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October 2010

Bullying To Death


Recently somebody asked me why I keep writing articles about issues related to the rights of homosexuals.  After all, I’m not gay and no one in my family that I know of at least is gay.  I do have friends who are gay and have known many people over the years who are gay, but so have a lot of other people. So why is it that this one issue I have written four separate articles about?  I have written articles supporting the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, about if being gay is a choice or a trait that a person is born with, and about supporting same-sex marriage.  I write about many issues but this issue for some reason really gets to me. The reasons that I keep writing about these issues is twofold.  The first reason is simple.  No person for any reason what so ever in this country should ever be discriminated against and whether that reason is because of their sex, or their skin color, their religion, or their age, a disability or their sexual preference, the fact remains, it is wrong.  This issue goes way beyond what group is being discriminated against, this is an issue of common decency.  It is the same issue that faced African Americans during the civil rights movement in the 1950’s and 1960’s, the issue of Equality.  If African Americans still had to sit in the back of the bus and drink from separate drinking fountains then I would be writing about that.  If women were still denied the right to vote then I would be writing about that. If Jews were still restricted from living in certain Chicago suburbs or joining certain social clubs I would be writing about that. And while all of these groups still and always will have to endure discrimination on some level, that discrimination, unlike the discrimination that homosexuals face is currently against the law.  Homosexuals on the other hand not only still have to endure discrimination but they have to endure legalized discrimination and until all discrimination of any kind is outlawed, we all should be outraged that any legal support for discrimination still exist in modern America. Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is legalized discrimination against homosexuals in the military.  Laws forbidding same-sex couples to get married is legalized discrimination.  Laws forbidding same-sex couples to adopt is legalized discrimination.  Homosexuality is not a disease, it is not a condition that needs to be rectified, it is not a lesser lifestyle or a way of being that others need to pity someone for. It is a human being, being a human being with every right that every other human being on this earth has.  And if the actual act of two people of the same sex having sex with each other bothers you, well get over it.  No one is asking you to watch.  I would not want to watch most heterosexual couples having sex.  Being gay is not all about sex just like being heterosexual is not all about sex.  Being homosexual is simply about who you love, who you care for, who you choose to date, who you build your life with. Sound familiar, it’s just like being heterosexual.  To deny a homosexual any right afforded to a heterosexual is wrong and it is discrimination
The second reason these issues are so important to me is much more personal. Tyler Clementi, Billy Lucas, Asher Brown, and Seth Walsh.  If you don’t know these names, these are four of the teenagers who recently made headlines because they were bullied so much for being gay that they felt the only way to escape it was to commit suicide.  Asher Brown and Seth Walsh were only thirteen years old.  These four teens killed themselves simply because they could not endure the abuse they were receiving from other kids.  This is tragic.  This issue of equality for homosexuals has gone way beyond equal rights, and has become about life and death.  These four boys just wanted to be who they are, to live their lives but they were bullied so much that all they wanted was for it to stop.  Being a kid, without having to deal with the stigma surrounding being gay is hard enough.  To be a teenager, where popularity and acceptance is everything, and also be gay is something I can’t imagine having to deal with at that age.  If you got through your first eighteen years of life without being bullied for something, you are fortunate.  I was bullied because I was always the smallest, I had a huge head of curly hair, was better at art then I was at sports, and was a bit of a geek.  I was teased, beat up and there were many times that I just wanted it to stop. Fortunately my positive attitude and close friends kept me going and I never let the bullies destroy what I knew was great about me.  The fact that I went on to marry a girl who was the head cheerleader at her school still amazes me.  The fact is bulling is something that is all too common among young kids but not something that is new.  The difference is that today we have Facebook, My Space, and YouTube and with that bullying has reached a whole new level.  With some teenagers having hundreds and even thousands of Facebook friends, harassment can now happen instantly on a global level.  Bullying can happen on a scale today that was unimaginable when I was a kid.  A video of a private sexual same-sex encounter once posted to Facebook can go viral in a matter of hours.  Verbal harassment can happen even when you are alone in your own bedroom through social networking and where in the past a teen could escape the abuse simply by the sanctuary of his or her own home, today via text messaging, My Space, Twitter, and Facebook the harassment is nonstop.
But who is to blame?  It is easy to blame the bullies, but that is too easy and not the true source of the problem.  The truth is, the bullies are also kids, kids who are also looking to be popular, wanting to be accepted, and many times are even more insecure and lacking in confidence then the others in their peer group. Many times their bullying is simply to compensate for this lack of confidence and their insecurity, and without thinking of the consequences of their actions, they lash out at the easiest target, the one that will get them the most noticed, the one that will raise their own level of popularity and acceptance among their peers.  Their actions, regardless, are inexcusable but the solution must come from somewhere else.  Prejudice is not inherent.  Hate is not a gene.  And barring some mental disorder, intolerance is something that is learned.  The solution must come from the home and the reinforcement to the solution must come from the schools.  The blame for intolerance, hate and prejudice lies in the home and in the home is where it must change.  A child must learn that bulling is not ok, that intolerance of anyone is wrong, that we are no better than anyone else because they are different from us.  It is the parents that must set the example and realize that when you call something “gay” and mean it derogatory, a child learns from that.  When you use the “N” word when speaking about an African American, a child learns from that.  When a child uses hitting, punching and yelling to get their way, and you say nothing, or worse, do it yourself, a child learns from that.  And when you are intolerant of others because they are different then you, a child learns from that.  The blood of Tyler Clementi, Billy Lucas, Asher Brown, and Seth Walsh is not only on the hands of those that bullied them but also on the hands of their parents, their parents who with or without knowing it taught their kids to be intolerant.  The blood is on the hands of the school system that didn’t provide a safe haven where a teen could turn to for help, and until parents and the schools start taking responsibility for the intolerance that our children are having to face on a daily basis, more teens, who just want to be who they are, will end up ending their lives simply to escape the bulling that the parents of those doing the bulling continue to condone.
Discrimination of any kind is wrong.  Bullying anyone for any reason is wrong, and no person should ever be made to feel lesser of a person, whether it is by a peer group who teases to compensate for their own insecurities, or by a State who forbids same-sex couples to marry.  No one should ever have to hide who they are from a military who says Don’t Ask and Don’t Tell, or from a school system who fires their teachers because of their sexual preference.  We are all human beings and not any one of us is lesser of a person because of who we choose to spend our life with. In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, “Hatred paralyzes life; love releases it. Hatred confuses life; love harmonizes it. Hatred darkens life; love illuminates it.”


Please take some time to watch this video created by the young stars of Broadway, and please watch the other videos posted under the Daily Videos to the left.




If you've been bullied please share your story by clicking on the "Comments" link below.
If you know a teen who needs help here are some very useful resources:

The Trevor Project

It Gets Better Project


Stop Bullying Now

Kids Against Bullying





Now That's Huge!...That's What She Said,..or He Said, Your Choice.


If you were given a choice to be straight or to be gay, what would you choose? For arguments sake, let’s forget about the debate for a minute of whether homosexuality is a choice or not. Just think about the question.  Assume for a moment that you actually could choose.  I’m not talking about choosing whether you would have sex with a person of the same sex as you. You could do that regardless if you are gay or not.  I’m talking about making a choice to love, have feelings, a relationship with a same sex partner just as you would with an opposite sex partner. Think about all the implications surrounding that decision, if it was truly possible to choose one lifestyle over the other, and the implications it would have not only on your life but on the friends and family around you as well.  Forget for a moment about your own personal feelings and prejudices or lack thereof about homosexuality and just focus on society and how your life would be depending on which choice you would make…Seriously think about that.
Now, let me ask all of the straight people a question.  When was it that you chose to be straight?  You see, you cannot answer that, can you?  For me I just knew that my seventh grade English teacher was “I’m hot for teacher” hot and I would have gladly given up my new Atari Pong console to get into her skirt!  I never thought about it, never made a choice between her and my gym teacher, never questioned which sex I preferred, I just always knew.  And that’s the answer to the debate.  You just know.  Sure maybe some people are confused, they question what they feel, maybe they even experiment just to confirm one way or another what their feelings tell them, but the bottom line is at some point we all just know.  If you still doubt me, think about for a moment what homosexuals in this country have to endure just to be who they are.  Their lifestyle is continuously ridiculed, questioned and spat upon by members of society that claim the religious higher ground.  They are demonized by homophobes too intolerant of others and too insecure with their own masculinity or femininity to accept those different than they are.  They are made victims of hate crimes, beatings, and social network bullying to the point that they commit suicide.  They are shunned by parents who can’t love their children unconditionally, by politicians who say they can’t marry, and they are forced to hide who they truly are from a military who won’t ask, and who says don’t tell, because if they do they will be treated like a criminal, and discharged dishonorably.  So, if you could choose, if your choice was not predetermined for you, which choice would you make?  The bottom line is you can’t choose. And even if parents dress their boys up like girls, have them play with dolls, and force them to watch Liza Minnelli videos, they will never turn a straight kid gay or turn a gay kid straight.  The bottom line is there is no debate, there is no choice. We are who we are and nothing can change that, and anyone who believes different is just plain wrong. Our sexual preference is something that is ingrained in all of us from birth, just as is our eye color, our skin color, and our desire to watch Glee.
On Thursday, President Obama, during a town hall style meeting with college students said, when asked by one student whether he thought homosexuality was a choice or not, “I don't think it's a choice. I think people are born with a certain make-up.  We're all children of G-d… We don't make determinations about who we love. That's why I think discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is wrong."  WAIT! (Screeching tires…Record player scratch!)  Did I hear that right? What was that he just said?  Did the President of the United States just come out and publicly state that he thinks homosexuality is not a choice?  Holy S#!t!  I hope you can grasp how huge this is.  This is “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down that wall!” huge.  This is Regan saying the word AIDS for the first time, huge! This is Oprah taking me to Australia huge! (Yea I’m going, jealous? I’ll you send pictures.)  You see, maybe you didn’t know it at the time, but this is what we asked for.  This is what we voted for.  This is the Change we counted on when we put Barack Obama in office.  Oh you thought he was going to walk on water and instantly we’d be manufacturing TV’s again?  Sorry but that is not the way it works.  To change the problems of a nation that are as monumental and diverse as what was handed to us by our last administration takes time and much more than twenty two months.  Why is it that what President Obama said is so huge?  Because it is indicative of the change in attitude that we need in our leaders.  We have a President who for the first time, regardless of politics, regardless of his religion, which by the way is Christian if you were still trying to figure it out, has publicly stated his view on whether homosexuality is a choice or not, and he has said, quite clearly, “I don't think it's a choice.”  And he is right, and if you don’t call that “Change”, then I don’t know what is.
We have an election coming up and what all of us who voted for President Obama need to remember is that we voted for Change.  We voted for Change because where we were at, at the time, was so unbelievably messed up, and the party in power had eight years to fix it but instead only made things worse.  When Bill Clinton left office, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that we would run an annual budget surplus of $800 Billion from 2001 thru 2012.  Then George Bush took office and as of today the deficit is expected to run a 1.2 trillion.  Sure you can argue that President Obama’s economic policies and huge amounts of spending are causing this deficit to go even higher but the facts, according to the New York Times, are that only 7 percent of this deficit is from President Obama’s stimulus bill, and only 3 percent is from Obama initiatives such as health care, education, and energy.  The largest percentage of the remainder is a combination of the Bush Tax cuts for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans, the loss of manufacturing jobs in this country under Bush, the Medicare prescription drug benefit, the tremendous spending on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars during the Bush administration and the recession that followed 9/11.  We forget that Bushes economic policies and his blind ambition to invade Iraq at all costs put us in the economic mess that we are still in today and if anything President Obama and the democrats in congress, with the passing of the stimulus bill saved our economy from nose diving into a much deeper depression then what we were currently facing at the time.  Under President Bush 600,000 private sector jobs were lost, the average income dropped $2000, mortgage and bank deregulation flooded the market with home loans that were not worth the paper they were printed on and today we are seeing the result of this reckless behavior.  Manufacturing jobs went overseas due to the increased deregulation on the free market and the elimination of tariffs, and health care insurance premiums outpaced the average income by light years, except of course the income of the health insurance executives.   Under Bush we became a nation that makes nothing, and rewards executives regardless of the negative impact their decisions have on our economy.  And for some reason, we expected the Democrats and President Obama to turn all of this around in less than two years. 
Hey I get it.  They say the recession is over but we just don’t feel it.  We are still seeing massive unemployment and foreclosures.  We see a ton of spending with no guarantees of the outcome.  Were we guaranteed an outcome when Bush spent billions each year on Iraq and Afghanistan?  Were we guaranteed that we would capture every Taliban and get those elusive weapons of mass destruction?  No but somehow we went along with that.  I get it.  Things still suck so we do what seems natural and blame whoever is currently in power and that is the Democrats, even though they’ve only had twenty-two months to fix eight years of mistakes.  I get it, we have no patience, and like a five year old who keeps whining from the back seat, “Are we there yet!” we want our change NOW! Well you’ll get your change soon young man so stop your complaining or the GOP is going to give you a time out, and then you’ll be sorry! But before you stomp out of here on November 2nd, pouting and vote for a Republican or whatever ding-dong the Tea party is endorsing ask yourself if things were better for us under George W. Bush.  Ask yourself if you want insurance companies to be able to deny you coverage for pre-existing conditions due to a repeal of health care insurance reforms.  Ask yourself if you want a ban on stem-cell research that could cure countless medical conditions.  Ask yourself if you want “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” to be eliminated or if discrimination should continue in our military.  Ask yourself if corporate executives should be rewarded while jobs continue to be shipped overseas, while banks are denying small businesses loans that could help grow our economy, while insurance premiums double, coverage goes down and health care cost go up, because that is all the Republicans have proposed, the same old policies that the Bush administration used to bring this country to its knees.  Ask yourself if you remember why you voted for Barack Obama and keep in mind that Change has come, maybe not as fast or as sweeping as we would have liked it too, but it has come and given the opportunity it will continue to come.  Maybe not overnight, but it will, and it will come with a President who has the courage to say, “I think people are born with a certain make-up.  We're all children of G-d… We don't make determinations about who we love.” I get it.