Dear Tell All: I was as troubled as anyone by the recent suicide of Tyler Clementi, the gay freshman at Rutgers University. Clementi jumped off a bridge after his roommate and an accomplice secretly filmed him having sex with another man in his dorm room and broadcast it online. But I have to admit also feeling troubled that the perpetrators of the prank are facing a possible 10 years in jail. To me, it seems wrong to pin the kid's death on them.
Clementi could have responded to the prank by yelling at his roommate or even chuckling in bemusement. I'm sure those are normal responses in similar situations. Instead, he jumped off a bridge after announcing his intention on Facebook. To me, that says more about his own troubled state of mind than it does about the pranksters.
If you innocently put a whoopee cushion under someone who happened to be mentally disturbed, and he misguidedly killed himself over the humiliation, would you be responsible for the death?
Dear Wondering: Remember that the perpetrators haven't been charged with murder, but with invasion of privacy for using "the camera to view and transmit a live image" of Tyler Clementi. We'll let the courts decide on a fair punishment.
In the meantime, we should be careful about underestimating the hatred gays and lesbians have to face on a daily basis. This prank was not the equivalent of a whoopee cushion innocently placed under someone's butt. It was yet another humiliation visited on a boy surely familiar with discrimination in the U.S., much of it emanating from mainstream sources. Since Clementi's death in September, Sen. Jim DeMint has argued that openly gay people shouldn't be allowed to teach in public schools; and New York gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino has said that children should not be "brainwashed into thinking that homosexuality is an equally valid and successful option."
Let's continue the fight against bigotry in Tyler Clementi's honor