Tragedy and Responsibility

Since this is a quasi-public venue, I wanted to post about something that is very real to our society today.  Tragedy does not begin to address what happened to Rutgers student Tyler Clementi - the student who committed suicide due to horrific harassment by a roommate for being gay.  Again, harassment doesn't even begin to cover it. 

Instead of my words, I would like to let speak the words of Sue Brief, who addresses the responsibility we ALL have to prevent tragedies of this sort.  Regardless of your beliefs or lifestyle, as caring humans our first responsibility is do no harm.  Our actions and inactions perpetrate what happens to others.

Sue's words:
"I have been struggling for days to put feelings about the tragic death of Tyler Clementi into words. Struggling to find words for the unspeakable tragedy that befell this bright young man.

Let me begin by saying I did not know Tyler Clementi... and tragically, he was not the only LGBT youth to take his or her own life this week. Suicides carried out by LGBT individuals are becoming so common as to be bordering on epidemic. Who is responsible? We all are. Why? Because no matter how loudly or how often we rail about the injustice of bullying in schools or the treatment of the LGBT community as a whole in this country, decent minded people have still not committed to bringing the issue front and center and not stopping until we truly live up the the founder's promise of liberty and justice for all.

I admit the problem is complex and exists on most every level that touches people's lives. We have the religious issue, so for the sake of brevity, I will admit to the naysayers that yes, the bible says that homosexuality is a sin. We heard it today from the pulpit of the Mormon Church. There stood Boyd Packer, the leader of said church, on his bully pulpit, basically saying that this wonderful young man deserved what he got, that he was not a worthy person just the way he was and that this was God's way of telling the world just that. By the way I saw the suit Mr Packer was wearing and I would like to know when the stoning is going to take place? It was clear to me he was wearing a cotton shirt with a polyester tie, which we all know from Leviticus, is a crime punishable by death. Absurd? Of course, yet frighteningly, not as absurd as the nonsense he spewed from that same pulpit.

Most right wing Christian organizations cover their hateful rhetoric with a simple flip off they love to use when telling these young people they are damned from the start; they hate the sin not the sinner. Let me tell you what, they can be as flippant as they would like to be, the truth of the matter is, it is not the sin jumping off bridges, it is the "sinner".

The press is just as complacent. On his radio show today, Sean Hannity covered the death of Tyler Cementi, he railed about the evils of cyber bullying, while never once, not once, mentioning the fact that Tyler was singled out because he was gay. Funny, Hannity has always held himself out as fearless, tackling the issues of the day. So tell me, why then was he so outraged that he felt he had to devote a show to the problem of cyber bullying, yet so afraid that his audience would turn the channel at the first hint his rant might be in defense of an LGBT individual?

The truth of the matter is the entire LGBT community is nothing more than a political football, to be ignored by most until it is time to throw it to the deep end for political gain. 435 Congresspeople and 100 Senators cannot find it in themselves to stand up for our military and admit, in an all volunteer military, Don't Ask, Don't Tell, doesn't work and that anyone who chooses to enlist in that military should be honored, not shunned and disciplined for how they are born to be. 535 gutless wonders running our country, no wonder we are in such a mess. Thousands of potential positive role models, American soldiers, discharged, told they had no worth to the same country they chose to defend. And we wonder why the average LGBT youth ends up feeling hopeless? How dare we?

This is a grassroots problem that requires a grassroots solution. It requires every decent American to stand up and say no more senseless loss of life, not in MY country. If homosexuality offends your religious sensibilities, fine, do not practice it, but how benevolent is the person who stands idly by while children are in pain? Is that what you take away from the Bible? If it is, well, in my humble opinion, you are missing the point. If you think it is someone else's problem, think again, it may not be your child, but it could well be your niece, nephew, cousin, your child's best friend or that nice kid next door that shovels your snow for you. Odds are very good, whether you know it or not, someone, somewhere in your life is struggling with this right this minute.

We are a country born of a ferocious will to be free. Yet we go out of our way to take the freedom of these young people. To box them in to corners, to do nothing to defend them and leave them alone and hopeless about their futures.

I have heard all the arguments, that protection for LGBT citizens are not equal rights, they are special rights, based on deviant sexual behavior. How many doctors, psychologists and other professionals have to agree that this is something that is as inherent to a person's make up as their eye or skin color before we stop being willfully ignorant? For those who think this is a choice, a life style, I would simply ask them, given a "choice", who would chose to be shunned? For those who rail against the homosexual lifestyle, I would repeat what has been said very simply before, this is not a lifestyle, driving a Mercedes is a lifestyle, this is people's lives. It might make you feel as though your thoughts and feelings are justified, but nothing could be further from the truth.

I am a gay American, who went through High School in the early '70's bullied and harassed every day because I did not fit in. I had a loving wonderful family who, I should have known, would accept me and love me no matter what, yet I too, was so mortified, so frightened of the things I felt, that I, at age 17, tried to take my own life. To be clear, I was not embarrassed of who I was, I was not uncomfortable about what I felt, I was terrified of what society had in store for me and that is a national shame.

For every lawmaker who refuses to stand up for what is right, for every person of God who seeks to ridicule, frighten and shame, for every average person who thinks "it's not my problem", I would ask that you take a moment and try to feel what Tyler Clementi and every other LGBT suicide victim felt right before they knowingly and deliberately ended their lives. It is my hope that it tears at your soul as it has torn at mine and urges you to understand we are all different, we are all God's children, we all live in glass houses in some way and it is time to stand up."