Friday, October 1, 2010

Brody's Scribbles... A Symptom Of A Larger Problem In Our Society

By Brody Levesque (Washington DC) OCT 1 | Twelve years ago this month, a 21 year old university student was tied to a fence on a cold starlit night, in a pasture outside of Laramie, Wyoming, and pistol whipped so severely that his distraught parents couldn't even recognise him later as he laid dying in an intensive care unit in hospital. He was beaten solely because he was Gay. That student's name? Matthew Shepard.
After the tragedies of this past month, where four bright loving and promising young lives were snuffed out by suicide, as a direct result of anti-Gay bullying, it becomes readily apparent that Americans as a society and culture have not gained a solitary lesson from the death of young Matthew in the intervening years.
The common thread to all of these deaths is religious intolerance that has been sanctioned as a political and societal acceptable mainstream reality. The anti-gay religious brigade is nothing more than a faux love masquerading their hatred. The hypocrisy of the religious must not be allowed to sanction the deaths of teenagers, or justify the actions of the bullies. Religious intolerance must be eradicated, not tolerated, and if the religions want to survive, then they have to be told to stop bullying the people in their own bedrooms. 
I happened across the following comment posted by a 'bear54f' on a ABCNews follow-up story to the most recent death, that of 18 year old Tyler Clementi, from Rutgers University in New Jersey:
This is a terrible tragedy and in my view more than a simple invasion of privacy. It is a symptom, I think, of a larger problem in our society. The actions of the two students resulted in the death of a gifted and by all reports brilliant and good person. It is interesting to see, on this website and others reporting this story, the diversity of opinion about whether the roommate and his friend should be punished and how. 
I am an older gay man and was not bullied in this way only because I hide my sexual orientation and never discussed it with my parents or friends in high school because it was a time when that was just not done. So I was not bullied about being gay, however I can understand what the young man must have felt being exposed in this particularly cruel and cavalier way. 
While in many ways younger people feel more free to express themselves about their sexual orientation, society in general has not caught up to most of our young people in their attitudes about homosexuality. It is obvious that Mr. Clementi was not comfortable enough with his sexuality and his tragic reaction to the actions of his roommate is very sad and troubling. Perhaps he felt he had no other choice and that makes this situation much more troubling.
It occurred to me that this may rise to the level of involuntary manslaughter as the actions of Mr. Clementi's tormentors led to his death. I am not a lawyer and so I am not sure of the legalities but I do think that the roommate and his accomplice should be held accountable for their actions, which resulted in this tragic death. 
The world has been deprived of someone who by all reports was a talented, sensitive and good person and we as a society cannot let his passing to go unpunished. Is it not time for us as citizens stand up do something to protect the many young people who are being bullied simply because they are different for whatever reason? 
It is troubling to see comments, on this website and others carrying this story, by those who believe that those persons who perpetrated this horror should not bear the consequences of their actions and believe that the victim, Mr. Clementi, is solely responsible for his suicide. We as a society really should examine ourselves and decide if we are going to continue to marginalize and demonize those who are different from us and while we regret the ending of a life do nothing to prevent this kind of thing in the future.
At what point does the public connect the dots? When does it become patently obvious that America's religious leadership needs to be held accountable for the domino effect that the message of Homosexuality is a sin and an abomination is directly attributable to the marginalisation of the LGBT citizens which in turn makes it acceptable in some minds to beat, harass, and in the case of some, kill?
A week before Tyler Clementi took that fatal plunge from New York's George Washington bridge, comedian and author Jim David wrote the following  op-ed, "How Many Teens  Have To Die Before Focus On the Family Gives A Damn?"  Which succinctly states the case:

Another teenager killed himself because of bullying and anti-gay harassment. This one was in Minnesota, and his name was Justin Aaberg. The local news report is here. School officials, wary of conservative protests, did nothing.
This comes on the heels of the suicide of another teenager in Indiana, one who never actually said whether he was gay but who was mercilessly harassed nonetheless. His name was Billy Lucas. The local news report is here. Again, school officials did nothing.
Eleven-year-old Jaheem Herrera of Atlanta hanged himself with a belt. His mother had complained to the school authorities about the bullying he endured, but they did nothing. Seventeen-year-old Eric Mohat of Mentor, Ohio killed himself after being called "gay," "fag," "queer" and "homo," and after a student said, "Why don't you go home and shoot yourself? No one will miss you." Eleven-year-old Carl Hoover of Springfield, Mass., hanged himself with an extension cord. School officials did nothing.
These are just the ones who lately made the news.
Focus on the Family, a right-wing lobbying group that fronts as a religious organization, pays lip service to the bullying issue, but wants no mention of homosexuality in schools because it might encourage kids to be gay -- this in spite of the fact that the vast majority of bullying is directed at teens who either appear to be gay or are actually out, not those who are fat or wear glasses.
If Focus on the Family thinks that the mere mention of the topic will prompt impressionable children to suddenly turn gay, they need to immediately see a neurosurgeon. They do anyway, but that's a another story.
Same for the Family Research Council, a right-wing lobbying group that fronts as a religious organization that purports to be helping families, but does nothing to help families with gay members in them. In fact, they're part of the problem; in the guise of fighting a "gay agenda" in the schools, they help to make the actual problem worse.
School officials, running scared from screaming religious fanatics and conservative parents who have bought into the lies of Focus and FRC, are afraid to actually address the issue. Sometimes school officials are religious fanatics themselves. It's the same with teen pregnancy. By merely saying "abstinence only," they do nothing to help teens, who are going to be sexually active whether school officials like it or not, make sane choices. There's a reason why teen pregnancies are highest in the most conservative, religious states. But don't take my word for it; look it up.
Focus on the Family, Family Research Council, and similar groups don't actually give a damn about these kids or their families. They couldn't care less how many of them are beaten within an inch of their lives or actually take their own lives. What matters to them is power, influence, and promoting an extreme religious agenda to help them hang on to said power and influence. They are deathly afraid that some of the kids might not grow up to be as bigoted as they are.
The facts are that when schools actually mention sexuality, bullying goes down. It's been proven time and time again. When schools say some generic thing like, "Uh, leave other kids alone for any reason, please," it makes no difference whatsoever. Kids need to be told these things explicitly. They're kids.
The documentary For the Bible Tells Me So includes first-person testimony by a mother who raised her gay daughter ccording to the teachings of Dr. James Dobson, former head of Focus on the Family. The daughter killed herself. Dobson, of course, said nothing.
Lost in the hysteria of Quran-burning and mosque-building is the clear and present danger to our youth, and society in general, by these American "religious" organizations, their teachings, their agenda and their political influence with equally insane right-wing politicians, who callously turn away when the clear evidence of the atmosphere they help create manifests itself. In the name of Almighty God, they are evil. How about some good old Tea-Party-type energy directed againstthese people?
What's the difference between the Taliban and the Focus on the Family? About 7000 miles.


Tim Trent said...

In the UK we have bullies.

I have not yet seen teenage gay suicide featuring here.

I hope no-one proves that I have just missed it.

I want to know what is wrong with US Society.

I do know that nasty pseudo christian bigots like the annoying little gnat Charles Carter with his odious Bethlehem Fellowship Church in Phoenix, Arizona, have much of this on their shoulders in the USA.

How ironic that I thank god in whom I do not believe that we are a secular nation.

Desmond Rutherford said...

Brody your third paragraph sums it up nicely for me, but when combined with the facts you reveal, it becomes painfully, patently, obvious that until the religious actually understand that their fervour for spreading their sacred texts, in obedience to their God, is born of narcissistic avoidance of developing their own human well-being, let alone recognising the freedom of others, then we all live in danger from their crusade for enforced conformity; a theocracy, administrated through the intimidation of an Inquisition.

Of course the nature of the society itself must be examined to see how much it has adopted a culture of violence, of intimidation, and thus sanctioned bullying as an acceptable alternative to reasoned, rational discussion. Until we address the corruption of our inalienable rights and freedoms (which you may recognise as including, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,) we will continue to create sociopaths who bully in their attempts to gain power to control others for whatever purpose the think fit.

Restoring Tally said...

I am distraught with what I see happening in the United States. Religion is breeding intolerance. I see it everywhere. A prime tenet of many religions is to "love thy neighbor." Currently, it seems to be "hate thy neighbor" unless he is just like us.

Tim Trent said...

Does the name "Taliban" mean anything to you, RT?