Friday, January 26, 2007

A Voice From the Puzzles Aftermath

It's about a year after the Puzzles attack in New Bedford, where a clearly deranged man went into a gay bar on a rampage, both shooting and using his hatchet on innocent people. The tragedy continued in a brutal police chase, several days later, that resulted in multiple fatalities. The entire New Bedford community was in shock - many people I knew at nearby UMASS Dartmouth were devastated. People were so horrified because of what Puzzles really meant and exposed: life is a glass that can shatter at any moment.

Puzzles was the type of event that's important to remember and reflect on, because there were very real implications. Why the Puzzles attack occurred in New Bedford isn't exactly a mystery. It's a city with an at-least average-sized gay population, with lots of diversity and welcoming attitudes... and a lot of old-fashioned, homophobic attitudes too. When those two elements converge, there's bound to be incidents. That New Bedford is becoming infamous for violence, especially at clubs and bars, only poured salt on the Puzzled wound.

However, the city and community rallied. One of New Bedford's Councilmen, Joe DeMedeiros, had an interesting article about him in today's South Coast Standard Times. Soon after the Puzzles attack, DeMedeiros felt compelled to publically come out for the first time in his political career at one such community event. Puzzles had a profound impact on him and he wanted to put a face on the issue. Gay rights isn't some abstract debate, like many people seem to think it is. It effects people, like DeMedeiros, everyday.

It's people like DeMedeiros, taking a public role in promoting diversity and equal rights, that can help turn cities like New Bedford around. True acceptance and understanding is like the ultimate grassroots campaign. People need to be convinced on a personal level, by people they know. Because the city of New Bedford and the issue is so important, it's nice to see that so many people and organizations have stepped up in such unity and resolve.

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