Matthew Shepard and Redneck America

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    Feb 29, 2008 5:32 AM GMT
    I recently read some forum posts where people were discussing Matthew Shepard and whether he somehow made himself a target by his mannerisms, looks, or actions. Thought I’d share my experience.

    I attended college in the 70s in a very small, very redneck farm town in Ohio. One day a guy my age was walking home from class. A couple of young rednecks in a pickup truck pulled over and said they had a bottle of whiskey, and asked him if he wanted to get drunk with them. He got into the truck. They drove him out to the country, beat and robbed him, tied him up and left him in a barn in below-freezing weather. Someone found him two or three days later. He survived, but he lost both his feet.

    The parallels to Matthew’s story are obvious, but my classmate wasn’t gay. He was beaten and left to die because he was a college student. To those sick redneck fucks he represented everything in life they would never have – money, privilege, education, and especially a future. Of course they could have had all those things if they’d only made the effort, but they didn’t, they only lashed out against anyone who did, and that’s what made them rednecks. Both Matthew and my classmate made mistakes – they got into a truck with someone they shouldn’t have trusted – but both were young and trusting, and lured by predators.

    That incident was extreme but it wasn’t isolated. On my campus I always heard stories of redneck “townies” cruising for college students to beat up late at night. A friend of mine was walking back to campus from a party one night at 3 am and was chased through the streets by another pair of rednecks in a pickup. In fact, the only reason anyone ever heard about the classmate who lost his feet was because a guy who worked on the school paper shopped the story around to every major newspaper in Ohio until someone picked it up. The college town and the university had tried to sweep the whole thing under the rug.

    The reason I’m telling this story is because it seems we need to be reminded sometimes that victims shouldn’t be blamed for being who they are. Matthew was a convenient target because he was gay but I wouldn’t be surprised if that was not the only reason he was killed (to the rednecks in my college town, all the students were “faggots”, no matter what they looked like or who they slept with). We heard about Matthew only because we happen to be living in a place and time where “hate crimes” against minorities make the headlines. That kind of media attention is a good thing, but I can’t help wondering how many others like my classmate are being brutalized and no one ever hears a word about it because they don’t happen to fit any convenient “hate crime” or minority categories.

    A couple things I’m sure of: It isn’t just about gays. It isn’t just in farm towns. It isn’t just in America.

    Thoughts?
  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Feb 29, 2008 7:40 AM GMT
    There are gay rednecks. I went to college in a small town in Ohio surrounded by farms too. I thought it strange to have a lover who was similar in appearance and mannerisms to Toby Kieth but, he is gay.
    The only time I was attacked by gaybashers was in Detroit, a progressive city.

  • GQjock

    Posts: 11649

    Feb 29, 2008 11:31 AM GMT
    Alot of this comes from young usually middle and lower class males
    who are themselves dealing with sexual-social class issues
    these issues are scary to them individually and when they get together with friends they deal with this fear by using violence
    homosexuality is esp scary because they have sometimes those latent feelings themselves
    There IS no such thing as a strictly heterosexual male
  • HndsmKansan

    Posts: 16311

    Feb 29, 2008 1:23 PM GMT
    I think I understand and agree with much of what Ript had in his original post, how lower class males (with perception of limited "haves" want to attack those who seem be "have more").

    The fact one is or is not gay isn't really the point, its striking out by those with limited perceptions and means. I'm sure it goes on across America in a variety of venues and ways.. not by just those who are young and college age against others.

    One thing I was concerned about in Ript's post: Not all "Rednecks" are lower class males or do all rednecks attack gays or anyone else. We (gays) worry about being stigmityzed... I don't think anyone should be.
    The term "Redneck" to me means someone with an inflexible attitude who many times lives in rural areas in the United States. Not all Rednecks drive trucks...and many (like me) do drive nice looking trucks and are not Rednecks (or even have "red" necks..lol)

    I remember once recently, I had driven to a small social group in which I belong and a member told me if he didn't know me he might have thought I was a "redneck" (truck.. jeans & belt buckle).. I told him I thought that was kind of odd.

    So not to take away from the point of Ript's post.. a topic very important to discuss... I wouldn't refer to them as "Rednecks", but as "criminals".
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    Feb 29, 2008 7:18 PM GMT
    I recently read some forum posts where people were discussing Matthew Shepard and whether he somehow made himself a target by his mannerisms, looks, or actions. Thought I’d share my experience.

    I never knew Matthew Shepard, all I know is that what happened to him was morally unforgivable. You don't gang up on somebody, beat him senseless then leave him to die. I don't really care how he acted, it is not relevant.
  • calipally

    Posts: 246

    Feb 29, 2008 7:57 PM GMT
    Those who choose to wallow in despair will always try to tear down those who choose to lift themselves up!

    Hate comes in many forms and it generally doesn't discriminate.
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    Feb 29, 2008 8:34 PM GMT
    Kansan, I understand your comment on the term "redneck". Lately it has come to mean anyone who drives a pickup and listens to country music but that wasn't what it meant in my day. A redneck was most likely from a rural area, but not necessarily. It was the attitude that defined the term. A redneck was a thug, someone whose idea of a good time was to kick the living shit out of somebody they perceived as "different". The word was, after all, coined by the hippie culture to describe the people who hassled them.

    Actually most people who live in rural areas (and I grew up in one) are very gentle, unassuming live-and-let-live types. Too often they're branded as rednecks just because they speak with an accent and don't have much money or education, and maybe have a car on cinder blocks in the yard.

    But I'm sorry, I don't know a better term than "redneck" to describe some of the people I saw in my college town. "Criminals" doesn't quite do justice because it seemed to me it wasn't just a matter of criminal behavior, it was an entire subculture.
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    Feb 29, 2008 10:42 PM GMT
    A lot of my cousins live in the mountain west and rural midwest, and some of them class themselves as "rednecks" and would surely be categorized as such by most city folk from the east or west coasts, or urban midwest for that matter. My partner and I have been out to see them 10 or more times and were always treated warmly, though some of them are younger folk I see only rarely. I think if anybody out there attacked us they would stand up and fight for us.

    Still, there are some bars out there I would avoid and some guys who are just plain mean. And if I were to go to one of those bars, I sure as hell would not order a vodka tonic or martini. Did that once and got some unpleasant stares and looked over my shoulder when I left. I think Riptjock has a good point; there are guys who hate anybody different, and they aren't only found out in the country.
  • Barricade

    Posts: 457

    Feb 29, 2008 10:52 PM GMT
    That stuff happens to all minorities and yet we discriminate among ourselves at the same time. That was a sad story, those "rednecks" are still in prison hopefully.
  • jarhead5536

    Posts: 1348

    Feb 29, 2008 11:07 PM GMT
    Oh boy, rednecks. The last vestiges of tribalism in 21st century America. I could do a whole diary on this topic alone. The struggle between tribalism (the interest of oneself and ones' immediate community above all others), and democracy (the interests of everyone as a whole over self). Fascinating shit in a sociological sense.

    Tribalism is, by nature, overtly hostile to the "other", and that can mean just about any outsider that is clearly perceived to be different in any way. Difference is a threat to the tribal mentality, and must be removed from the environment to ensure the supremacy of the tribe.

    Add to this poor education, ingnorance of the wider world, the black and white "morality" of the fundie Christian, and the warped self-loathing of the latent homosexual, and voila, murderous rampages all around.

    Just like growing up in East Texas. Those were the days - good times!
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    Feb 29, 2008 11:13 PM GMT
    I'm a redneck.. does that mean I have to hate myself??
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    Mar 01, 2008 12:07 AM GMT
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    Mar 01, 2008 12:29 AM GMT
    Another point about Matthew Shepard, which admittedly is somewhat of a tangent and may seem like splitting hairs: Apparently, Matt actually did know those guys. . . I mean, before the night of his murder. . .he was acquainted with both of them. They weren't total strangers. I believe it was 20/20 that did a story on this, a few years ago, and Vanity Fair actually did a lengthy piece on it some time earlier.

    This doesn't mean what happened was any less of a tragedy, or change anything in any way, obviously. Personally, I was mortified by what happened to him. I just thought it was worth bringing up, and I was also wondering if anyone else on here saw the 20/20 story.
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    Mar 01, 2008 1:47 AM GMT
    what's particularly sad is how much of this brutality does go unnoticed... not necessarliy out of apathy from the general public, but because of wrangling like your college's town tried to pull.

    we've all heard about the shooting death of the 15 year old in california at his middle school... but two weeks before that the same exact thing happened right here in charleston, sc and no one has said anything at all. i write for an lgbt newspaper, so we were particularly angry that we couldn't have told people sooner than a month after the fact. the boy in question here was an african american gender non-conforming individual who got shot to death when he took the crab husks out to the trash after a dinner party with several friends. right there in his drive way. it's sick. and to add to this, two weeks after the shooting in california (only last week) yet another gender non-conforming person was shot to death in florida...

    anyone who makes the argument that hate crimes aren't real is being purposefully blind. we desparately need legal protections. it's gotten to the point where even middle-of-the-road republicans know it.
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    Mar 01, 2008 1:50 AM GMT
    It's a sad and tragic world we live in when one can't even walk down a street or even go to school without fear of being killed based on his/her sexual preferences. How worse does it have to get before it becomes better?

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    Mar 01, 2008 1:53 AM GMT
    dancerjack said it's gotten to the point where even middle-of-the-road republicans know it.


    Are there any left?
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    Mar 01, 2008 5:32 AM GMT
    Yeah, redneck can mean many things depending on you're background/perspective. Here is the wikipedia entry for it:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Redneck

    It is not always a negative connotation.

    Anyone can be a hater. What specifically pushes someone further to be a killer I don't know. There could be lots of reasons. But the basic one I think is having a more or a we vs. them mentality than an Us or we are all the same mentality. It is just a bad part of the human condition: Lack of compassion. If you throughly know yourself as a human being I think you will have more tolerance for others.
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    Mar 01, 2008 6:00 AM GMT
    GQjock saidAlot of this comes from young usually middle and lower class males
    who are themselves dealing with sexual-social class issues
    these issues are scary to them individually and when they get together with friends they deal with this fear by using violence
    homosexuality is esp scary because they have sometimes those latent feelings themselves
    There IS no such thing as a strictly heterosexual male


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    Mar 01, 2008 7:01 AM GMT
    I was once attacked by a group of locals in a small mountain town were I attended college. It was outside a dance and it was local yahoos that did not like the out of town college kids dancing with the local girls. Little did they know I was not interested in the girls, but my buddies were dancing with them.

    Two years later, the same thing happened in the Castro in San Francisco. This time it was five drunk gay guys who thought I was straight. It was almost identical. I will admit each time that I could maybe have shut up and walked away. Maybe talked my way out of it. But I did not like anyone telling me where I could be and I gave back as good as I got. Well, except that I got my ass kicked somewhat, but each time it was several against one.

    Just a thought. Everyone can be intolerant. Drunk guys, gay or straight, can cause problems. I never used to see gay guys fight in bars, and now I am seeing it more and more. What gives?