I feel like Alice, like I have tripped and fallen into this deep abyss that lies at the end of a long rabbit hole. My eyes are being awakened and I am being introduced to a whole new cast of bizarre characters who have somehow escaped my scrutiny before.
It all started with an interview. Gwyneth Brusch, a drama teacher at Davis High School, is about to present a play by Stephen Dietz called In God's Country. It's a very controversial play and she is hoping for community turn-out. I've known Gwyneth for a very long time and she has never shied away from controversy. When her class put on The Laramie Project there was lots of complaint by some of the parents who, knowing nothing about the play, assumed it was -- in the words of that tired old complaint -- designed to advance the gay agenda, whatever that is.
In point of fact, The Laramie Project makes no conclusions, puts forth no idea, one way or another. It merely and eloquently sets forth the events surrounding the murder of Matthew Shepherd and the effect it had on the town of Laramie, Wyoming, in their own words from interviews conducted at the time. Some people who were homophobic find their ideas changed, some people maintain the same beliefs, but all are changed in dramatic ways.
So, too, were the kids who performed the play. Using it as a tool to allow the students to examine the effect of hate on a community some found that their views of gay fellow students had changed, others did not. Changing their ideas wasn't the point of the assignment. The point was to begin a discussion, and it was an excellent way to do that.
The idea to put on In God's Country came about in somewhat the same way. Laramie Project brought audience out in droves, the subsequent Twelfth Night left them with lots of empty seats in the theatre. At the same time, this community has had its share of hate crimes. Though we are known as a progressive, forward thinking community, hatred lurks beneath the surface. We're the proverbial good town that "things like that don't happen here." But they do.
I remember when I worked for an African American doctor, who drove a Mercedes. Whenever his teen age son drove the Mercedes, or rode his high end bicycle around town, invariably he was stopped by the police--just to make sure he had permission to be operating such vehicles. The boy was never arrested or cited, but he was stopped frequently.
In 1978, students wore Ku Klux Klan outfits to a football game to protest a black player who was playing on the opposing team.
In 1983, Thong Hy Hyun, age 17, was murdered on the Davis High School campus in a racially motivated confrontation which involved several students.
In 2002, a white Davis High student who called himself "KKK Man" serially harassed an African American student ultimately featuring the African American student on a web site, graphically detailing the physical harm he would like to do to the student.
In 2003 a white student painted the N-word in red on the cul de sac where a high school party had been held the night before. The next morning, a young African American couple walked out of their front door and it was the first thing they saw. Traumatized by the community's attitude that "boys will be boys," the African American family moved to another city.
In October 2003 a gay man was tagged with graffiti and eggs were thrown at his car.
In December 2004 the newest constructed building at the high school was vandalized with racist and sexually explicit graffiti targeting an African American staff member.
In February 2005, two Davis students went from rural West Davis to East Davis, causing almost $30,000 worth of damage. They used swastikas, satanist language and phrases like "Kill the Jews! Kill the Niggers." A similar crime was perpetrated in December of 2007.
The timeline does not indicate a chronic problem, but in conjunction with escalating hate speech in the classroom ("Hitler was really smart...he really had the right idea...") it shows that there is enough of a problem in this town that shining a light on hate crimes in general is a good idea.
Gwyn is trying to get the message across that there is a thing called a 'violence continuum.' The idea is that a casual slur is at one end of the spectrum. At the other end of the sectrum is murder. It’s what happened to Mathew Shephard. If we ignore the anti-Semitic or racist comment, it can escalate to writing stuff on the sidewalk, wearing sheets to the basketball game, and in a worst case scenario, murder, as Matthew Shephard (or suicide, as my friends Alec and Gabi Clayton's son, who killed himself following a gay bashing incident).
So comes this play, In God's Country. I'm doing the transcription of the interview and following comments with doing internet searches. It makes me realize how sheltered I have made myself from what's out there in the extremes. I'm researching the Lost Tribes of Israel, and the Zionist Occupational Government and Henry Ford's connection to all this extremism (gave propaganda pamphlets with every car he sold), and Robert Jay Matthews compound of white supremicists on Whidbey Island (where Peach and Bob used to live),
One link leads to another and another layer of hate and violence revealed. It's quite a disturbing journey that I've been on this evening. I also have a whole book I'm going to try to speedread (which don't knw how to do!) tomorrow about "Confederates in the Attic" and the living Confederate movement in this country.I just want to find an "eat me" cookie and get out of here.