Thursday, December 13, 2007

'tis the season for anniversaries

Quick, where were you on December 16, 1947? Chances are I don't have any readers who were even alive, but you're all reaping the benefits of that fateful day. It's when the transistor was invented by Bell Labs! :-) Computerworld has a nice writeup about how the transistor has changed our world. It makes me wonder what the future holds.

With all the craziness of the past few months I managed to miss a couple of more somber but very important anniversaries. Long-time readers may remember that Myron's father, Theodore Pstrak, died on December 2nd, 2006. Both Ted and Helen (Myron's mother) are of Ukrainian descent, and they have a pragmatic (some would stay stoic) outlook. When Ted died Helen related a conversation she had with her father shortly before he died in which he said "Die is die". There isn't anything the living can do to bring back the dead so you have to move on. We have, to the best of our ability, but that doesn't mean Ted isn't still remembered, missed and loved.

On October 12, 1998, Matthew Shepard was murdered in Laramie, Wyoming. The murderers used a "gay panic" defense, claiming that Matthew's sexual advances caused temporary insanity. Eventually one threw the other under the proverbial bus, brokering a deal where he would testify in exchange for not getting the death penalty. In an act of compassion Matthew's parents arranged a deal where the second murderer also would not get the death penalty. Matthew's father is quoted as saying life in prison shows "mercy to someone who refused to show any mercy."

This sparked a national debate on what constitutes a hate crime. Matthew's parents created the Matthew Shepard Foundation to champion equal rights, and the Matthew Shepard Act is making its way through Congress. This legislation would add gender identity and sexual orientation to the federal definition of a hate crimes. It passed the House in May and the Senate in September. The president vetoed it. It was then attached to a Defense Department authorization bill and resubmitted, but was dropped a few days ago when it failed to gain the necessary support. It is painfully obvious to me that "liberty and justice for all" is a foreign concept to our current administration.

1 comment:

  1. The Matthew Shepard crime is not particularly well known in the UK, however, when reading the Wikipedia entry you linked to, I noticed references to Fred Phelps.

    This guy was featured on a fairly popular documentary in the UK hosted by Louis Theroux. He came across exactly for what he is. (I'll leave it to your imagination what words I was about to use after that last sentence!)

    Long may the "Angels of Peace" surround them and block out their ignorance wherever they appear