You know what’s totally hilarious? Matthew Shepard jokes. You know, the 21-year-old guy who, in 1998, was brutally beaten and then hung on a fence like a scarecrow to die in rural Wyoming because he was gay. So much potential for comedy there.
Shepard’s murder is the exact kind of thing that seems so terrible at the time but you think, “One day we’re all gonna look back on this and laugh.” If you’re a total shit-for-brains asshole, that is.
Enter Tim Ravndal, president of the Big Sky Tea Party Association in Montana.
On July 23, Ravndal posted a link to a story about marriage and gays on his Facebook page with the following comment, “Marriage is between a man and a woman period! By giving rights to those otherwise would be a violation of the constitution and my own rights.”
A friend named Dennis Scranton wrote in reply, “I think fruits are decorative. Hang up where they can be seen and appreciated. Call Wyoming for display instructions.”
Ravndal writes back, “Dennis, Where can I get that Wyoming printed instruction manual?”
“Should be able to get info [from] Gazette archives. Maybe even an illustration,” Scranton posts. “Go back a bit over 10 years.”
Get it? LOL! ROTFLMAO! I mean, sure, they don’t mention Shepard by name, but they don’t have to. We all get the joke.
Not everybody is laughing, however. “Mr. Ravndal’s comments are outrageous,” Kim Abbott of the Montana Human Rights Network told the Great Falls Tribune. “He is a public figure, in the public sphere, condoning and making light of violence against gay people. It’s actually pretty frightening.”
Abbott said, “I would like to know if Mr. Ravndal thinks that gay people are entitled to the same safety, security and protections as everyone else, because his comments seem to suggest he thinks it’s OK to hurt or even kill members of the LGBT community.”
I’m going to guess that the answer to Abbott’s query is, “No, he doesn’t think homos deserve the same protections as everybody else.” I’m not inside Ravndal’s head (thankfully), but that’s where I’d put my money.
Ravndal is now claiming that he had no idea what Scranton was talking about and that he does “not condone violence to any human being.”
“I wasn’t even thinking about the tragedy that happened in Wyoming,” Ravndal said. “I made a mistake and I apologize to anyone I offended.”
Really? Ravndal had no idea that “fruit” means “fag?” And that to “hang up” means, well, to hang? As in lynch? As in kill? Hasn’t he ever heard Billie Holiday sing “Strange Fruit” before? And even if all of those things really did go right over Ravndal’s head, wouldn’t the specific mention of Wyoming be, at minimum, confusing?
Because Ravndal doesn’t reply with something like, “Dude, WTF? I don’t get it.” He writes, “Where can I get that Wyoming printed instruction manual?” Kind of hard to believe he didn’t know the significance of “Wyoming” in this instance.
It’s interesting to note that on his Facebook page, in the list of things Ravndal “Likes” right alongside “Tea Party protests,” is “Not everything that pops into your head needs to be shared on Facebook.”
Ironic, yes. But it really makes you wonder what kinds of things he isn’t posting.
[Editor’s note: The Big Sky Tea Party Association board of directors voted Sunday to remove Ravndal as president of the organization.]
D’Anne Witkowski is a Detroit-based freelance writer.