I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time researching Matthew Murray in hope of understandin g 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…perhap s 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 misunderstan ding, I never exhibited any of the stereotypica l 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 homosexualit y. It was not only a sin…it was a scourge…an d 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. Notwithstand ing, I remained gay.
So here’s the thing…we live in a society that prefers to isolate the unfamiliar…t he different…th e 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 “different ness” 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 manifestatio n of suspended socializatio n 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 “defeatabl e”…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 inconsequent ial.
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 inevitabilit y 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…h as in this instance actually provided us with the answer…perha ps 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…somew here nearby…someo ne is fidgeting and feeling all alone…reach out and bring them back.
Cross-posted at Thought Theater
Tags: BIO, Atheism\Secu lar Humanism, Morals and Values, Chrstnghtmr, Colorado Shootings, Matthew Murray, New Life Church, nghtmrchld26 , Youth With A Mission, YWAM