Friday, October 1, 2010

Start Making Sense...

Today is one of those days I feel shaken to the core. It's one of those days when events occurring in the world around me have affected me a little more than they do normally, when I feel sad for where humanity and our society are at the current point.

On his personal blog, Andrew Shirvell, an assistant attorney general for the state of Michigan, viciously attacked University of Michigan Student Assembly President Chris Armstrong for being gay, calling him a "radical homosexual activist" and photoshopping pictures of swastikas on his face. And Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox (on whose campaign Shirvell worked) defended Shirvell's freedom of speech.

Atlanta Pastor Eddie Long continues to deny accusations that he pressured young men he mentored to have sex with him, even as more accusers point their fingers, and fairly bizarre self-portraits of Long appear on the internet.

But worse than either of these incidents is the fact that at least four young people (that we know about) committed suicide over the last two weeks because they were bullied for being gay. Two boys were just 13 and one was 15.

And then there was Tyler Clementi. Many now know the tragic story of this shy Rutgers student whose roommate videotaped his encouter with another man, then broadcast it on the internet and bragged about it with another friend. ("I went into Molly's room and turned on my webcam. I saw him making out with a dude. Yay," Dharun Ravi tweeted.) Tragically, Clementi jumped off the George Washington Bridge shortly after all of this occurred, and while Ravi and his friend, Molly Wei, await some type of punishment, chances are it won't be nearly enough penance for what they've done.

How did we get here? How, in 2010, can we continue to live in a society in which we still look away when kids bully others for being gay or just being different? How can we continue to allow our elected officials to vote against equal rights but for lowering the volume on television commercials? How can we continue allowing professional athletes, musicians and others in the public eye to call people "fag" and "gay" and let them walk away with no consequences? How can we turn the other cheek time and time again as anti-gay politicians and preachers are exposed for their self-loathing hypocrisy and think there are no lessons to be learned?

We must do better. No child, no person should ever feel their only recourse from bullying is suicide.

Dan Savage and his husband, Terry, have started the It Gets Better Project, on which celebrities and others who were bullied for being gay are encouraged to post videos encouraging those struggling. I plan to record my own video this weekend, because I know all too well the despair these young people feel and what it is like to be bullied.

I am doing my part. We all can. But we need to hold our society, our media and our government to the standard many of us live in. We need to raise our children to value human life, and not chalk up bullying to "typical" behavior.

We need to wake up. We cannot afford to, and should not stand for, losing more Tyler Clementis or Billy Lucases or Lawrence Kings to suicide or violence.

We owe it to ourselves. We owe it to young people everywhere.

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