George Whitham writes:
“This evening I watched a documentary titled Beyond Hatred on out PBS Station here in Boston. To say that I was moved by this documentary would be an understatement.
Its taken me all of my adult life to appreciate the value of human life. I can honestly tell you, I do know that value. For I killed a man back in 1974 and it was my hatred of myself as well as for all of mankind.
I guess why I’m writing to you is to tell you that the documentary hit me right between the eyes. What affected me the most was the boy’s parents at the end. When they read the letter they had written to their son’s murderer. To be open enough to want to forgive the man who took their son’s life so needlessly. That’s a truly brave and unselfish thing to do. I never knew people could be so forgiving and to open the door for the young man to respond to them.
When the show finished I sat there and cried for a good half hour. I guess that for me it opened a door inside me. I guess I long for the chance to be forgiven by my victim’s family.
I just wanted to let you know that the documentary touched someone and made its point felt and it also made me feel like a human being again. I sometimes forget that I’m human and not just some con[convict] number.
I thank you from the bottom of my heart for making it possible for Beyond Hatred to be shown.”
“I was deeply moved by the Chenu family tragedy and their response. This was not a documentary I wanted to watch, but when my partner turned it on I found the film so compelling I could not look away. I was impressed by the quiet way in which the film-maker chose to tell the story and sincerely hope he was as unobtrusive to the family as the film appeared to be (in contrast to how appallingly insensitive were some of the documented questions from the press).
The film has a deeply reflective quality, one which does indeed make me think. I have not been a victim of violent crime, but as a gay man I have been on the receiving end of a variety of shades of intolerance: from drunken death-threats shouted in a parking lot, to denial of access to housing, to verbal harassment, to what I can only describe as spiritual abuse and abandonment.
My point is that hate lives in more locales than extreme violence. It exists day by day in little insults and negations of integrity. It wears the faces of our friends, families, acquaintances; at times it appears in my own mirror. The little slights, sure I can ignore them, laugh at them, get past them, even forgive them. Personally, I am deeply challenged to forgive the church that raised me, gave me my faith and identity, and taught me how to love — and then abandoned me when I came out. That taught my parents the only way to bring a homosexual son “back to Jesus” was to stop talking to him. That taught my friends that listening to my doubts was to encourage evil. As if ostracism was a tactic that could make me undo my personality in order to conform.
The Chenu trauma and grief is so much deeper than mine — yet unlike the Chenus I find that I do not want to forgive. I do not want to forget how I have been made to hurt. I do not want to release that church from the debt they owe me for the years of self-loathing I was made to endure while I believed in their teaching that I was an abomination… nor the congregations that have recently battled so hard to commit a sacrilege against the holiness of my family by making it illegal.
As horrific as it is, at least the three young men were honest about their hatred. The people who abandoned and mistreated me claimed their motivation was love for my eternal soul, all the while insisting on a change (sexual orientation) that is for me suicidally impossible. Insisting that I was possessed by the devil. Insisting that the most loving thing they could do was to having nothing to do with me. Insisting that because I began to see the world in a different way that I was no longer an acceptable part of the community. Refusing to allow me to see that as a gay man I could find love, work and family. Refusing to allow me to see that I could be happy, healthy and self-actualized as a gay man. Refusing to allow me ever to have a glimpse of the fact I could have both a love life and a loving life.
I know of the work of Mel White and Soulforce, their values are very much in line with those expressed by the Chenu family.
Still — I cannot forgive. Not yet.
Maybe not ever.”
Jérôme Potts writes:
“As a French person myself, I’ll venture that many viewers may have missed the point that the defending attorney for the accused neo-nazi white supremacist youngsters is himself of north African descent (Either Morrocan, or Algerian, or Tunisian), with a muslim name. And apparently he tried his best to lighten the coming sentence on them.
I would’ve have liked to hear from some psychiatrists, in addition to the POV of the attorneys. All we got was a quotation from one such doctor, and even then, I don’t recall for sure, but that person might have been talking about another previous similar case.
It seems to me that everyone in there didn’t dig much into the social class clash which is certainly also at the basis of this catastrophe. Sure, the poor souls were not raised properly, they are “des cas sociaux” (meaning “social cases”, as in the “social disease” bit in the lyrics to “Officer Krupke” in “West Side Story”), but no one showed any remorse/guilt for having ignored such compatriots for the longest time. Okay, so they do pay hefty taxes which provide social programs such as health care and other stuff for most everyone in France, but that’s often where it stops: my accusation here is that little individual care on a personal level is sacrificed between those “different” families (not that the victim’s family looks like anything close to aristocratic, or even high bougeoisie, but still, you could tell that we’re dealing with two distinct spheres; actually one female lawyer said so at some point). Consequently, I think that the study of the matter is incomplete.
To continue on this aspect, the letter read by the victim’s parents at the end is, of course, interesting, to put it mildly, as it is a rather good demonstration of the current French mentality (which I am proud of); however, its nagging and patronising tone has me think that those people are certain that their opponents in this affair are unable of a thought of their own, and therefore must be taught the right way (kindly so, I acknowledge, but); certainly those youngsters will now have time to reflect on the horror of their misdeed, without it being hammered into their heads: they too have some ability to reason. But i’m an idealist, and i’m not in their shoes, so I might have skipped this paragraph altogether, but perhaps it’ll open a constructive debate somehow, where either someone else is able to articulate what I started, or I am proven dead wrong. Or a mixture of both.”
To read more reactions and reviews, visit the Beyond Hatred overview page.