(From the New York Times) Rutgers freshman Tyler Clementi (left) is dead, a suicide after his roommate allegedly thought secretly filming his sexual encounters with another man, tweeting about it and then streaming the video on the web…was funny. The roommate’s tweet on September 19:
“Roommate asked for the room till midnight. I went into molly’s room and turned on my webcam. I saw him making out with a dude. Yay.”Here’s what happened three days later, according to the New York Times:
…the roommate who had been surreptitiously broadcast – Tyler Clementi, an 18-year-old freshman and an accomplished violinist – jumped from the George Washington Bridge into the Hudson River in an apparent suicide. The Sept. 22 death, details of which the authorities disclosed on Wednesday, was the latest by a young American that followed the online posting of hurtful material… Those who knew Mr. Clementi – on the Rutgers campus in Piscataway, N.J., at his North Jersey high school and in a community orchestra – were anguished by the circumstances surrounding his death, describing him as an intensely devoted musician who was sweet and shy.Both the roommate, Dharun Ravi (above center), and his alleged accomplice, Molly Wei (above right), have been charged with two counts of invasion of privacy, with the most serious charges carrying a prison sentence of up to five years. Note that everyone involved in this was 18 years old. (The statement from Rutgers’ president can be found here.) Overt hatred manifesting itself in violent behavior towards minorities of any kind – lynching, etc. – isn’t terribly en vogue these days. That’s progress we can point to, I guess. But it’s the benign hatreds in our culture that we’ve left neglected, allowed to fester through casual jokes – many of those targeting gays. Whenever those do stop, if they do, it’ll be too late for kids tortured by the homophobic bullying – cyber- or otherwise – that we just seem to accept and tolerate a little too much. (I don’t much care whether Dan Savage’s “It Gets Better” project annoys you; someone needs to reach young people like Clementi, and he’s trying.) I’m reminded what another suicide victim, Ernest Hemingway, wrote in his 1940 novel For Whom the Bell Tolls: “The world is a fine place and worth the fighting for and I hate very much to leave it.” Much like the film character William Somerset, events like this lead me to think that the first part is quite incorrect. I wish our America was a place where a Tyler Clementi could love whoever the hell he wants to love, roommates and webcams be damned, and find himself agreeing with Hemingway on all three counts. The thread is open.