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Politically Correct as the New ‘Sacred’

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By Walter Donway

November 11, 2018

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Very infrequently does the Washington National Cathedral of the Episcopal Church, in Washington, D.C., accept for interment, an individual deemed a great American.

Very infrequently does the Washington National Cathedral of the Episcopal Church, in Washington, D.C., accept for interment, an individual deemed a great American.

Until last month, the most recent such interment—50 years ago—was of Hellen Keller, whose lifelong struggle to overcome the prison of blindness and deafness with which she was born instilled courage in others worldwide and came to symbolize the indomitable struggle of the human spirit toward the light.

And then, on October 26, 2018, there was another memorial service and interment: the ashes of Matthew Wayne “Matt” Shepard, who died on October 12, 1998, six days after a horrendous beating that left his skull shattered beyond hope. He had been viciously pistol-whipped and left tied up along a deserted stretch of road near Laramie, Wyoming, until he was discovered 18 hours later.

Matt Shepard joined Helen Keller and a handful of others recognized for their lifelong contributions to American life because he is seen as a victim. But not merely a victim: a victim belonging to a specially designated protected group in America—in this case, those of certain sexual orientations, including homosexual, transgender, and additional classifications now too numerous to list, here.

Virtually from the moment the unconscious Matt Shepard was found, a campaign began to portray his death as of enduring international import. Within an hour, two of his friends began to telephone the press to emphasize that the attack had been motivated by homophobia. In remarkably short order, there were worldwide candlelight vigils for Shepard, who lay in a coma. In decades that followed, books, TV shows, films, songs, a foundation, and countless articles and news stories made him a legend, a symbol, and a martyr to ‘hate’—now sanctified by the National Cathedral.

Officiating at the Cathedral memorial service was the first openly homosexual elected bishop of the Episcopal Church. There was a performance by the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington. In attendance were Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, a religious order of “Queer nuns.” And some 2,000 other attendees.

This story is told in a superb article in The Weekly Standard (November 5, 2018) by Christine Rosen. My intention, here, is to comment upon what I will call “the Matt Shepard Project”: the campaign to ensure that history views the death of Shepard through the lens of Postmodernism.

Postmodernism is the philosophy that derives from the Eighteenth-Century reaction of German philosophers against the Enlightenment—a philosophy that has come, today, to dominate American universities, especially in the humanities, but increasingly all disciplines. Many articles in “Savvy Street” have probed the ideas, academic manifestations, and cultural trends that characterize Postmodernism. Chief among such trends are what is called ‘political correctness.’

The political correctness media-juggernaut (Vanity Fair called it a crucifixion) began rolling out the legend.

Literally beginning before Shepard succumbed to his wounds (for which each of the two attackers justly received two consecutive life sentences without possibility of parole), the gay, lesbian, and political correctness media-juggernaut (Vanity Fair called it a crucifixion) began rolling out the legend. A society poisoned by homophobia—by hate for any deviation from the white, male, middle-class sexual norm—had brutally murdered Matt Shepard.

For Postmodernism, ‘society’ must be understood as a perpetual clash of oppressors (e.g., white men) and the oppressed (other races, women, other sexual orientations, fat people, those with disabilities).

Today, we see the ubiquitous manifestations of Postmodernism in “identity politics” as those who seek political power pose as champions of blacks, women, gays—or, in the case of President Trump, of the despised white man. For some two decades, Shepard and his death have been fashioned to fit this narrative. Indeed, among the reasons for requesting his interment in Washington was supposedly fear that his ashes, buried in Wyoming, would be desecrated by haters of gays.

The elevation of Matt Shepard to the secular sacred has not been without resistance. Rosen, in The Weekly Standard, writers of the Wikipedia article, as well as Stephen Jimenez in The Book of Matt: Hidden Truths About the Murder of Matthew Shepard, published in 2013, accept a difficult and delicate task. They remind or inform readers of the alternative narrative of Shepard’s death, which has steadily gained force and credibility for more than a decade.

It now appears highly likely that Matt Shepard was killed for drugs and money, not his sexual orientation. That he was deep in the local methamphetamine drug scene, rife with criminal activity, and, in fact, a dealer of the drug.

I will not repeat the many threads of evidence, here; they are easily available in the sources I mentioned and elsewhere. But, in brief, it now appears highly likely that Matt Shepard was killed for drugs and money, not his sexual orientation. That he was deep in the local methamphetamine drug scene, rife with criminal activity, and, in fact, a dealer of the drug. Recanted statements of witnesses; statements from the leading police investigators, the prosecutor, and friends of Shepard; and much else now undercuts the homophobic/hate motive. As prosecutor Cal Rerucha, who obtained the convictions and capital sentences of the two killers, states: “It was a murder that once again was driven by drugs.”

It is characteristic of Postmodernism’s deepest philosophical premises that this does not matter. The evidence has been known to everyone, including the Matt Shepard Foundation, and was known to the National Cathedral. But the foundational epistemology of Postmodernism denies that there is an objective reality or a “truth” and “falsehood.” Indeed, for Postmodernism, the so-called ‘truth’ is a myth perpetuated by Western, white, male culture as a tool of oppression.

The Southern Poverty Law Center labelled Stephen Jimenez, who spent 13 years interviewing more than 100 people with a connection to the case, “a revisionist.”

By contrast, for Postmodernism, each identity group has its own truths. And the “truth” of oppressed sexual groups is that white, male, homophobic America oppresses gays and now dozens of other sexual subgroups through hatred and violence.

If you can’t quite make real to yourself this Postmodernist mindset, think of how another “oppressed” group, women, were presented and defended by politicians and the media in the Kavanaugh Senate confirmation hearings. There was a distinct lack of evidence for what the women accusing Judge Kavanaugh alleged; increasingly, there was counter-evidence. In the aftermath of the hearings, thus far, two of the women have confessed, outright, that they fabricated the charges of sexual assault and rape—in the name of the “cause,” of “activism.” The truth was their feeling of being the oppressed and their identification with others oppressed. And the oppressor was a successful, powerful, well-educated white male. The rest was irrelevant. Postmodernist truth in action.

The Matt Shepard myth became a prime mover in the enactment of “hate crime” legislation.

The Matt Shepard myth, as I will call it, became a prime mover in the enactment of “hate crime” legislation. That did not happen easily or immediately. It took the full backing of President Barack Obama to succeed. On October 22, 2009, the Senate passed the act by a vote of 68–29. President Obama signed the measure into law on October 28, 2009.

The justification offered for legislation that creates the category of “hate crimes” is that crimes against certain groups, oppressed ‘identities,’ are more serious than such crimes against, for example, white men. Federal government should step in and override states in urgently solving hate crimes and prosecuting them; the punishment should be more severe. The lives of designated groups, now including special sexual orientations (the legislation is called ‘The Matt Shepard Act’), are of higher concern than those, most notably, of white males (who are without a minority merit badge such as Jewish or ‘gay’). They are the oppressors and, by definition, therefore, the haters—not the hated.

Ms. Rosen, whose article I recommend, captures some of the irony of the concept of hate crimes: “Unfortunately, the logic of identity politics …” compels “an approach to the world that views everything through precisely those markers of difference that advocates of tolerance claim to want to eliminate.”

I think it is undeniable that the concept and category of hate crimes divides Americans. The underlying problem is that the concept is profoundly anti-individualist. And the single concept that most obviously separates the philosophy of the Enlightenment (which, of course, shaped the U.S. Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution) from Postmodernism is individualism.

But don’t some minority groups need special protection, special vigilance? Yes, that is true. In fact, black Americans are the best example. Every year, thousands of blacks are murdered, a far larger percent of that population than is true for whites. But, overwhelmingly, the criminals are also black, not white or Hispanic. Are these “hate crimes”?

Unfortunately, the protection that black citizens desperately need—far more aggressive police action targeted at the right neighborhoods and the accurate profiling of perpetrators—is bitterly opposed by black activists, most notably Black Lives Matter. The reason? A Postmodernist view that the oppressor obviously must be whites—in this case, white police officers.

The individual is simply not fully real in Postmodernism. The Enlightenment concept was of the individual as endowed with reason, the ability to ascertain truth, and therefore metaphysically autonomous and politically primary. By contrast, in denying the efficacy of reason, rejecting the notion of objective truth, Postmodernism sees reality as groups. The initial political consequence of this, historically, was the Marxist politics of class warfare (and ‘proletarian logic’) and the national socialist (Nazi) politics of race (and ‘Aryan logic’).

Postmodernism is rapidly driving America toward a politics of inevitable identity-group conflict.

Absorbed and spread through the American academic establishment—and re-labeled, by some, “neo-Marxism’—Postmodernism is rapidly driving America toward a politics of inevitable identity-group conflict. Today, most political columnists cannot go a single day without appealing to explanation via the dynamics of identity-group oppression.

To a significant degree, the recent 2018 midterm elections became a media-driven Postmodernist morality play. Democrats, for the most part, pitted identity-group grievances (of blacks, women, the sexually oppressed, immigrants) against the white, male, heterosexual oppressor, President Trump. The message was that his political base was ‘less educated,’ ‘white,’ ‘male,’ ‘racist,’ ‘xenophobic,’ ‘misogynist,’ and “nationalist.” Little was said about political principles and policies, with the exception of the immigrant caravan and the Kavanaugh hearings—both cast as identity-group issues.

In America, we are far down the road to something like fascism. But driving us in that direction is not Mr. Trump’s summons to a traditional ideal of a color-blind nation and the U.S. Constitution, nor the still individualist American sense of life. Driving us are the cadres of Postmodernism rooted in our universities and steadily populating the media, law, education, and politics with generations of graduates indoctrinated in identity politics, neo-Marxism, the mantras of group grievances, and politically correct myths—like that of Matt Shepard.

 

 

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