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Monday, November 15, 2010

The Eds, Take 2

So, in 10 Years Later we had an interesting insight into the tense weeks surrounding the tenth anniversary of the Shepard murder.  On the one hand, the Boomerang staff did a wonderful five-part series on where Laramie as a community stands a decade after they found their values severely challenged in the national spotlight.  They dedicated that bench on the A&S plaza in Matt's memory.  We see the LGBT community in Laramie developing a new presence on the campus and keeping dialogue alive.  Those were all great things (and you can read about most of them if you search the Boomerang's online archive.  Links are on the "Bibiliography" page to the right.)  

On the other hand, we also got an unsettling glimpse of a community in deep denial.  We saw both intentional and unintentional forgetting of Matt's name and a fear for some kind of permanent change.  We saw people who still deeply resented the stigma that the national spotlight cast on the town.  And then there was this

The second editorial in the Boomerang ran on the tenth anniversary of Shepard's death, and it is the editorial that is specifically mentioned in The Laramie Project.  It's also the editorial to which Jonas Slonaker tries to respond, but they wouldn't run his letter.  For some reason, you can't find the copy for either of the 10th anniversary editorials on the Boomerang website archive even though other editorials are available there, but an hour or so on the microfilm machine right before the library closed yielded my very own copy.   Man, I love public research institutions. 

There are a few interesting things to note on this second editorial piece, which is entitled "Laramie is a Community, Not a Project."  First of all, there's no byline on this, so it seems that the Boomerang was putting this out as its official position rather than just the editor's personal view.  The email listed for responses is for the actual publisher, too, rather than just the editor. 

Secondly, the amount of snark right at the end where they're pushing the robbery motive is just... well, baffling.  But I guess even journalists have a right to have an opinion, and at least it's on the Opinion page.  My experience is that small town newspapers are a lot more strident when pushing personal opinion than most, so perhaps I shouldn't be as surprised as I am to see how blunt it is.  

But, with that said, this opinion piece is not entirely bad.  The first several paragraphs are actually a fairly good summary of the community reactions, and it's useful for that.  And the editorial is very right about one thing: Laramie is more tolerant than most other communities in the area.  That should be kept in mind.   However, I definitely would challenge the publisher about his dismissal of this as the problem of "a few questionable characters."  It's not.  Those people don't define Laramie exclusively, but they are still a part of who Laramie is, and you can't just reject McKinney and Henderson because they make us feel guilty.  Whether we like it or not, Laramie does share some societal guilt for what happened to Matthew Shepard because we are part of the society which shaped them;  ignoring that solves absolutely nothing-- and unless we learn to embrace the McKinneys and Hendersons in our communities as a part of who we are and try to transform their hate with love, it's only a matter of time before this happens again. 

In any case, the Boomerang's had their say on the matter.  And I'll be happy to let the rest of y'all know about it.

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