The Cold Bony Hand of Injustice Touches Us All

Rev. Victoria Weinstein, Unitarian Universalist Association
Published in The Main Line Times, November 12, 1998

I am having one of those phone conversations with my brother. He is in Manhattan, in thrall to the corporate machine and making like a type-A advertising executive.

I have called him from my office at church - big sister, liberal minister, "bleeding heart."

Sometimes it feels as though adulthood has distanced us and I am wondering if we are still attuned in spirit, if not profession and lifestyle.

As we chat, I am preoccupied and soul-sick about a recent crucifixion in Wyoming, haunted by mental images of a thin male figure brutally beaten, tied to a fence, and left to die. How will my brother, a total Guy in all ways and far more conservative than I, join with me on this issue?

I venture the question, trying for a casual tone. "Hey, how about that Matthew Shepard thing?" I listen for a response, chewing a fingernail, hoping to hear something that will bond me in sympathy with my sibling.

His vehemence crackles over the phone lines. "It makes me sick," he says, "I hate those guys. I swear to God, I just want to kill those guys. Those scrawny..." And he unloads a stream of creative epithets and curses on the heads of Matthew's attackers. "Death penalty. Big time. Death penalty for those guys."

I had not expected this and, while I should disagree on principle with the violence of this proposed solution, and should counsel my brother not to respond to hate with hate (not that he would take that from me; after all, I'm his sister, not his minister or rabbi), I am relieved. I am even proud. This total Guy has not succumbed to his culture's rampant homophobia. His outrage is heartening.

While I am thinking this, my brother continues in a different tone.

"It really freaks me out to think of him dying like that, cold and alone and everything. I mean, the guy was five feet tall. He was tiny. He had to have been totally scared. It's a terrible death. It's just terrible. Those bastards."

And with this statement, my brother has named for me the profound evil at the core of this murder and of all such murders: That any innocent person leave this life anguished in body and soul, terrified and alone is chilling.

I tell him that I think we are responsible, all of of us, for making amends to those souls through any means possible - prayer, repentance, acts of social reform, ardent pursuit of liberty and justice for all regardless of our ideological differences.

He doesn't tell me to cool down, to get off my soapbox. In fact, I can feel him nodding his accord, this person who doesn't consider himself very spiritual.

At this season of All Souls, this bewitching time of jack-o-lanterns and styrofoam skeletons, faux gravestones in the front yard and aerosol spiderwebs, the cold bony hand of injustice touches us on the shoulder and bids us beware, beware, and remember, and act on behalf of those gone too early and too alone to death.
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