetic Catholic priest Fr. Roger Schmit.

I suspect that even the most detached persons, will feel strong emotions while viewing this movie. They will consist of what the ancient Greeks thought was necessary for catharsis terror and pity. All Gay women and men will also feel deep anger that such things can happen at all, much less at this point in our liberation. It is rather cold comfort, but clearly a great many non-Gay people feel the same way.

Se n McGouran ?

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