I enjoy being able to comment on local (or relatively local) stories that get national talk. I don’t, however, enjoy talking about stories like this.
Last week a student at Rutgers named Tyler Clementi killed himself after being recorded (streamed, technically) having sex with another man by his roommate. This story has been covered pretty much everywhere by now and many different points of view have been shown. It is a tragedy that the only option this guy thought he had after being outed was to kill himself.
I’ve read many articles looking at the situation and I keep noticing that few people are mentioning the atmosphere of the society we live in. While everyone is very much in a state of shock and question now, they certainly weren’t a day before.
You see, I think the real tragedy here is that our society tolerates hate more than it does anyone who is “different” in any way. If you don’t fit into the majority, you are often seen as an alien — as someone strange, regardless of what your personal “difference” really is. Despite being in a country that is considered a “melting pot” we are damned slow to accept anyone new into our mix — and it’s always been like that. It doesn’t matter if it is religion or race or sexuality — if you aren’t the majority, you are often nothing.
On the other hand, if you are a group who speaks out against another group of human beings, we tolerate you just fine. We give you airtime on television, even. Just don’t be trying to stick up for those being attacked — if you point out that Muslims are unfairly being grouped in with terrorists, you’re un-American and ridiculous. If you feel uncomfortable when someone makes a racial generalization you are called “sensitive.” Oh, and of course — if you stand up for anyone with a sexuality that isn’t “straight” you are somehow politicized as an “extreme liberal” — because sexuality is such a political issue, right?
And yet, when a tragedy happens we all turn our heads and act like today is the day when everything will change. On this very day, people will begin to act civil with one another, we will hold vigils and protests. We will hold hands and sing, hold concerts and benefits and act like tomorrow the world will be a better place. Then when the emotional high runs out and the initial shock dies… we tolerate hate once again.
I’m not jaded enough (yet, at least) to generalize that “we” as everyone in this country. There are good people out there who don’t tolerate this sort of thing — and never have. People exist that understand hate destroys us and that ultimately, people deserve to be treated equally no matter who they are. Those people exist. I know they do.
But they are an unfortunate minority in today’s society.
You see, Dharun Ravi and Molly Wei — the pair that recorded Tyler — thought that what they were doing was okay. Nothing seems to paint the pair as malicious or vindictive. They weren’t trying to get this kid they barely knew to kill himself, they were just having fun. A prank. They never saw it as wrong. They never considered it as big of an offense as it was. At least that is what their tweets tell us.
And that is the exact reason why it is so disturbing.
The image that was imprinted on these teens by our society was that this was perfectly fine and acceptable behavior. Once Ravi found out his roommate was gay, he thought it was great entertainment. Now he had a reason to keep streaming, to keep embarrassing this poor kid. He never considered if the kid had come out before, or if his parents knew, or his friends — or anyone, for that matter. He never thought about how tough it is for any sort of kid with sexuality or gender issues in society. He never considered any of that. He was never taught any of that.
And so a tragedy happened, ultimately because someone was different and someone else just couldn’t understand.
Sure, right now we are pissed, furious over how something like this could happen — but we will continue to tolerate the root of the problem.
We’ll tolerate hate.
We will tolerate (and give plenty of airtime!) to those who preach hate…
We will tolerate blatant religious hate and try to call it everything but what it is…
And then we will act surprised when some kid does something like this. We will all gasp and shake our heads, wondering how such a thing could happen in -this- country.
But it isn’t very hard to understand.