I want to take a moment to respond to the faux gay-bashing incident that swept me (and the gay media) by storm earlier this week.
It was reported Saturday that a young Missoula, MT man was gay-bashed in that city. Towleroad, Wipe Out Homophobia On Facebook, and others carried the story - with pictures. The community rushed to his defense, expressing outrage and concern.
We later found out that the young man pleaded guilty to filing a false police report, was fined and released. An incriminating video of him doing a backflip earlier in the evening (and probably injuring his face) had surfaced, probably explaining his injuries. People, understandably, were angry.
And me? Yeah, I'm angry.
I think this may have set things back a bit as far as people taking the threat to LGBTQ people seriously in the state of Montana. When someone needs the help of the police because they have been a victim of anti-gay assault, will it be met with deep suspicion and possibly a sneer?
I'm also really worried about the kid who reported the whole thing.
I'm worried that this will ruin his life. I'm worried that this decision to report - however it was made - was possibly made under the influence. Bad decisions are made every day under the influence of drugs and alcohol.
Montana is populated with an extraordinary amount of repeat DUI offenders. Our stats are not pretty. When Montana police respond to fights, domestic violence or robbery, they're mostly alcohol related. Ask any cop.
In a 2010 survey of Montana State Prison inmates [pdf], 93% had alcohol related to their crime. 93 percent. So I'm worried that an all-too-commonly clouded decision-making process will become a reason for retribution.
Yeah, I'm worried that the community that so quickly rallied around him will turn just as quickly against him.
I want to argue for some understanding. We don't know the circumstances. We don't know the reasons. We don't know the situation. We don't know anything - except what the police reports and press releases have told us. I've been talked into things by my friends. I've been talked into stupid things by myself.
Bad judgment is a hallmark of humanity. But so is compassion.
I think that the concern we all had for him can be turned in a new direction - toward trying to understand and trying to forgive. Youthful indiscretion aside, mistakes are made - and so are apologies.
When his is made, I'm going to do my damnedest to accept it.
Because I've made mistakes of my own.
I also know that we're going to need to remember the response that galvanized a bunch of people around the country into action. Because, someday, we're going to need to rally around a victim of hate, a victim of injustice, a victim of violence - and I don't want to have suspicion be the first voice that enters my head. I want compassion to be the first voice.
And I don't want the memory of this or any incident to overcome compassion's voice in my heart.
That's my prayer.