The Innocence by Schehrezade Rahim
One recent Saturday afternoon I was in the office dealing with a controversy that had arisen after a Catholic High School in New Jersey had cancelled a production of The Laramie Project after it had already been cast and was in production. As it was a developing situation, I was close by the phone when it rang and found myself talking to a young woman from Pakistan who had seen The Laramie Project and had some questions about the story. We talked for quite awhile and I was struck by her passion and insight. We asked Schehrezade if she would be willing to write a piece for us. Here it is. –Susan Burk, Laramie Project Specialist, Matthew Shepard Foundation
by Schehrezade Rahim
Karachi American School (Gr. 11)
I was a junior in High School when my English teacher decided to show us The Laramie Project. A class of 19 boys and 2 girls were going to watch one of the deepest pieces of theatre. This was the first time a junior class was going to be watching such a poignant piece of theatre. We had no idea what we were in for. On Monday morning, we began watching Matthew’s story and his impact on the residents of Laramie. What nobody knew about me was that I was Laramie. I had somewhat of a rude awakening this year, the way Laramie did. Everyone thought that Laramie’s society did everything they could to raise good people instead of vicious killers. Instead Laramie forgot that they planted two seeds that symbolized evil and malice towards the innocent life of Matthew Shepard.
The people of Laramie were in a dream. Like how the world was in a dream when WWI opened their eyes to corruption and selfishness. I was in a dream. I believed that life can be beautiful and prejudice can be eradicated from the world by our upcoming generation. After Matthew, I believe we’re far from it. As I watched The Laramie Project, I reflected back on my life. The entire time I’ve been living, Matthew hasn’t been. While Matthew was tortured and killed in 1998, I was a four year old that indulged in believing the beauty and innocence of human life. I was naïve and unaware of the dangers and horror that lurk around every corner.
The world is a strange place, one that I’m a stranger to. Laramie and Matthew are the initial beginnings to help me. I’m not the same person after learning about Matthew and Laramie. I’ve changed. I don’t know if for the best or worst. I suppose time will determine that. Matthew made me realize that life can’t always be happily ever after. For Matthew, it wasn’t. Yet, his memory and his story is one that has changed millions of people and his wish for erasing hate was made true by his family. The Shepard family has a wide magnitude of integrity and fortitude, which is inspirational.
What’s currently happening in New Jersey should not be happening. Matthew’s homosexuality and his story teach young people like me to not hate. “You are who you are, you love who you love, and that’s just the way it is.” (Judy Shepard). Our generation needs The Laramie Project; it needs a story that teaches them the value of life and love. Hating a certain race or religion doesn’t make you worthy of anything but the pavement on the ground. We are all created equal. If we don’t share the same blood and genes, we at least know that a portion of the people carry the same blood type. If not blonde hair and blue eyes, we know they aren’t any less beautiful. If not 6’2, we know they still share the same passions or the same dreams we all do. We matter.
For anyone who’s reading this right now, and if you’re feeling that you don’t matter because you’re transgender, homosexual or bisexual, that feeling is wrong. The tiny voice in your head that says those bullies deserve to bully you is wrong. You matter to the world and there are things you can do. Your life may seem black and white right now, but it will have color eventually. The color of life is still there and it will find us all.
(Schehrezade wrote this in response to a later email, asking to describe her life in Pakistan)
The society I live in is bliss. I’m a part of the 1.5% of Karachi that doesn’t have to worry about money or financial aid. My society isn’t used to seeing hate crimes like this happen. Maybe they are and I’m not. The immense violence that occurs in the most dangerous city in the world isn’t stemmed through hate of the people. It’s stemmed through immense hate of the current politics. How can we enforce laws to a population which over 70% of people can’t understand because they’re uneducated?
What Matt’s story made me realize is the love for a certain society. Tomorrow if I go and kill someone because I hate them, I know it’ll have an impact on my society. They don’t want to be known as people who plant murderers. They don’t want to believe they were associated with an ambivalent human being like me. What they would want is for their name to shine and be known for something good.
I had never heard about Laramie until I learned about Matthew Shepard. I don’t know anything else about it other than it’s a society that thought they lived in bliss, until Matthew. I realized how vulnerable we all are. I’m not a homosexual, but I can be killed tomorrow if someone doesn’t like my skin color or my nationality. There is an inevitable amount of hate still remaining in this world. However, I still keep the hope that one day we’ll wake up and realize it’s gone.