Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Calling it out

I wrote this letter to the Office of the District Attorney today, and I copied various people on it. I'm having trouble letting this go, I realize, so I'm hoping that I can write it out.


To Whom It May Concern:

I'm writing in response to the decision of the district attorney's office to allow Kevin Harrigan and Philip Williams what can only be described as a sweetheart deal to escape punishment for their September, 2014 attack on Zachary Hesse and Andrew Haught.

I don't expect Seth Williams, Mike Barry, or any heterosexual man to understand how it feels to live in a world in which, at any time, you can be in danger of life and limb simply for walking too close to the person you're spending your life with. I don't expect them to understand just how frightening the term "faggot" is to gay men, because when we hear that, we know that violence is not far behind. I don't expect them to understand how it is to grow up believing that the only way you'll be permitted to survive is by lurking in the shadows and alleys of life, leaving the main streets to the straight folks.

I do, however, expect the Office of the District Attorney to understand that when it allows confessed gay bashers to walk away without so much as seeing a day in prison, it sends a definite message to those who like to harm gay people. That message is that breaking the face of a gay man is, at least in Philadelphia, no big deal. The city would prefer that not happen, but if it does, well, a small fine, some probation, and a promise to sin no more will make it all go away. It's a message all gay people understand, I assure you, as we've heard it most of our lives.

I'm sure that Hesse and Haught approved this deal, but in my view that is not sufficient excuse. Crimes are committed not only against individuals but against communities, which is why we have a district attorney in the first place. The gay community of Philadelphia is not well served by this deal, particularly since part of the deal will bring into the safe spaces we've created the very men we're trying to avoid. I cringe at the thought of entering the William Way Community Center to find Kevin Harrigan or Philip Williams staffing the front desk, destroying the community's sense of safety for their own personal growth.

I know that I'm shouting into the wind here; the plea deal is done and the DA's office doesn't care how I feel about it. However, I believe that democracy functions best when elected officials are called out for their mistakes, even when they don't think they've made one. So I'm calling this out, because even though I'll never feel quite as safe in Philadelphia as I used, I still believe that things can change if we all work hard enough. I'm sorry that, on this day, hard enough just wasn't good enough.


Blogger tapdoll said...

good for you Neil, very well said. I love you!

12:56 PM  

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