Friday, October 01, 2010

Wrong and Right

The name “Tyler Clementi” didn’t mean much to anyone until September 22d, when it was revealed that the Rutgers student, as the result of a prank performed by his roommate and fellow Rutger students Dharun Ravi and Ravi’s friend Molly Wei, committed suicide by jumping off the GW Bridge.

The story has been highly publicized on Facebook and all types of news outlets. Sadly, Clementi’s last communication was via Facebook status update: “jumping off the gw bridge sorry."

Inasmuch as this is a sad, tragic unfolding of events, and this was certainly a despicable act these two imbeciles committed, this more than not was not about technology. This was, essentially, two people treating another person like crap for their own amusement. Whether the victim was gay or asian or jewish or a little person or mentally handicapped, the fact is he was a victim. The two people who decided to play a prank on him most likely didn’t mean for him to kill himself – even if that was the unfortunate result – and at any given time in each of our lives, we have – I am certain – said or done something that has offended or otherwise insulted someone else. Even without malice, it’s more than likely that anyone reading this has – intentionally or otherwise, by commission or omission, done something that has embarrassed or otherwise made another person feel badly. Sometimes these actions aren’t so much intentional as they are not unintentional between “frenemies” – the very fact that term exists suggests that we as individuals sometime do things to “friends” that could be perceived as not particularly friendly behavior.

I am not attempting to minimize what Ravi and Wei did – because it was repulsive and inconsiderate and disgusting. Assuming some basic facts about the situation, one could surmise that Tyler Clementi was a gay man who was not openly so. Apparently his roommate was an immature, idiotic asshole who, rather than respect whatever Clementi’s sexual orientation was, he decided to embarrass him by planting a hidden camera in the room and invade Clementi’s privacy by broadcasting the private goings-on between his roommate and a male friend of his. It sort of reminds me of the end of American Pie where the main character of the film, Jim, opts to secretly broadcast his interlude with Nadia, a girl from class – and it goes horribly wrong (as anyone who has seen the film knows).

I don’t think there was the type of malice that these two idiots believed would inspire the kind of desperation in Clementi that would result in him committing suicide; however, it was obviously something which was particularly inconsiderate, demeaning, invasive, disrespectful and disgusting. And actionable.

While some people acknowledge that it was just a prank that went horribly wrong, others believe this was a hate crime. I’m not sure if it was indeed a hate crime – I think these two morons decided to take advantage of someone and they did. Would they have done so if he was African-American? Asian? Indian? Who knows. Did they know he would be so devastated by what they did that he would commit suicide? Who knows?

What I do know is their actions caused someone’s death. Whether that is murder, a hate crime or simply an unintentional act of manslaughter, I can’t say. What I do believe, however, regardless, is that they both belong in jail and, hopefully, will never forget what their callousness caused. One of their attorneys acknowledged that what they did was awful, but deep down they’re really "good people."

Bullshit, counsellor. Good people don’t poke fun at other people because of who they are. That’s something you either know or don't know. It's not learned – not at college or anywhere else – and if you don’t know better, you never will. Let’s hope they find out first-hand – in prison – what it’s like to be treated like shit by someone else for sport.

Maybe then – maybe – they’ll learn.

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