We really know little about Tyler Clementi. Right now, he is a headline. Tyler took his life after his roommate at Rutgers University secretly spied on him via webcam from a friend’s dorm room and then publicly released the video (of Tyler making out with another young man) on Twitter. It is infuriating and heartbreaking.
If you have read many of the articles out there, you might know he was an accomplished violinist, and a member of the orchestra at Rutgers. His family has been quiet, releasing only one statement asking for acceptance and compassion for others in our communities and for their own privacy to grieve. Those who knew Tyler who have been interviewed have described him as incredibly intelligent and caring, with a love of helping others.
Tyler was a lot of things to many people, I am sure. I can’t help thinking of what we don’t know about his life. That at one time, he was a toddler, wobbling around his family’s living room, taking first tentative steps. He was once a kindergartner, learning the alphabet at his gradeschool. He was someone’s son. Someone’s friend. He had tremendous potential.
I also think a lot about the age, 18, when we go off to college. The whole experience is almost surreal. You are thrown out of one world into another. From a somewhat protected environment into a completely unprotected one in many ways. The glory of that unprotected atmosphere is the ability to find out who you are, to test the waters, to explore so many different things. But, it is a double edged sword. All that freedom can seem overwhelming to some, as it was for me. Tyler had only been in that new world, at college for less than a month. He barely had time to adjust.
No matter your sexual orientation, belief system, culture or anything else…imagine yourself at 18 years old in Tyler’s situation. Your roommate is spying on you, has a camera in your room, and is sending this video of you in a romantic or sexual situation LIVE to a world (or so it would seem) of internet watchers. I daresay many of us would feel weakened, hopeless, humiliated. And remember how your young mind worked. Every slight by someone else could seem like the end of the world. Humiliation on this level would have been devastating.
I want to say that his roommate and the woman who filmed him via webcam, spied on him and then released the video over Twitter are young too, and learning a hard lesson. But it is not that easy. What they did took malice. I can’t help but think—was there a point when either one of them got that uneasy sick feeling of knowing what they were doing was wrong? Did they ever think of the consequences or pain their actions would cause? Evidently not, as they tried to repeat their actions again after the first episode.
I do hope this is prosecuted as a hate crime. Although I don’t know all the details, the homophobia of Tyler’s roommate seems evident. I have been so upset by this story, by these events, by the horrible outcome. I feel so sad for Tyler’s family, and even more heartbroken that Tyler could not feel the support of all the people, famous and otherwise that have spoken out since his suicide. He had no idea of the legion of people across the country, around the world that have felt his pain, and have asked for an end to bullying activities like this one.
The other problem is that the laws have not caught up with the technology. After the Megan Meier case, I had hoped the government would spring into action, and realize that we as a nation were already behind the times and need to catch up quickly by putting laws in place to prosecute internet crimes. Sadly, we are still behind, and the criminals in Tyler’s case will likely serve little, if any jail time.
For now, it up to every parent to teach acceptance, tolerance and compassion. It is up to every person to set that example. For those who teach the opposite, who preach hatred, a reminder that your child could be on either side of a case like this one. And both of the outcomes are horrible- a death and/or a life ruined.
We are all responsible. Every moment, every day. Every single one of us.
Article Links and resources:
Early Article About Tyler’s Death from ABC:
It Gets Better Project:
Celebrities Ban Together to Speak out Against Bullying