I rarely, if ever, pick on student journalism. It’s not because they’re kids or because I have a soft spot for student media or because I work with the student newspaper out here. It’s because most people have their own personal version of the “bad fashion” moment from college, and when you work for a media outlet, that moment tends to get amplified. However, when you swing and miss this hard, it’s kind of hard not to feel the breeze and comment on it.
I agree that the students at the Daily Targum, the Rutgers student newspaper, have every right to say what ever it is they want to say. That’s their First Amendment right. I also agree that when people exploit a tragedy, it’s reprehensible and often smacks of the basest form of opportunism. I also agree that as the paper of record for that university, they had to say something about this, lest they be deemed an irrelevant and toothless watchdog in their community.
But, holy fail, Batman…
“The mistake was that Clementi’s death should not have been turned into a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender protest for gay rights and safe spaces at the University. Robert O’Brien, Department of Anthropology assistant instructor, led the rally as he chanted, “Not safe in dorms, not safe at Rutgers.” Essentially, an angry mob fending for their rights turned the death of a young boy into a cause for “safe spaces” for gays across the University – all the while, these spaces already existed.”
These spaces might exist, but the place in which a student was supposed to feel safest of all (his dorm room), he was recorded in the middle of a sexual act that was then broadcast to others. The safe spaces and educational efforts and punishments associated with bullying apparently were so great and so grand that his roommate felt no compunction about essentially outing him, American Pie style. Even more, neither of the students involved in this incident has been expelled for their part in this recording.
“The focal point of Clementi’s tragic death should have been a boy’s inability to deal with the hardships of life. And yet the news and certain organizations picked this up and carried it into the ranks of general causes for major social groups – for their profit.’
The hardships of life? As in what? By all accounts, he had a solid home life, attended a decent school, had no horrific financial/social/educational problems or other “hardships” besides being gay in a world that isn’t all that accepting. I’m also not sure as to how these “media organizations” are exploiting his death for profit. Perhaps I’m not close enough to the campus to see the “for 50 cents a day, you can keep a gay kid from killing himself” ads on TV.
“We did not know Tyler. It was barely three weeks into his first year at the University, and most of his neighbors in his residence hall barely knew him. Turning his death into a push for gay rights is a fallacy. Homosexuality is not the only reason for which people kill themselves. In this case, it might have pushed Clementi over the edge, but the fact that he was gay should by no means turn his death into a march for safe spaces.”
So wait… Hold on… After spending a page and a half toasting the media who didn’t know the kid for turning his death into a speculation-fueled agenda-palooza for gay rights, NOW you pony up the fact you didn’t know the guy and are speculating as to his motives? And then you have the balls to say “Oh, and even though we don’t know him, we can pretty much rule out being gay as the reason he killed himself.”You think so, doctor?
I don’t know what it’s like to be gay. I can play the “I have gay friends and…” card but that’s bullshit too. What I can tell you is what it’s like to be an 18-year-old kid who went to college and was afraid of everything. Dad’s marching orders were pretty simple: “Don’t bring shame on the family.” I’m sure other families have told other kids something fairly similar, or implied it through their actions and relationships.
In other words, don’t get arrested, don’t get kicked out, don’t knock up a girl, don’t flunk a class and so on and so on.
Every time I was at a house party that got busted, blew through red light on my scooter, brought a girl back to my room for an overnight visit or other things that might be more than frowned upon, I could hear Dad: “Don’t bring shame on the family.” Thus, being caught at something that I would have to explain to the folks or that might land me in a less-than-positive set of circumstances made my heart beat a little faster and my throat tighten a little more.
And those were all things that in most circles are more socially acceptable than being gay.
If you asked Tyler Clementi’s parents if they would have rather had an alive kid who was gay and webcast having gay sex at college or a dead kid, I’d place my wager on the alive kid side. If you asked my parents if they’d have wished I’d be dead rather than busted at a party, an unwed father or a speed demon on two wheels, I know which way they’d go too.
Maybe the kid would have grown up to be a quiet non-activist gay man who never spoke out, kept mostly in the shadows, if not the closet and had a great beard life. Maybe he would have abhorred the attention he was getting as a poster kid on both sides of the gay-rights issue. The point is that I don’t know, you don’t know and the kids at the Daily Targum sure as hell don’t know.
What we do know is that shortly after being outed via webcast by his roommate, he sought recourse through gay chat rooms, found none, felt something inside and killed himself. While other mitigating circumstances might have been present, anyone with half a brain should understand that you can draw a pretty direct line from point A to point B.
And we should do whatever is possible to draw attention to these facts, punish those involved and press for improved acceptance and safety for all.