Friday, October 1, 2010
Yesterday, I read an article about 18-year-old Tyler Clementi, a Rutgers freshman who committed suicide after his college roommate filmed him during a private encounter with another person in their dorm room. The roommate and a gal pal streamed the footage on the Internet. Tyler jumped off the George Washington Bridge three days later.
This story saddened me because of the humiliation and pain this young man suffered at the hands of a classmate (the encounter was with that of another young man, so one can conclude that Tyler was closeted). I then felt great anger toward the two people responsible for this act. It was so cruel. Why, why do kids - and in this case, young adults - do this to others?!
Much discussion has been made about this event over the last couple of days. Would the
situation have been so bad if the act caught on camera had been between a male and female? Is this a case of two kids who really aren’t evil, just stupid and insensitive? Are they products of the Twitter/Facebook/reality TV generation and therefore think this is normal? Some believe they should go to jail. Others think expulsion from Rutgers should be the extent of their punishment.
What do I think? Yes, they should be charged with a crime! And not just invasion of privacy, which is the current charge both students are facing. How can you lack so much empathy and awareness that you would even consider doing such a thing? The kids who tormented Phoebe Prince, the young Irish girl who committed suicide after enduring unending bullying, both to her face and online, are facing criminal charges in Massachusetts, as they should.
The other day, I was having a discussion with a friend about bullying and mean kids. We remarked that there’s always that “one girl” or “one boy” in a class who is the target of mean kids. I wish I could get to the root of why there is a “one kid” in the first place. Why must these children be singled out, made fun of and tortured in a such a way? It made me think of two particular kids from grade school. While I didn’t participate in the taunting and harsh words, I didn’t stand up and say anything either. I didn’t tell the bullies to stop, in fear that I would be made fun of; I didn’t come to the defense of the child being tormented. That makes me just as guilty as the bully. To this day, I feel horrible about that. I wonder what those kids are doing now. I pray that they are living wonderful lives. Of course, having experienced teasing and hurtful comments from mean kids myself, I know that the wounds heal, but underneath the surface, they are still quite fresh.
According to the article, the news of Tyler’s death “came on the same day that Rutgers kicked off a two-year, campuswide project to teach the importance of civility, with special attention to the use and abuse of new technology.”
How sad is it that a college has to create an initiative about civility? Why isn't this groundwork being laid when the child is a toddler? Yes, I know that people have free will and a person is going to act how he or she wants. But, I am of the mindset that you ingrain in your children the concept of putting oneself in another’s shoes, and, of course, living the Golden Rule. I know I could have practiced that more in school. Believe me, if I could find those kids now, I would apologize for not sticking up for them. All I can do now is try my hardest to raise compassionate, empathetic children and drive home that message every chance I get. And, of course, if I need to, take out whoever bullies them. I may be small, but I am mighty. :)
If you have a moment, think of those kids who have suffered at the hands of bullies and other mean-spirited people. Say a prayer for them or just send positive thoughts their way. This world could use more civility; let’s be the ones to lead the way.
Image from Google