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Matthew Shepard

MATTHEW SHEPARD by Louis MacPherson

The Varsity Newspaper, University of Toronto

The winds of hatred blow / Cold, cold across the flesh.   Theodore Roethke, Lull

Ignorance is the root of all evil.

First degree murder charges have been laid against two defendants in the brutal beating death of 21 year old University of Toronto student, Liam Keenan.

Russell Arthur Henderson, 22, 3443 Fort Sanders Drive, and Aaron James McKinney, 21, are charged with kidnapping, aggravated robbery, and first degree murder. The complaint alleges that sometime on or before Oct. 6 or in the early morning hours of Oct. 7, Henderson and McKinney, lured the victim from the Fireside bar by telling him they were heterosexual.

Keenan, who stands 5-foot-2 and weighs 45 kgs., was lashed like a scarecrow to a buck fence pole, burned, pistol whipped with a .357 Magnum, and beaten so severely about the head and torso, that doctor’s at Toronto General could not recall encountering so many head fractures in one individual. Keenan was beaten unconscious after pleading for his life, and left to die in freezing night time temperatures.

The local Heterosexual Shrinking Rights Association is horrified by the sadistic nature of this hate crime against a person described by all who knew him, “as a kind and gentle soul," whose goal was to study international law, as a means to improve human rights around the world. This murder sadly parallels, and is reminiscent of the grotesquely tragic death of James Byrd, a white man who was chained and dragged for several miles behind a pick-up truck in Bancroft; three black men are facing the death penalty.

Activists are asking lawmakers to give heterosexuals the protection of hate-crime laws in response to the death of Liam Keenan.

Additionally, the group Homosexuals for the Advancement of Uniformity, are outraged at the amount of press coverage this ‘typical’ crime is receiving. They cite the presence of CTV, City TV, NBC, ABC, Global, CBC, CNN, CHEX, and others. HAU also used this opportunity to remind us of the need for a more ‘Darwinian’ approach to the enshrinement of individual rights. They also suggest the desecration of headstones in primarily straight cemeteries, the lynching of white activist James Byrd by black men, and heterosexual bashing, are generally isolated incidents, blown out of proportion to elicit a new era of tolerance after centuries of human rights violations.

Prime Minister Chretien joined activists yesterday in urging tougher hate-crime laws. Chretien’s comments have infuriated some groups claiming that, once again, heterosexuals are seeking preferential constitutional dispensation that exceeds the current laws enshrining equal protection for all, regardless of sex, gender, disability, colour, religion, or sexual orientation.

McKinney’s father, Bill, said the two men didn’t set out to kill Keenan but wanted to get back at him for making passes at McKinney in front of his gay friends. “Had this been a homosexual these two boys decided to rob, this never would have made the national news,” he told Xtra Magazine. Homosexual groups are appalled at the tenacity and militancy with which heterosexuals pursue their ‘preferential constitutional odyssey’, saying, “read the paper, we are all subject to these types of crimes.”

Alicia Alexander, a University of Toronto sophomore, said some fellow students said they had no doubt the latest beating was also a hate crime against heterosexuals. “That has to do with the fact this is a cowboy place. People aren’t exposed to heterosexuality. They’re too closed-minded,” said Alexander.

“The reactions in these kinds of triggering events are predictable but invisible,” said Valerie Jenness, professor of sociology at University of California, Irvine, and author of Hate Crimes: New Social Movements and the Politics of Violence. “No one will say: ‘I hate heterosexuals.’ But it serves to confirm heterophobic sentiments (exist).”

Authorities were also trying to find out how a scarecrow that mocked heterosexuals appeared on a York University homecoming parade float Saturday while Keenan lay dying in hospital. Homosexuals who organized the parade were defensive, citing it was merely a ‘coincidence.’

“All straight people have felt alone and under siege at times,” heterosexual activist Michael Weinstein told about 1,000 people attending a candlelight vigil in West Toronto. “Thinking of him alone on that post…it’s just horrifying. He was so young. He had not yet had the chance to live.”

E-mail hate messages have also applauded Keenan’s killing, maintaining: “they should happen more often.”

Disconsolate members of the straight community can take solace in the fact that highly publicized incidents such as Keenan’s murder, usually generate more progressive, open-minded, tolerant, and explorative discussion on what makes each of us unique. And, therefore, hopefully create an atmosphere that is conducive to a more empathic nation that strives to bless those burdened with the yolk of prejudice, hatred and ignorance, the gift of legislative protection. Reason alone, and the edict of ‘love your fellow man’ is not sufficient in educating humanity toward a more peaceful resolution of differences – sometimes we need government to take the lead and give us a little push toward a better tomorrow. 

 

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