I'd like to think that as Steward Butler allegedly stepped out of the vehicle on his way to committing what is being treated as a hate crime, somebody said "no." At least one person in that car had to have spoken up, right? I can't imagine that, as widespread as the message of tolerance has become in our lifetime, no one around Butler was the voice of reason.
But even if someone would have said something to him, it would have been too late. The moment it was plausible for Butler to chase down and beat a homosexual couple, it was clear we had already failed him.
I get this tinge in the back of my head every time I hear someone in my life say something casually racist or homophobic. For years I've heard the comments, and despite my feelings on the matter, I let them pass by me without a word. I would argue until my last breath that they are genuinely good people at heart, but that intolerance in them still lingers.
"Why do they always have to act like animals?"
"It's just gross. I don't want to see that."
Its hard to confront people close to you about what seems, at the time, like small indiscretions. You think, "It's not a big deal." You ignore it, because it's just not worth the awkward conversation.
So, the intolerance continues.
This is why there are still Steward Butler's out there. He didn't go his entire life without a glint of homophobia before committing this alleged crime. And I guarantee someone in his life felt that same tinge in their head well before April 5th.
Nobody stood up to him in a meaningful way. Nobody had the guts to tell him that kind of thinking was no longer socially acceptable.
But neither did I.
Up to now, I've let the comments and slurs slide, and I'm not alone. So many of us will claim to support equality, but not stand by that claim when confronted with intolerance. We allow the Steward Butlers of the world to pass us by.
It doesn't take bravery to have a frank conversation with someone about common decency. It just requires you to step outside of your comfort zone for a moment. Like the ones in my life, most of the people you meet are genuinely good humans, but if right and wrong came easy, we wouldn't call it progress.
(Note: This post was updated after publishing to reflect the ongoing nature of this investigation. Although Butler has turned himself in and been kicked off the team at Marshall, he has not yet been convicted.)