Why Is Violence In Missoula So Surprising?
*UPDATE: The Missoula Independent is reporting the young man who claimed to have been beaten lied. If you follow the link, you will find a youtube clip showing the young man injuring himself trying to do a backflip.
I don’t go downtown for drinks like I did when I was a student at UM, but every once in awhile I’ll go down to the Rhino for a drink.
A few weeks ago, that’s where I was, hanging out behind the Rhino, talking to a young man. I think this kid had some developmental issues, because his behavior didn’t seem to be the product of drink or the joint that we had just smoked. In any case, the kid was good natured and very talkative, laughing a lot. That’s what he was doing when two massively muscled meatheads exited the Mo Club. Apparently the sound of laughing bothered them, because they both bee-lined toward us. One of the meatheads got in this kid’s face. When I asked him what his problem was, his pal—tweedle-dumb meathead—got in my face and threatened to kick my ass. I put some space between us, then told the two meatheads I was going inside to call the cops. I returned a minute later with the bouncer, but the meatheads had moved on, maybe to go find some drunk girl to rape.
Even if I hadn’t had this experience recently, I still wouldn’t have been surprised to read this report of a young man being beaten outside the Mo Club because of his sexual orientation.
I wouldn’t be surprised because there are some serious pieces of loathsome shit lurking around this town, like anywhere in the US.
I guess I don’t understand why some people seem so surprised whenever something really nasty like this happens. The image of Missoula as an uber-tolerant Mecca of love and understanding is one that is fiercely protected by many, but though I love this town too, I know it’s got its dark underbelly like any town does.
Sorry, Missoula, but we’re just not that special to avoid the violence that happens every day, in communities all across this country.
So yes, young men get assaulted for being faggots in Missoula and women get raped then shamed for it in Missoula and homeless men get beaten to death in Missoula.
Once the surprise subsides, ask yourself what you can do to make things better. I’m going to go out on a crazy limb here and say I bet everyone reading this knows someone who is capable, in the right circumstances, of engaging in targeted violence. These people make jokes in the workplace, they probably drink too much, they are your neighbors, and sometimes, they are your family.
We can pass all the laws and ordinances we want, but relying solely on institutional punishment isn’t enough. We need change at a cultural level, and people willing to stand up, in the moment, to stop this violence from happening in the first place.