*photo from www.livinglutheran.com
I don’t want to talk about Tyler Clementi’s suicide, at least not exclusively, or, not as the main focus.
This all could have gone differently. If Clementi had been in a slightly better place, if he had a better support system or had been better equipped to handle the situation, or had a better sense of self worth he might still be with us and the story of the roommate who spied on him would have become one of those crazy roommate stories we tell at parties, always sure that our freshman year roommate was the craziest. The pendulum could have even swung to the other side completely and this could have become the incident that changed Tyler’s life making him stronger and catapulting him into a life of helping other gay teens stand up for themselves and realize that “it gets better”. We hear those stories all the time. I don’t want to talk about Tyler Clementi’s suicide because even if he hadn’t killed himself he would still deserve justice.
It breaks my heart that Tyler Clementi killed himself but as much as the incident with the web cam may (or may not, I didn’t know him so I really can't say for sure) have been the catalyst for his suicide, as someone who has been battling depression for years, I know that it takes more than one douchebag to make you decide that life is not worth living. I do not hold Dharun Ravi solely responsible for Tyler’s death but people need to understand that their actions have consequences.
The true crime here isn’t one of intent. I do not think that Dharun was trying to lead Tyler to harm himself, in fact, I don’t even think he really meant to hurt Tyler at all. The crime here is that Dharun was so consumed by ignorance and fear that he didn’t really see Tyler as a person at all. He didn’t understand Tyler and his ignorance and confusion spawned fear that kept him from seeing Tyler as a person who had feelings that could be hurt, a person who deserved the same respect that Dharun would have expected for himself. The crime here is that because Tyler was different, because he was gay, Dharun saw him as an object that he could experiment on, as a toy he could play with and share with his friends.
I’m not making excuses for Dharun, just because I believe that he was acting out of fear doesn’t mean that I believe that he should get a pass. From all accounts he is an intelligent kid, he’s just not a very nice one. I’m afraid almost every day of my life, that doesn’t mean that I go around punching people in the face. I know better, and somewhere under the fear, Dharun knew better too.
I’d like to believe that if Tyler Clementi were alive Dharun Ravi would still be facing charges. But maybe it all just would have been swept under the rug. Probably. It’s easier for a university to make unflattering stories go away when there isn’t a body. Suicide makes for a better story than bullying. If he had lived Tyler Clementi would be a victim, now he’s a martyr. Now he’s someone to rally behind, to set up charities in honor of and write blogs and articles in the New Yorker about.
I wish Tyler had felt that his life was worth saving and that he had reached out to someone instead of jumping. I wish that he had gotten a new roommate and made new friends and fallen in love and one day brought grandchildren home to his parents. I wish that he had lived long enough to change his major a couple of times and I wish that I could have heard him play his violin. But mostly I wish that he hadn’t died because neither he nor his roommate knew quite how to deal with the fact that he was gay.
I’m not one for legislating thoughts. You want to believe that homosexuals are deviant perverted people with a diabolical agenda? Fine. Just as long as you believe that they are people.