Good Reads: The Book of Matthew Shepard

“No one should be afraid of the truth. Least of all gay people… Shouldn’t we understand better why and how?” – One of the few useful things Andrew Sullivan has said recently

When journalist Stephen Jimenez arrived in Laramie, Wyoming in 2000 to gather details on the murder of Matthew Shepard in order to write a screenplay on the tragedy, he was operating under the commonly held assumption that Shepard was killed in a homophobic hate crime. After over a decade of research we now have The Book of Matt: Hidden Truths About the Murder of Matthew Shepard, which calls the conventional wisdom into question.

Sources tell Jimenez that Shepard was involved in the drug trade in Laramie and Denver, and that he had known his attacker, Aaron McKinney, longer than McKinney had known his accomplice, Russell Henderson. The three men were regular meth users and dealers, and the murder occurred when McKinney and Henderson tried to rob Shepard of money or drugs while the murderers were on a five day meth binge. There’s much more to the story, and Jimenez doesn’t discount homophobia completely as a motive, but I want people to read this so I’ll leave out some of the big details.

The Book of Matt does a very good job of shining a light on the small-town white criminal underclass, a group that doesn’t really have much of a spotlight in our popular culture. It’s a group that many middle class people (like myself) have brushed up against at some point, but were never really a part of it. A year before the murder, McKinney had robbed a Kentucky Fried Chicken. He had an out of wedlock child with his girlfriend, and the three had spent time living in a Laramie motel. Henderson was raised by an alcoholic mother and a series of abusive boyfriends. Both are currently serving double life sentences.

It’s unfortunate that only a gay liberal journalist like Jimenez could write this book and be taken at all seriously. It’s also unfortunate that groups like GLAAD and the creeps at Media Matters are denouncing the book, but perhaps that just means that Jimenez is on the right track. So buy the book. It’s definitely worth a read.

Update: Reblogged by Dead Richard Nixon. Muchas gracias hermano!

Update II: Linked by Regular Right Guy and Wombat-socho.

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