I know we are a society built on the freedom to express your opinions, and it is often the difference of opinion that leads to progress. But lately I have been appalled at the growing lack of respect and civility that characterizes our country, and worry about what the future holds based on the behaviors that I've seen, from our elected officials, "regular" citizens, and our youth.
Much news coverage has been devoted to recent incidents at the Republican presidential candidate debates over the last several weeks, including one audience cheering about uninsured people dying and another booing a gay soldier. While many of the Republican candidates have been forced into condemning these behaviors, it is clear from their tepid reactions they saw little wrong with what happened.
But even more appalling than the growing disrespect those in the political arena show each other and the citizens of our country is a recent incident that took place in a suburb of Buffalo. As I wrote last week, 14-year-old Jamey Rodemeyer committed suicide after years of being bullied for being gay. His suicide came even after he recorded an "It Gets Better" video to try and rally others who felt as he did.
At a homecoming dance Jamey's sister attended shortly after her brother's death, some of his anti-gay schoolmates mocked and cheered his suicide.
Jamey's mother said, "She was having a great time, and all of a sudden a Lady Gaga song came on, and they all started chanting for Jamey, all of his friends. Then the bullies that put him into this situation started chanting, ‘You’re better off dead!’ and ‘We’re glad you’re dead!’ and things like that."
In an interview with Anderson Cooper last night, Alyssa Rodemeyer talked about the incident at the homecoming dance. She said, "The bullies ran from the dance when they realized they were going to get in trouble."
To date, school officials have done nothing. And you know they were there to watch the jeering, so they were aware of at least some of those involved.
Too many teachers, coaches, and other school administrators have stood idly by when children are bullied, especially because they are gay or perceived to be gay. It's not enough that no intervention occurred in all the years Jamey was bullied in school, but again, they refused to intervene while these same bullies jeered his suicide.
Who puts these ideas in these children's minds? Who tells them to think that it's not only right to undermine a person's self-worth until the point he sees no other option but suicide, but then applaud the decision?
This is so, so wrong. I shudder to think how many more lives will be irreparably damaged or lost because of disrespectful, disgusting behavior on the part of children and adults.
We can do better. Why don't we?