Hate 2 hope: The story of Tim Zaal and Matthew Boger

Although this story is old news, I thought it appropriate to share here in light of recent posts on bullying, the Day of Silence and the Golden Rule Pledge.

Watch this You Tube video which is a clip from a 2006 episode of 20/20 with John Stossel. More explanation follows:

Zaal and Boger appeared on NPR last November and continue to share their story at the Museum of Tolerance. I encourage you to read the entire piece but here are some highlights:

For nearly three decades, Tim Zaal thought he had killed a man during his rage-filled youth. The idea haunted him, but he buried it with the rest of his skinhead past.

“This used to be my stomping grounds,” says Zaal, standing on a street in West Hollywood, Calif., where he used to hang out in the early ’80s. “Mostly punk rockers would hang out around here after concerts and we would be involved with violence on a regular basis. Violence for me, back in those days, was like breathing.”

Zaal recalls the first meeting with Matthew Boger:

Zaal recalls that particular night, when he thought he took another man’s life. It began with listening to a band called Fear. During the show, a bouncer was stabbed and the police came. By the time he and his friends got to Oakie Dogs, they were juiced up on alcohol and testosterone and spoiling for a fight.

They found their victims across the street, a group of gay street kids. They were just hanging out when Zaal and his friends cornered one and started kicking and hitting him — 14 skinheads pummeling him all at once. But the small gay kid was still moving. For some reason, that enraged Zaal.

“I walked up and said, ‘What is wrong with you guys, can’t you do it right?’ ” Zaal recalls. The kid they were beating on looked up and made eye contact with Zaal. “I kicked him in the forehead with my boot and that was it,” Zaal says, snapping his fingers. “He was out like a light.”

Then they met a second time:

A few years ago, the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles asked him to speak about his experience leaving the skinhead movement. Before the talk, he found himself chatting with his fellow presenter, Matthew Boger, the manager of operations.

“I asked Tim how he got out of the skinhead movement and what that was like,” Boger recalls.

The pair reminisced about West Hollywood back in the ’80s.

“And there was this moment in which I said that I lived on the streets,” Boger says, “in which I said I hung out on this hamburger stand, and [Zaal] said, ‘You know, we used to hang out there, but we stopped hanging out there after this one night that was so violent, I think I killed a kid.’ ”

In a flash they both knew without saying that Boger was that kid.

“It was the very first meeting that we had realized who we were to each other 20-something years ago,” Boger says.

Zaal recalls the moment the way anyone in his position would.

“Of course I was ashamed,” he says. “I didn’t know how to handle the situation. And obviously he didn’t how to handle the situation and he left as quickly as possible. It was about two weeks before I saw him again.”

This led to a remarkable picture of forgiveness and reconciliation.

Now Zaal and Boger present their story — and their unlikely friendship — to high school and middle school students around Southern California. They also do a tag-team presentation one Sunday every month at the Museum of Tolerance. It begins with a DVD film of their story and ends with a question and answer session.

Zaal says Boger used to bait him, and test him, to see if maybe those white supremacist ideas he held as a youth were still there, buried, in the grown man. But as time passed, both say that forgiveness — and redemption — have happened.

The two are writing a book about their experiences and were featured in a short documentary called Blood Brothers embedded here:

There are lessons here. I suspect this story is a like a projective test and people will derive lessons based on how they see the world. What can we learn from Mr. Boger and Mr. Zaal?

  • Mary

    Awesome. We can learn that people change their minds, attitudes, ways of living, etc… We can learn that we can cross bridges.

  • Pingback: The Pink Swastika and Hate 2 Hope — Warren Throckmorton

  • Pam B

    What an amazing story; Everyone should read this its not only a miracle but a wonderful example courage and being humble.

  • Lori

    There is a book that came out recently that I just finished reading. The author is Davida Hurwin and the title is Freaks and Revelations. This books is based off Mr. Boger and Mr. Zaal’s life and it is moving, inspiring, and so real. If it does not move you after reading it, you need to seriously examine your life.

    • Aimable Mpayimana

      Thanks,I recently met Boger and Tim at the Museum of Tolerence.how can I have that book?

      Aimable(writing from Rwanda)

    • David M

      Aimable, the book is available through Amazon.com. A search there for the title brought up the book as the first result. Apparently the books is a fictionalized telling of Boger and Zaal’s stories, with names changed and so on. I don’t know how to order from Amazon in Rwanda, but perhaps you do.

  • Michele

    Thank you………Thank you

  • Gary

    It’s obvious Zaal was never a real skinhead. He must have had some kind of Homosexual attraction to the kid he beat and it’s now finally fully bloomed so that they are so in love that they have decided to write this book together. Great one. Race Traitor meets the Fag.

  • derek nicholson

    dear mr boger please look foward to my letter in the mail i have gone through somthing similar to what u have gone through please use my letter without names or please use facticus names tlive in torrance ca

  • Astrid

    Theoretically Zaal could have killed this guy that night. It appears he intended to kill him and that it was just dumb luck that he didnt. I dont see how he is any different than any other violent murderer. If things had been even slightly different he would be in jail serving a life sentence. I think it is stupid how the victim and the rest of you all act like he is some hero when he is obviously just a lucky jerk.

  • Gemma

    What’s wrong with Gary? Clearly Tim Zaal was a real skinhead. He’s talked about experiences being a punk in the seventies that only someone who WAS a punk in the seventies would know about.

    Oh, and he married a woman.

    Beating the shit out of someone has nothing to do with attraction.

    Gary, you are an ignorant jerk.

  • Astrid

    Gemma, Tim did marry a woman that is true, but it was a woman that he had been molesting since she was about 14 years old. When he was in his 20s. He basically was molesting a young girl that he was taking advantage of. Not so heroic.

    Also I have spoken to some people they know and apparently this whole story is a fraud, something that he and Matthew cooked up in order to have a story to tell. You do realize that they get paid to travel around to schools and tell this bs story dont you? That is the way he makes a living.

  • craig H

    I knew Tim when he was a drunk —confused punk rock wanta be– who didn’t fit in anywhere and it’s funny that he would jump on a gay guy because he tryed to pretend kiss me in glendora house party to impress some girl to see if he could get laid…..I also was there when he got his tooth kncked out in hollywood by a black dude at the cathay de grand. I’m not sure if he kicked this gay dude or sliped him the tongue when no one was looking. He may of ran with some skins calling themselves “THE ORDER” from “Glendora”but that was only if he was buying the beer.

    Tim was a confused drunk and drug addict more than anything else, he did anything that would get him loaded or laid GO TIM

  • craig H

    PS I’d like to hear from Tim I hav not seen him since the early punkrock days.

    If his brain is not too fryed out he will remember who I am from running around in claremont—-I believe we had just got ahold of the first icons of flith Album

    MEMory lane and I’ve got some sick memories–Email me Tim I remember you too bad you went soo far off track.. Hope your clean and sober now I am. Craig

  • http://www.hate2hope.org AmericanHistory XX

    Tim Zaal and Matthew Boger are both very lucky that Tim and the 12 other punk rockers did not kill anyone that night. And yes, like everyone else, he can be a jerk, even today. He is very “lucky, honored, and Blessed” to have been given the opportunity to share this experience with others so that we can learn from the mistakes made and spare family members, “and others,” the pain and suffering that similar acts may cause.

    Mr Zaal probably would not have gone to jail for very long because;

    1. he was only 16 years old,.

    2. there were no hate crime laws,

    3. the L.A.P.D. often took part in similar activities, and had a reputation for violence against both the punk rockers and the gay community back in those days.

  • Asbel Garcia

    This nearly had me in tears. It’s sad how people can change but they don’t make an effort to try.


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