Saturday, October 2, 2010

The Consequences of Bullying and Intolerance

Imagine you are a college freshman. You are finally out into the real world, away from home. As someone who was in that position 2 years ago, it was fun, but definitely intimidating at the beginning. All the new faces plus a lack of familiar ones, added to an increase in responsibility. According to American College Testing (ACT), more than 1 in 4 students drop out before completing their sophomore year. And that number is a broad average, for all students.

Tyler Clementi had to worry about all the normal stresses of being a new college student, plus the stress of dealing with intolerance and hate because of his sexuality. And he was doing just that, until one day his roommate decided it would be a good idea to use a webcam to record Clementi and his boyfriend while they were having intimate relations.

This could be looked at as a prank. It could also be looked at as a hatecrime. The problem is determining why the roommate did it.

Why is it so bad? People post sex tapes all the time, it's true. But posting one yourself is one thing. Having someone else post it without your knowledge or consent is entirely another. This is added to the fact that the video advertised to the world in a very graphic way that Clementi was gay, when it should have been his choice whether or not to tell people. Personally I think hiding it isn't a good idea, it makes it seem like it's a bad thing, but there's so much negativity surrounding the issue that coming out is difficult sometimes. Even so, it's still just a really bad prank, right? Yeah, until Clementi committed suicide because of it.

Now we come to the question of why. Why did he commit suicide? Quite obviously the invasion of privacy, the fact that his private relations were shown to the world (twice), had a large impact, because the suicide happened right after them. However, was it the only reason, or simply the last straw? Personally I suspect there were other things going on; other people he was afraid of. Think about it. If he asked his roommate for the room both nights, he had to realize that the roommate probably knew. Yet he didn't commit suicide after the first night, didn't even refrain from telling the roommate. IE, the roommate knowing didn't bother him, or not enough to commit suicide at least. It was only when other people became aware of the problem that he jumped.

Bullying is rampant throughout our school system, from K-12 through college. Obviously it varies in type and severity from school to school and from grade to grade, but if you look hard enough, it can usually be found. It's difficult though, because our culture idolizes people who can take care of themselves. for example: In the show Freaks and Geeks, at one point the main character, a younger geek, is being bullied, and asks a teacher for help. The teacher does help, but then tells the kid to be more of a man next time. I personally had a bully when I was in middle school, and my problem was that he was a year younger than me. Anytime I told anyone, I got a universal answer of, dude, he's a little kid, he can't be that bad. Finally one day on the school bus, he took an empty soda bottle and threw it cap first into my face. Bounced off my glasses. So I waited until he turned around and cuffed him in the back of the head. I got in trouble of course. The same teachers that wouldn't listen when I said he was starting things were happy berate me for attacking a child. (One year difference, what a 'child' he was). I got out of it with just a detention, and I noticed that afterward, despite the fact that the teachers were angry, I was left alone afterward, never got bullied again. Only because I hit someone though, which shouldn't be the case.

Schools always trying to cut back on bullying, but it's still always there. And it's orders of magnitude worse for LGBT students. Not only are the bullies vindicated by normal reasons of success and friends, they are also vindicated by their pastor preaching homosexuality is evil, their parent talking about the radical gay agenda, and the students around them casually tossing off the word 'fag'.

While bullying might be less prevalent on college campuses, if it does occur, it can be far worse. Most bullies grow out of it, but the ones who continue just get more dangerous. This is what I fear was plaguing Clementi. The day after he found out about the videos, he threw himself off a bridge. What could cause such fear? What could be worse than death? Obviously there was SOMETHING, or he wouldn't have done it. He didn't do it because his privacy was breached. he did it because of what he feared that would cause. Will we ever know what that was exactly? Probably not.

But we do know the both the direct (video) cause, and the indirect cause (hatred and intolerance). The first we can deal with by prosecuting the offenders under the State's Privacy Invasion laws. The second isn't a crime. But we can still fight it. Call someone out if they use the the word 'fag'. Challenge people who try to spread fear and hate. Mostly, be accepting of others, even if they have different lifestyles. Day by day, people are abandoning the hatred which Fundamentalist churches keep pushing. Hopefully we will live to see the day that we all abandon it.

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