Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Stop the Hate!

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Suicide is something that affects me personally, and deeply, not because I've ever considered it - I haven't, and not because it has been an alternative chosen by someone close to me.  I have known a few people who have taken their own lives, and each of those acts of desperation was very sad, very unnecessary, and resulted a tragic wound that friends and family were left to deal with for years.

Suicides often seem to feed off of one another.  A few years ago the folks of Plano, Texas, were burdened with an extended string of suicides  from their local high school.  Each successful suicide seemed to spawn another.

The military has had a plague of suicides over the past few years.  Last year Ft. Campbell, Kentucky, ceased business as usual for a few days in order to give commanders and counseling professionals time to work with the troops and try to get a handle on that  installation's rampant spate of suicides.

And it is a problem in all of the military services.  My job routinely involves counseling individuals who have expressed some suicidal ideation.  I have to listen extremely carefully, make sure that I ask all of the right questions, and reach a decision as to the level of risk that the person is under.  It is a very stressful job, one where missing or misreading a cue could result in a fatality.

One way not to pull somebody back from the edge is to humiliate or shame them.  I recently read about an 11-year-old boy who committed suicide because he was being bullied at school.  Eleven-years-old and dead because other parents and teachers did not teach their children how to behave in a civilized manner, in fact, they probably taught them how to behave in an uncivilized manner.

There have also been at least five deaths by suicide of gay youth in the United States in the last three weeks.  Homophobia is ugly and awful, and it is so easy for young people to listen to their parents and other adults spewing hatred against minorities - such as gay people - and assume that it is therefore somehow right or justified because people that they look up to feel that way and are outspoken in their bigoted opinions.

Tyler Clementi was a freshman at Rutgers University until the 22nd day of September this year.  That was when he posted the following on his Facebook page:  "Jumping off the gw bridge sorry."  Tyler did end his life that day by going into New York City and jumping to his death from the George Washington Bridge.  He became suicidal after his roommate and another person broadcast a live sexual encounter between Tyler and another man over the Internet.

That incident was a gross invasion of privacy, and it threw Tyler into such a depressed state that he felt death was his only recourse.

How sad for Tyler, and how sad for the rest of us.  He was a bright young man whose future was cut short by the ignorance and malice of others.  Tyler lost.   We all lost.    How long must we tolerate the ignorance and hatred that is spewed from the pulpits and from "patriotic" podiums and from puritanical pundits.  These are our children - they are our future.  Yes, the youth of America are a mixed bag, but it is their diversity that makes them great and ensures that our country will survive as a vibrant democracy.  We cannot abide ignorance, hatred, or bullying.

The Westboro Baptist Church is evil, through and through.  Politicians who pander for votes by vilifying those who are different from their wealthy, white, straight supporters are also evil.  It's time for all of us who are sickened by this cruelty and hatred to stand up and fight back.  Silence may be polite, but it's not the answer anymore!

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