“When we are touched by pain, we develop compassion and connect with others. When we stay comfortable and keep suffering at a distance, it is easy to become complacent, apathetic and disinterested.”
~Greg Pierotti, member of The Laramie Project writing team
This quote has stuck with me since reading it in the audience guide for The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later. An Epilogue. I find that as humans, we try to distance ourselves from the uncomfortable; instead of tackling the root of the problem, we pick at the leaves—focusing on surface issues to blame. And who can blame us? It’s a hell of a lot easier to shield ourselves of the blame, turning the attention to something external—someone or something we can point and wag our fingers at. I especially have a hard time with this. I have had to work hard to really internalize the results of my actions and analyze where it all stems from. I—an outsider looking in with only the play, a few other course readings, and some of the videos we watched in class—think that Laramie residents and our society as a whole must also dig beneath the surface into the gritty soil to look at the root of the problem. We can blame Matthew Shepard’s death on external factors, things out of our control—drugs, his behavior, or on two bad eggs. When it comes down to it, this community, this nation, our society produced these two boys and breeds hatred for many groups of people. Typically, people don’t express their hatred or discontent in such drastic manners, which is why no one says anything. In this country, you can call someone a “fag” and barely receive any repercussions if any at all. This is what shocked and sickened me the most about Fred Phelps’s remarks and actions. I have no problem with people who disagree with homosexuality—those are your own views and you are entitled to them. However, people like him legitimately HATE others, and these are the people that breed the Aaron McKinneys, your neighbor that yells “fag,” the school children who harass their classmates. Instead of spreading hate it times like these, we should be “touched by pain…develop compassion and connect with others.” You don’t have to agree, but find empathy as a fellow human being. Be there in a time of need. I hope that through this process, we all learn to do this with the person that we “hate” or with a group that we don’t agree with…even the Aaron McKinneys, your relative that calls someone a “fag,” or a student who harasses someone on campus. Hopefully with this production, we can reach those people, but we must remember that we all can learn something from this show and in reflecting on our own behaviors.