Welcome, Dear Readers:
Today’s Valet Boy Post is a little out of my norm. Hopefully, by next Sunday my traditionally warped sense of humor will have returned. Thanks, VB.
Valet Boy has never been what one might call a Deep Thinker. I have more of a Blue Collar Brain…But, I do know this: AMERICA IS IN THE MIDST OF SOME BIG HATE.
Close on the heels of the 12 year anniversary of the Hate Filled Murder of Mathew Shepherd in Cheyenne, Wyoming October 12, 1998 – We have witnessed yet further examples of this uniquely Human Characteristic. The recent tragic suicides of Tyler Clementi, and possibly as many as 8 other young people (ages 13-19), have shown us that we’ve taken great strides these last 12 years to further embrace “The Joy of Hate”.
Indeed, we’ve learned a lot. We’ve come so far in those years.
We can now exhibit our hatred for one another to millions around the planet via Twitter, You Tube, FaceBook, My Space…the whole melange of potentially terminal and poisonous social networking.
To paraphrase the old saw, “The Internet Doesn’t Kill People….People Kill People”.
What we’ve seen recently is not just bullying – It is a virulent Cancer of Hate.
But why? Is it Fear of the Unknown that makes other young people torture their poor classmates to the point that taking their own lives is the only solution they can see?
What is it that motivates these actions?
Intolerance is nothing new. America may be the Land of the Free, but does it HAVE to be the Land of the Cruel, Hateful, Ignorant and the Despicable? Apparently, so.
The World at large is steeped in Hatred. Anyone who has read a newspaper over the last 100 years, or watched TV news for the last 60, knows full well Man’s Inhumanity to Man. That’s the Way of the World. But, this is America, People! By now shouldn’t we be beyond this crap?
This recent repugnant violation of privacy with the video streaming of Tyler Clementi “in flagrante delicto” has made Valet Boy wonder if we’re not mere inches from Ancient Rome and throwing people in front of Lions to be publicly dismembered and digested!
Dear God, I hope not.
Within the last few months as many as 9 young gay people have chosen the permanent solution to what was hopefully a temporary problem. This tells me: We As Human Beings are fundamentally broken. They felt alone. Unable to share their concerns and problems. And if they did share, either it wasn’t viewed seriously and nothing was done about it…or worse…folks looked the other way.
Next February I will be 60 years old. Like most of my generation, I never thought I’d make it to 30. But, as I sit here pounding the hell out of my poor laptop, I am trying to think back to Junior High and High School. Trying to recall my own predicaments involving “bullying” – And also trying to remember if I was part of someone’s problem rather than their solution.
I remember some instances of “bullying” but thankfully they were not pervasive. It’s possible that I was bullied because as a kid in the Deep Pit Bar B Q South, I didn’t have a southern accent and was funny. I used my sense of humor to try to avoid trouble. I guess in some ways that might have backfired on me. In those days, you went out of your way to blend. To NOT be different.
But, when I was in grade school, ALL my closest friends were “different”.
Most of my comrades – boys and girls – had come through the Polio Epidemic of the 50’s with physical deformities. This made them the brunt of jokes and cruel treatment by some of the kids. For some reason, I was able to see beyond their physicality. I never once thought of hating or fearing them for how they looked or acted. Perhaps, because I viewed myself the way others viewed my friends, I was able to identify and bond on a closer more personal level. I couldn’t see their differences.
Thank God we did not have social networking and the internet when I was a teenager. It was bad enough being a localized idiot without having to share my own immature stupidity with the rest of the world. And those years…those pimple filled, physically awkward, socially inept years… Well, obviously, they are not any easier 45 years later! Throw in a giant-sized helping of public humiliation and these days are 1,000 times MORE DIFFICULT and PROBLEMATIC for kids!
Kids today still cannot confide in their parents – and if their parents actually have the time and inclination to sit down and seriously listen, what happens? School administrators and teachers are either too busy or distracted to be able to circumvent potential issues – or worse they don’t see it as a problem – or cannot get the needed support if they do recognize it. Most lawmakers travel at the speed of molasses in the dead of winter preferring to be reactive as opposed to proactive. Add to this seemingly insurmountable wall the misguided hateful voice of some clergy using their “bully pulpit” to further bash these kids over the head and Life is still just one excruciatingly painful embarrassment after another – rinse and repeat.
If you’re Gay or Lesbian or Different in ANY WAY… Well, hell…You may as well just hang it up right now ’cause you are screwed, glued and tattooed….At least that’s the message we’ve been sending to our kids.
In Junior High and High School, I was pretty much a dork. When someone said you were a Queer, it not only impugned your sexual preference, but the entire realm of every life choice you made on a daily basis. (So you really had to take all that with a grain, if you get me) Because I was in theatre and because fighting, football and cars held absolutely no fascination for me, I was a Queer.
I didn’t know what being Gay was or what it meant. But, at some point I jumped on the bandwagon of prejudice and hate and I wasn’t there for those who needed me at critical moments in their lives. Some years after college, Charles, my best friend from High School, killed himself because he couldn’t face the fact that he was Gay. This was at a time when if you were brave enough to come out of the closet, as he was – to face yourself, family and others – you were dispised…worse than a leper….You were the betrayer.
We didn’t understand.
Every society has some form of Moral Code. The Line Which May Not Be Crossed. Yet more and more often, we seem not only to be crossing the line, we appear to be racing gleefully toward it as if there were steamy rewards of Hot Doughnuts Now waiting for us there.
Just like a Hard Drive that’s been infected by a Virus, our Moral Code has become corrupted. There is definitely writing on the wall and we had better start paying attention to it.
What can we do?
We can stop being afraid to do the right thing. We can curb our tongues. Rethink our actions. We can stop punishing the victims. We can remember how lonely and scared we were as kids when facing what seemed an insurmountable and terrifying problem. We can OPEN OUR EYES and EARS and get our heads out of the ground. Watch for signs that someone is in trouble then reach out to them – As friends, as family, as neighbors and as a Nation.
We can fight against Mankind’s baser natures and strive for the good we know is inside ourselves.
Robert Louis Stevenson’s novella “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” was an homage to the Dual Natures of Man. Each of us alone has to answer which of his Dogs is going to win the fight in our personal struggles.
Valet Boy does not have the answers. I do know this, however (again with the paraphrasing) – Evil Flourishes When Good People Do Nothing.
I didn’t understand what it was all about when I was a kid in my early 20’s. How difficult and lonely my friend’s life must have been for him. How cold and unforgiving the world appeared.
Charles, I’m sorry I wasn’t there for you.