"There's a bit of magic in everything, and some loss to even things out." -Lou Reed

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Someone's Son: The Tragedy of Tyler Clementi's Suicide


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:
http://abcnews.go.com/US/victim-secret-dorm-sex-tape-commits-suicide/story?id=11758716
It Gets Better Project:
http://www.youtube.com/user/itgetsbetterproject
Celebrities Ban Together to Speak out Against Bullying
http://www.popeater.com/2010/10/06/tim-gunn-ellen-degeneres-bullying-psa/

4 comments:

Jewels October 6, 2010 at 11:27 PM  

This is an article and a topic that I have read over and over again lately. All of the children that are taking their lives as the result of bullying is absolutely horrible. Something has to be done.

I believe with all my heart that teachers, administrators, and parents need to be more aware of what is going on in their children's lives, in their schools, and in their peer groups. I also think that we need to start speaking out when we see people being bullied. So many people turn a blind eye and don't want to get involved. We need to start stepping in and speaking up for these kids who so often feel they have no voice.

There have to be stricter consequences for bullying. There needs to be a movement to make compassion "cool" so that people don't feel they need to put others down to build themselves up.

Sorry I know this is a long comment but it's something that has me really heated and hurting at the moment. I was lucky enough to never suffer from bullying...but I know that's rare these days.

Eva Gallant October 7, 2010 at 8:14 AM  

It is so tragic to think something like this could happen...and way too often lately! I feel so sorry for the family and friends and for the young lives that have been lost for no good reason. We need to rid ourselves of hate.

Joi October 7, 2010 at 11:24 AM  

Well said!! It definitely starts at home but we need legislation to be in place to protect people privacy, especially since everyone has access to a video camera now.

Reggie November 10, 2010 at 7:20 PM  

I would agree, this is a tragedy. I blogged about this too last month, but I was surprised when so many people came out on the other side of this. Hate is eternal and inexorable.

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