Saturday, October 29, 2011

Facing The Consequences

There are just too many things in the world for any one person to have the time and energy to say something about all of them. There are times, though, when you have to say something. Silence starts to look like complicity.

I was reading Lisa's post from yesterday, which had a link to a Newfie blogger writing about a Canadian comedian/social commentator named Rick Mercer. The subject of a recently televised "Rant" by Mercer was gay teen suicide.

I'll get to the best part of this rant in a moment.

This hit me because . . . well, I know it's an issue. OK, it's more than an "issue". It's a very real situation where too many kids live in fear of their peers, their teachers, the administrators, the cops, the clergy. They live in fear of all these people because they are gay. Their peers taunt them and tease them, sometimes beat them and humiliate them. Their teachers and school administrators turn a blind eye and deaf ear to it. The cops chuckle about kids being kids. Clergy pound their pulpits and screech about morality, and the dangers these kids - confused kids who need love and guidance and support and all the stuff ministers and rabbis and priests and other such are supposed to give - pose to the rest of us.

Sometimes, it just gets to be too much, and these kids give up. That giving up can be a slow agonizing death from drug and alcohol, from risky behaviors that go one step too far. Sometimes, it's just that final decision, that button pushed one time too many, and out comes the gun, the razor blade, the final step off the ledge and in an instant all that promise, all the gifts this young person had to offer the world is gone because someone, somewhere, thought it was funny to taunt a kid who was different.

So, I read the post and listened to the rant video and sat here and nodded in all the right places, congratulating myself on agreeing with a no-brainer - gay kids shouldn't live in a world where suicide seems like a better option than living.

Then, I clicked the next link on my blogroll I wanted to read, and here's what I saw.
Asshole of the Day
Jim Whitney.

... adding, he says his account was hacked & his district supports him. You decide!
I clicked those links (in the original post) and found this story:
Jim Whitney, a**hole and math teacher at Joplin High School in Joplin, MO, posted several homophobic comments on a former student’s Facebook page after the student, Josh Gonzalez, posted an article about Jamie Hubley, a gay 15 year-old who recently committed suicide after dealing with depression and bullying.

Sometimes, you get a message that the time for silence on a subject is over.

Back to Rick Mercer's rant. At one point, he says that it might be nice, not only to send in the grief counselors and other "helping professionals", but also to have a good old-fashioned assembly. Bring in the cops. Get the message out to the student body that there are consequences to actions.

As someone who has had to live through the suicide of someone close, I will say that the person who does that final, horrible act does not bear sole responsibility for it. For the rest of my life, I have to live with the ways I failed a good friend, didn't see the pain he carried, didn't even think to ask about it. I never took the time to look beneath the surface. He's gone and I won't get the chance to tell him I'm sorry. I'm angry with him for doing what he did, and I stand by the assertion I made to my sister once - it was a stupid waste, not a tragedy.

Chip wasn't gay, however. He wasn't the subject of a barrage of insults and taunts, what amounts to a constant threat and actual violence against his person just because he is who he is. Which, in a way, mitigates a whole lot of the personal responsibility in the case of gay teens. The climate of hate and fear and violence is just too pervasive. We adults shake our heads at how "sad" such a situation is, yet never think there are things we can do to make it just a little better for all those kids who live in silence and fear.

We can teach our children that being gay isn't bad. We can teach our kids that words like "faggot", "homo", "queer" have barbs that stick and pull away flesh. We can tell kids who aren't ours whom we find acting this way that it is unacceptable. We can demand our teachers do more than stand by, our principals and school administrators do more than throw up their hands. We can insist that this isn't about "bullying". It's about terrorism, really. We can tell any clergy person who rails against "the gay agenda" that their words have the potential to kill. We can walk away from a church that celebrates anti-gay behavior, and make public those who would hate in the name of the one who died because of Divine Love.

Most of all, we can go to those directly connected to yet another poor kid who saw no other way out than death and say, "This broken body, this wasted opportunity for a life full of love and happiness? It's yours. Live with the knowledge that you own this death. Have a nice life."

Virtual Tin Cup

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