Going To The Matt - Reach Out & Bring Them Back genre: Gaylingual & Hip-Gnosis & Nouveau Thoughts & Six Degrees of Speculation

Reach Out & Bring Them Back

I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time researching Matthew Murray in hope of understanding what led him to the place that ended his troubled life and the lives of four innocent individuals who were far too young to exit this existence. In retrospect, I probably uncovered the person I expected to find. I say as much because I’m sure I have walked in his shoes at various junctures in my own life. I’ll try to explain…and in so doing…perhaps I can shine a much needed light on these lost individuals.

As a child, I was outgoing and generally popular at school…until I reached the eighth grade. In fact, I had always been one of the best students and I was often singled out in that regard. As fate would have it, I was also very small and I didn’t mature until I was a freshman in college. While the other boys in the class were growing and maturing, I maintained the stature of a child.

Needless to say, I knew nothing about girls and though I tried to participate in the games of courtship, I wasn’t particularly adept at it…and unbeknownst to anyone, my belief that I was gay was simmering in the background. Just to avoid misunderstanding, I never exhibited any of the stereotypical behaviors most people associate with being gay…save for what was likely an air of detachment due to the fact that I was different and didn’t know what to do about it…nor did I dare discuss it.

Having grown up in Catholic schools in the 60’s and 70’s, I knew how the Church…and virtually everyone around me…felt about homosexuality. It was not only a sin…it was a scourge…and I knew well what I would encounter should my true identity be exposed. Hence I chose to pray at night that God would let me wake up in the morning and find myself to be straight. I made countless bargains with God…and while I realize how silly that may sound…it was deadly serious to me. Notwithstanding, I remained gay.

So here’s the thing…we live in a society that prefers to isolate the unfamiliar…the different…the unordinary. We are a go along to get along nation. Perhaps it’s an offshoot of the competition which accompanies our capitalist orientation…perhaps it’s also a basic element of our human nature. At the same time, we likely place a greater value on success and winning than many other societies…a dynamic which serves to further isolate the awkward, the introverted, the socially clumsy, the overweight, the homely, and many others.

Fortunately, over time, most people find some semblance of success that can overcome the handicaps that were all too easy for others to point out during their formative years. Sadly, some individuals are so badly scarred by these early years experiences that they fail to find or see the attributes they possess. Instead, like a calf marked for culling from the herd, they are forever aware of their “differentness" and try as they might, they are forever anticipating the moment when they will be singled out.

In this awareness…in what seems to be a horrific and perpetual practical joke perpetrated by fate…these individuals become even further handicapped as they adopt the easily seen mannerisms that denote the full-scale manifestation of suspended socialization skills. It’s the inability to speak in groups, the looking down or away when spoken to, the nervous movements, the sweaty palms, and any number of other identifiers that scream, “I’m different and I know it…and it makes me squirm".

As nature would also have it, such individuals are quickly viewed as “defeatable"…they are not noted as competition and they soon become an afterthought in our haste to climb any number of ladders. As this news is disseminated…and, have no doubt, it travels quickly…they are even further set aside as inconsequential.

For me, I was one of the lucky ones. After bloodying the nose of the largest boy in my eighth grade class, I was restored as a viable being in the eyes of those who had made the assessment that I served no threat. However, that moment of vindication only came after months of begging my mom and dad to not send me to school, months of fearing what would be done to me the moment my grandma dropped me off and her car was out of sight, months of racing to morning mass in order to avoid time on the playground before school, months of sitting near the entrance to the school during recess in case I needed to escape into safety.

Yes, I survived to try again…but I did so while carrying any number of scars for more years than I care to admit. Truth be told, I didn’t even know how to accept my newfound status. I expected the other shoe to drop at any second and I remember listening intensely during every conversation for the moment when it would turn against me…when instead of talking to me, “they" would be talking about me…planning the next antic to embarrass me and snatch from me another piece of my already sparse dignity and my tenuous identity.

As I've pondered Matthew’s situation, I couldn’t help but think back to the fear I absorbed and the anger I swallowed before mustering the strength and the courage to punch someone in the hopes of saving myself. I would relate the feeling to drowning…it's that moment when you’ve gone under a couple of times…and despite someone being there attempting to help you…to pull you out of danger…all you can think to do is flail and grasp for any inkling of hope to keep you afloat…even if it is taking you and your rescuer under in the process.

And while I’ve nearly drowned both literally and figuratively…I can’t really say how to identify the inevitability of that pivotal moment of explosion, nor can I tell you how to anticipate it…either for oneself or for another one might encounter. And yet we must find the means to identify and prevent the next Matthew in order to save him as well as those he may take under with him.

All I know is this…there are individuals in our midst who are in waters where there feet cannot reach bottom in order to keep their head afloat…there are individuals who are adrift and will soon be in those same waters…there are no doubt some individuals who have already gone under the water once…maybe even twice.

Perhaps nature…ever the antagonist…has in this instance actually provided us with the answer…perhaps she gave us two hands knowing there would be times we would want and need to lend one to another. It’s too late to pull Matthew and those he took back from the depths…but I ask you now…take the time to pause and look around…somewhere nearby…someone is fidgeting and feeling all alone…reach out and bring them back.

Tagged as: Chrstnghtmr, Colorado Shootings, LGBT, Matthew Murray, New Life Church, nghtmrchld26, Youth With A Mission, YWAM

Daniel DiRito | December 13, 2007 | 12:18 AM
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Comments

1 On December 13, 2007 at 6:02 AM, rube cretin wrote —

Thanks Daniel. i read blogs an average of 2 hours per day. This essay is the most authentic piece of writing i encountered during 2007. The photo is mystical and adds just the right touch. the essay reminds me of the last line in one of my favorite books. “each in his own way at one with all…."

your missive has set off a pack of beagles in my head. are you perhaps suggesting that mind numbing right wing religious groups are acting like school yard bullies? to amplify, do you consider religion more sinister because it cuts off the critical corridors of escape and safety, both mentally and physically? one can retreat at school and rely on the support of emotions, what ever they may be, as a ever toughend and hopefully resilient crutch if a helping hand it not available? forgive , i am over my head, but curious.

2 On December 13, 2007 at 9:40 AM, Ben in Oakland wrote —

Another bang-on column, daniel. I wish you'd run for president, instead of this pack of losers.

It reminded me of a similar incident when I was in 8th grade. I was never a popular kid. i was usually at the bottom of the social scale. I think the only boy lower than me was a stutterer. I think that being gay had something to do with it as well, though i wasn't then, and still am not, obvious in the usual way. But for those reasons-- and others-- I was considered a good victim.

There was a boy named John Eagle in my school, friends with the most popular boy, Robin Towner, though john was definitely second tier compared to robin. John made it a point to pick on me every once in a while. One day, for some reason, i was on his shit list, and he kept it up all day and well into lunch. we had english class directly after lunch. He kept beating on my as we walked into class. Something snapped, and I flew into a rage. I attacked, jammmed him in between the wall and the pencil sharpener, and beat the crap out of him, letting him out just before the teacher walked into the room. It was so...liberating. Several people gave me the high sign and told me I had done the right thing. I think even robin gave me his approval.

The next day, john came to me and told me hgis mother said i had to pay for the shirt I had ripped. I just laughed at him-- probably the first time i had ever been in that position.

I was still at the bottom of the social ladder, but I had a new respect for myself, and so that event was significant. We moved not long after that, and that changed everything. The next few years I spent learning to manage myself, resolving not to be a victim, not to listen to my family's programming (poor but honest ditch digger was their assessment, even though I was a straight A student!!!!), and to be the best and strongest person I could be, which I did.

But the difference between me and this poor boy was this: my basic psychological and spiritual immune system, though weakened, was basically not undermined and corrupted, either by the you're-worthless school of child rearing and by being at the bottom of the social scale, nor by the poison of fundamentalist religion, which separates the sheep from the goats, decrying the inferiority of the latter while forgetting that both species are equal prey to the indifferent wolves.

I knew there was something better for me, and I found it.

3 On December 13, 2007 at 12:09 PM, Daniel wrote —

Rube,

Thanks for your kind words. They are greatly appreciated.

I'll attempt to answer your questions but allow me to first state that I want to avoid making any blanket condemnations. I say as much because I fear our society has devolved into an ever escalating mentality of blame and gotcha. Lost in this expanding mind set is the truth...truth that life is about individuals; not about religious affiliations or political parties. In our rush to fit in...or to make others fit in...we have relegated the individual to a status approaching irrelevant.

Let me attempt to explain. As I note in my posting, I grew up as a Catholic...and that can mean any number of things to a family or an individual. Fortunately, in my family, we were firstly individuals who respected each other and secondly, Catholics. What mattered most was each other and in the end, when my being gay challenged the precepts of our Catholicism, "we" prevailed. Don't get me wrong, it was a process and we had a lengthy period of estrangement.

Here's the point...any affiliation...be it religious, political, or something as basic as the Chamber of Commerce or a Bridge Club has the potential to become more valuable than the individuals who comprise the group. In that potentiality lies great danger because it opens the door to blanket marginalization as well as the wholesale discounting of those identified as the "others".

Let me offer an example. I went to a Catholic high school for boys in my hometown. The school was also a boarding school so there were numerous students from around the country. In that setting, the school assumed more of a parental role with those students who lived on campus.

Myself, ever the contrarian, had many conversations with the monks regarding the manner in which they applied themselves in this role. Time and again, they asserted themselves as authoritarian...and that frequently took the form of statements like this, "If you can't accept the rules of the Catholic Church, you have no place here".

Countless times I argued that the preservation of the institution had become more important than the followers and more important that the fundamental message of living a Christ-like life...a fundamental notion the Church supposedly championed. In other words, not only was it possible for individuals to become insignificant, the precepts of the faith could also be set aside if someone or something jeopardized the authority of the institution.

Is that a form of bullying...I suppose it is in that it mimics the construct of clicks...and I've always despised clicks. All too often the purpose of clicks is for a group to form a bond in order to attain a contrived status through acts of exclusion.

Before long, exclusion becomes insults and persecution in order for the members of the click to get the mutual affirmation they need and which motivated them to join the click in the first place...call it the equivalent of ten alcoholics buying a liquor store and calling it the "Crown Royal Church". Instead of extinguishing bad behavior or forcing individuals to address their flaws, it actually promotes, elevates and ritualizes them.

Religion takes the notion of a click to its extreme and it does so through absolutist rhetoric. Essentially, nothing and no one can trump ideology...and all who fail to uphold it are not only excluded, they are damned.

Sadly, parents, though well-meaning, actually perpetrate the indoctrination that often becomes the pivotal issue in the dysfunction of young adults. By the time a child becomes an adult, they have bought into the ideology since they begin life as a blank slate. By the time they have the wherewithal to look beyond the walls of their youth and choose on their own, they must be capable of extracting an imprint which is virtually primordial...and they must often do so at the risk of abandonment. The bind this creates is not only formidable; it is apt to be debilitating.

The more the imprint is steeped with religious imagery...and the "other" world is similarly defined, the choices may well seem to be a lose-lose equation. However, the imprint can be just as damaging even if it lacks religious connotations. A family that is prejudiced against Blacks or Jews or Hispanics or Gays establishes the same barriers for their children. We've all heard stories of mom and dad telling a child, "If you marry a Mexican, don't expect us to come to the wedding".

The common denominator is the blanket disregard for the individual and/or a blanket regard for those "in" the group. I've been there myself. Before I came out, I had this image in my head that once I met up with "my people", all would be well. Clearly a foolish notion...but I held that view until I realized there were shitty gay people just like there were shitty Catholics.

In the end, we deny our humanity each time we discount the individual and attempt to label and sort them like a handful of loose change. A penny may be a penny...but the moment we apply this concept to our fellow man, we have, for all intents and purposes, jammed a round wedge into a square hole...and in the process, both may well be forever damaged.

Rube, I truly enjoy the dialogue and I'm always thankful when others spur me to expand upon my thoughts. In the end, hopefully we both learn more about our humanity...and can there be any doubt that this is as it should be?

Regards,

Daniel

4 On December 13, 2007 at 4:43 PM, SteveIL wrote —

No offense Daniel, but just about everyone who has ever existed goes through severe crises they have to overcome, be they physical, emotional, spiritual, whatever. And just about everyone who goes through these crises gets past them.

Matthew Murray isn't worth understanding, just as Al Capone isn't worth understanding. It's a matter of character; they ended up not having any at the time they perpetrated their crimes. And both died without trying to re-establish their character, Capone dying of disease, and Murray taking his own life.

That doesn't mean Murray wasn't worth saving before he did what he did; compassion to someone troubled is a virtue, and it is too bad there weren't enough people too help him out, especially his family. But, he threw that all away, all by himself. He showed no compassion for his victims, and deserves none since he decided it was easier for him to kill himself instead of facing the music.

5 On December 13, 2007 at 8:06 PM, Daniel wrote —

SteveIL,

No offense taken...because frankly, over the time we've exchanged comments, your words almost always point out that understanding is anathema to you. Further, those who travel this existence spouting no need to understand this person, that person, this concept, that concept...are in fact foolish.

Worse still, those who treat life as if they are cutting parchment paper with a chain saw are actually the source of many of the issues that plague society...though they never see their part in it.

Were it not so annoying, it might approximate the humor found in the monks of Monty Python and The Holy Grail...the ones who walk the earth beating their heads with a board as if it makes sense or addresses the realities of this existence.

In fact, your "who cares" attitude reminds me of the expression, "those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it"...but then again, I suspect your answer is to arm more churchgoers in order to shoot those we needn't bother to understand.

Unfortunately, such an approach denies the possibility that what we may be doing as a society is actually effecting a progressive shift that will eventually have disastrous results. Suppose your calculation is off by an nth of a degree, rest assured with the passage of time, the cumulative effect will transform the tiny nth into a large problem...one that will be all the more difficult to correct...but as I state above, it's likely I already know how you would address the problem.

Take terrorism for an example...we've reached the point where many who share your attitude simply believe we just need to get rid of all of "them"...maybe even put an end to Islam...fully failing to realize how inane that notion is...and how unlikely it can ever be achieved.

SteveIL, while I'm occasionally willing to engage you, I must tell you I find your thought process to be antithetical to virtually everything I believe.

As strange as this may sound to you, I understand you far better than you will ever understand me...because I'm willing to take the time to ruminate on your thoughts before offering a flip response in a tit for tat exchange. I realize that brash dynamic somehow augments your psyche and your identity...but I am remiss to see the redeeming value in engaging you again and again.

You see, I want to understand the behaviors and the beliefs of others so I can respond in a manner that doesn't reward what may well be a flawed rationale. Unlike many, I actually think humanity ought to make progress over time.

I see no point in beating my head if it isn't likely to assist in extinguishing erroneous notions and advancing more understanding...especially since I don't want to be the one executed or the one acting as the executioner.

Foolish as you may find it, I'm always hopeful we can reach consensus before it comes to that.

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go sharpen my scissors.

Regards,

Daniel

6 On December 13, 2007 at 9:42 PM, Terri wrote —

Daniel,

Your post is the most sober and intelligent one I've read regarding this tragedy. Thank you. Most seem to praise this ex-cop for killing Matt before he could take more lives, even saying she was god's miracle. Well, if god was going to perform a miracle I think he should have started by giving Matt an understanding and loving family and community rather than bringing into this terrible Xtremem Xtian community of crazies. Many shrug Matt off entirely, claiming he was "possessed by demons". Or like Stevell they just want to brush the whole incident aside and move on without understanding why it happened (not unlike our country's reaction to 9/11). But unless we take the time to understand what led this young man to this violent end we'll never be able to identify the next Matt, or make changes in the way we treat our children to give them a better chance at reaching their full human potential. Violent actors don't just appear out of a vacuum - we don't just snap. Matt was raised in a violent god tradition, in a violent home that believes children should be conditioned to be god's pavlov dogs. Take a wrong turn in the maze of life and you bet you'll regret it.

In reading his blogs, that you've generously compiled, I see an intelligent but very tormented child. He struggled with his sexuality as we all should during our teens and early 20s. That's when we're supposed to be exploring the possibilities, but because he (and you and I) were in these inhospitable "Christian" environments there was much to fear in being different.

My sister and I survived the "Christian" upbringing and now we're both atheists. I'm gay but I didn't even begin to deal with my sexuality issues until I was nearly 30. It took that long just to heal myself from the years of abuse and isolation. The best thing I did was move far away from my family. I wish Matt had been given that chance instead of being "stuck" in the community that had ostracized and rejected him for being "too quiet".

I've always said the last person I'd ever leave my daughter with would be a Christian and I'll stand by that to the end. I don't trust them. They are the most manipulative people I've ever encountered. Of course I mean the Xtreme Xtian cult - not all Christians are the deluded Robertson worshipers.

Thanks again for you sober evaluation of this terrible event. I needed to hear something coherent and sane from this blog world on this serious event.

7 On December 15, 2007 at 8:23 AM, Mikel wrote —

Wow. When I heard about the shootings in Colorado and read the stories on CNN, somehow I just KNEW they were not telling the whole story. I was raised in an evangelical Christian tradition myself, and rejected it, though my upbringing was not nearly as isolated and extreme as what this kid went though. What he did was horrible, but I can't judge him too harshly. What would I have done if I'd been born into his situation, had those pills forced on me, and not even been allowed to learn about sex until I was 19? My rejection of Christianity was tramatic enough I can only imagine what he went though...

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