Archive for March 2012
Wednesday was a bad day. In addition to the 12-year-old in West Virginia who ended his life due to bullying, Lennon Baldwin, 15, of New Jersey ended his young life as well. Police in Morristown are investigating the suicide for the possibility of bullying.
By all accounts, Lennon was a very well-liked, happy young man with an infectious smile. I’ve witnessed, as well, that he was a very gifted, blooming artist. A friend of Lennon’s posted this video as a tribute to his fallen friend. A rising star now dimmed by suicide.
Unlike some other jurisdictions, the authorities in Morristown are on record as saying they are doing a “full investigation” into the suicide. At this point, it is unclear whether bullying was the cause or not.
Teen suicide, whatever the reason, regardless of their sexual orientation, is an issue that absolutely has to be addressed with the same urgency as a recently reported “epidemic” of teen smoking. If not moreso. After all, we can get teens to stop smoking. No one has figured out how to stop anyone from being dead. Once the suicide attempt is successful, that’s it. A young life is senselessly and needlessly snuffed out. Dreams are extinguished. Families and friends are left with hearts ripped as they try to make sense of it all.
What is the solution? I wish I could answer that. Right now, no one can. However, there are things we can do to put a serious dent in what’s going on.
For starters, we can work as one in convincing the people who lead that teen suicide is a very serious issue in our culture, not only in our country but worldwide. It is a plague that deserves the full-attention of every politician, every religious leader, every school administrator across the board.
The scourge of bullying, which is at the root of far too many teen suicides needs to be met head-on and dealt with. In some ways, that’s easier said than done. Why? Because on one level, it’s very easy for us all, including myself, to call for the heads of those who bully another human being to the point where they feel the only way to make it stop is to end their own life. And, indeed, I do feel that those who continually and willfully bully a person should be held accountable if that person commits suicide because of their actions. It’s no different than the bully holding a gun to that same person’s head and pulling the trigger. They are just as dead either way. The difference is, in this case, the one who pulled the trigger is obviously charged with murder. So, why should bullying someone to the point where he or she feels the only way out is commit suicide be any different. Why? Because it’s more complex than that. See, on another level is the reality that we, as humans, are not born to hate. We are not born intolerant. The exact opposite it true. That means that they are taught these emotions and behaviors. And, unfortunately in this case, a young person’s brain is a sponge. They learn well. So, to get at the root of bullying, it is imperative to start with the adults. If Johnny constantly hears his dad, his religious leader, or political leaders constantly express their disdain, their intolerance and hatred of certain groups of people, whether it’s different races or people of a different sexual orientation, he’s learning from them that it’s ok to treat these people like they don’t belong. It’s ok to call them the most degrading names. It’s ok to bring physical harm to them. No!! It’s NOT ok!!! And, everyone, from the adults to the young ones, needs to understand that. Every single life is precious.
Another big contributor to teen suicides is mental health issues. Leading the way in this area is depression. Knowing the symptoms of depression is a crucial first-step. Knowing how to deal with teen depression can be life-saving.
We can only hope for a speedy solution, one that will lead to a reduction and eventual end to the bullying/teen suicide epidemic.
Unfortunately, all of our efforts will be too late for the family and friends of Lennon Baldwin. All we can do for them now is wrap our arms around them and support them as they struggle mightily to make sense of this. We can go to the facebook page set up in Lennon’s honor and leave our condolences. And, we can pray that he now finds the peace he was denied while he was here with us.
IF YOU OR SOMEONE YOU KNOW IS BEING BULLIED, SEEK HELP IMMEDIATELY!! DON’T STOP SEEKING HELP UNTIL YOU FIND SOMEONE WHO WILL LISTEN AND TAKE ACTION.
IF YOU OR SOMEONE YOU KNOW ARE SUICIDAL, PLEASE SEEK HELP IMMEDIATELY!! THERE ARE MANY, MANY RESOURCES AROUND FOR YOU.
I erroneously stated earlier in this that Lennon was an artist “as seen in this video”. The artist in the video is his friend, Andrew, who drew the picture of Lennon as a tribute. Sorry for the confusion.
On the day the movie “Bully” is released for the public to view comes the sad news out of Princeton, West Virginia of 12-year-old Dalton Lee Walker. Dalton ended his life Wednesday, March 28th, because of being bullied.
Dalton’s mother says that she had met with school officials on several occasions to discuss the problem of bullying as it pertained to her son. According to his half-sister, Dalton had been teased regularly at school, and it just became too much for him to handle.
The issue of bullying has caught national, and even international, attention. That’s a good thing. However, the problem isn’t going away. It’s not as if I’m foolish enough to think that it will disappear overnight. Of course it won’t. At the same time, I still don’t see where it’s being taken seriously enough by the people who can really make a difference for it to truly start making a difference.
In a day and age where children have instant access to the world 24/7, via Internet, bullying has become a ’round-the-clock phenomena. Potentially, at least. And, here’s the most important part of that: these young people are NOT just witnessing bullying on a personal level, from their attackers. They’re also seeing it from adults. That’s devastating on two levels:
- the kids who bully see the politicians, religious leaders, and other heralded adults doing it, and doing it in a public forum. It’s like handing a 16-year-old his Driver’s License. He’s now allowed to drive; they are, by virtue of what they are witnessing on a daily basis, allowed to bully.
- when at-risk youngsters see these public figures essentially sanctioning bullying through their own actions, it sends them the message that no one is going to give a rat’s ass about them being bullied. Jacob Rogers voiced such concerns before ending his life in December.
What’s going to make a difference, what’s really going to save these incredibly young people from ending their lives, before their lives even truly had a chance to begin, is a change in the mindset of the adults. That’s nothing new. It’s been said here before. It’s been said in other places, as well. The change is going to have to start with the adults. Parents need to stay plugged in to what’s going on with their children; school administrators need to step up their effort a few levels to prevent it, which will entail taking every case seriously; and, our nation’s “leaders” need to either change their rhetoric as to not send the message that it’s okay to hate and be intolerant, or they need to be removed from their positions.
Hatred, meanness, intolerance: these are not things we’re born with. Our innate emotion is love…and, acceptance. Beyond that, those who hate, those who are intolerant, are taught those emotions, either directly or indirectly. And, most of the time, the “teacher” is an adult.
Dalton’s bullies were not adults: they were his peers. Kids at Princeton Middle School who thought is was okay to tease and bully Dalton until he couldn’t take it anymore.
I will note here that there was no reason given for Dalton’s bullying; therefore, we cannot speculate. It doesn’t matter what he was bullied for. What matters it that he was bullied, and now he’s gone. May you now find peace, Dalton. And, to the family and friends of Dalton, we send our heartfelt condolences and love.
IF YOU OR SOMEONE YOU KNOW IS BEING BULLIED, SEEK HELP IMMEDIATELY!! DON’T STOP SEEKING HELP UNTIL YOU FIND SOMEONE WHO WILL LISTEN AND TAKE ACTION.
IF YOU OR SOMEONE YOU KNOW ARE SUICIDAL, PLEASE SEEK HELP IMMEDIATELY!! THERE ARE MANY, MANY RESOURCES AROUND FOR YOU.
As a reminder of some of the examples of extreme hatred and intolerance in recent history, it wasn’t really that long ago that a man named Hitler set out to exterminate anybody who wasn’t like himself. It wasn’t that long ago when blacks had to ride on the back of the bus, were lynched just for being black, or couldn’t even vote. I remember those days, actually.
I remember, as a very young boy, maybe 6, living in a small, backwards Virginia city called Portsmouth. This was back in the early 60s, so racism was rampant there. I was riding my bike farther away from home than I was allowed to, but I was a 6 year old boy. Since when do THEY listen!? As I went to ride across an intersection, this royal blue ’64 Ford Galaxie with a white top attempted to make a left turn. We both screeched to a halt in the middle of the intersection. The driver was a middle-aged white man with dark sunglasses. We sat there in the middle of the intersection for what seemed like an hour, to a 6 year old boy, just staring at each other. I was staring because I was 6 and didn’t know any better. In addition, he was staring at me, so I figured it was what I was supposed to do in return. However, thank God I was born with good intuition because, even at that early age, my young gut told me that this guy was dangerous. Eventually, he peeled off past me and on down the street and I continued on along my way. I saw him hang a hard right at the next intersection, and my gut told me that was not a good thing. Sure enough, as I neared the approaching corner, which had a gas station on it, there was that very same 64 royal blue Ford Galaxie 500 with the white top. My heart raced. Thank God for my young intuition! As I approached the car for a second time, the man with the menacing stare from moments ago lept from his car and lunged towards my 6 year old back with what had to be a 12″ dagger. Already sensing that he was going to try and harm me, I was able to speed past him just ahead of the blade meant to tear into my back. This man was willing to kill a 6 year old boy for no other reason than the fact that he was black!
Of course, there’s a much longer list of instances of pure hatred and narrow-minded, fear-induced intolerance.
Today, we’re in the midst of yet another struggle of right vs. wrong, good vs. evil, love vs. hate. The LGBT community’s battle for equality and acceptance is, for sure, today’s Civil Rights Movement. And, just as the case with that small 6 year old black kid in southern, racist Portsmouth, VA, there are people one “the other side” of the battle who have so much hatred and intolerance in them, they would use extreme measures rather than see us achieve simple equality. One only has to look at the level of violence against members of the LGBT community to get a sobering snapshot of just how intense this battle truly is. Watching from the sidelines are tomorrow’s LGBT community: the LGBT teens. Watching with the hope that we’ll win this war so that they will be able to simply live their lives happily, safely, and with the one they fall in love with. We can’t let them down.
A regular reader contact me recently. Inspired by the recent blog post about Daniel Zamudio, and himself a writer, he sent me a poem that needs to be shared. It fits seamlessly with the emotion of the day and with the theme of this post:
If history had gone another wayNon-whites would be second class citizensIf history went another wayJews would still be in death campsIf history went another wayGays would have been shot on sightIf history went another wayHate and fear would control the hearts of leadersSo tell me now!Tell me if you condone of such hateTell me now!If you wish this upon othersTell me now!So I can sleep at lastOr lie in my bed waiting for the nightmare of hate to become reality once moreTELL ME NOW!If you so wish to kill or harm such a personFor little more for their religionTheir raceTheir loveTELL ME NOW!So that I can have a clear path ahead of meTell me nowSo that when the time comesI know where to standTell me now.Because as I witness hate I shall not stand idle no more. Written by Devin Callan
We cannot afford to stand idle. Not now. No more. Each voice needs to be heard. Our message needs to be clear. Hitler was defeated. The Civil Rights Movement of the 50s and 60s was won by the black community. Today’s Civil Rights Movement focuses on the LGBT community. It’s a battle that can, and must, be won.
I was just asked, on my facebook blog page “why all the gay posts?” The fact of the matter is that there can’t be enough good news, “normalized” posts and stories about the LGBT community. Not at this point in time. There are far too many people, in this country and around the world, who would like nothing better than to see us disappear. Some of them would even resort to violence to achieve their goal. Such was the case with 24-year-old Daniel Zamudio of Chile.
In the early morning hours of Saturday, March 3rd, Daniel was brutally attacked by a group of neo-Nazis, ranging in age from 18-25, simply because of his sexual orientation. He sustained serious and irreversible brain damage during the attack and lied in a drug-induced coma for 3 weeks. Tuesday night, Daniel Zamudio, succumbed to his injuries.
Chilean police have the 4 men who are allegedly responsible for this heinous crime in custody. The level of hatred directed at Daniel was astonishing. Amongst other things, they carved swastikas into his flesh. Just because he was gay!!
“Why all the gay posts?” Because, madness like this must end! Because, hating someone on such a deep level, simply because of their sexuality!, that you’re willing to mutilate them is a symptom of a contagion that’s affecting the entire globe. Because, people who are LGBT deserve to live a rich, full, and happy life just as much as their non-LGBT counterparts. With so many people standing at the ready to humiliate and shame them, to discriminate against and minimize their worth as a human being, to inflict emotional and/or physical harm on them, sometimes to the point where it costs them their lives, I’m going to be on the front line every single day letting them – US!!! – know that we are second-class citizens to no one!
Daniel Zamudio’s life should not have ended the way it did. NO human being should ever have to endure that level of hatred and intolerance. Ever. Gay, straight, black, Jewish, or whatever. It is not okay with me to know that we live in a world where what I do in the privacy of my own home, with someone I love, can get me killed! It shouldn’t be okay with anyone. Yet, it happens. Worse, I live in a country where we have politicians working to pass laws that condones and encourages this level of brutality against the LGBT community. And, it will continue to happen as long as people sit on the sidelines, shake their heads, and say their dutiful “that’s terrible” or “this has to stop” rather than get involved, at some level!, in bringing about a difference.
Daniel, the world mourns you. May you rest in peace.
Back to this “Values Bus Tour”. It’s very much worth noting that one of the driving forces behind this enlightening tour is NOM, National Organization for Marriage. Weren’t they the driving force behind the attack on Ellen DeGeneres a little while back? As with all of these far-right-wing extremist groups, they are very narrow-minded, un-Godly-like mean-spirited, and bulldog-stubborn in their determination to bully the rest of the country and, to be sure, world into adhering to their beliefs. Or else!
To wit, this was brought to my attention today and, trust me on this, it’s a must-read for every single reader of this blog post. These diabolical “Christians” have a road map already laid out as to how to achieve their goal of, basically, sweeping every LGBT person deep into the closet. And, then, locking that closet door so that we never escape again. It’s THAT serious.
Here’s one excerpt from their confidential manifesto:
“The strategic goal of this project is to drive a wedge between gays and blacks—two key Democratic constituencies. Find, equip, energize and connect African American spokespeople for marriage, develop a media campaign around their objections to gay marriage as a civil right; provoke the gay marriage base into responding by denouncing these spokesmen and women as bigots…”
Well, that’s happening now. I’ve encountered, several times already, arguments from the Black community opposing my views that this is The New Civil Rights Movement, with them wanting to distance the black community from this fight. However, as an older black man, myself, I assured them from my own personal experiences that this is, indeed, exactly the same battle that was fought back in the 60s and against the same establishment. Their argument is moot.
Ever ask yourself why it’s so important to them that same-sex marriage doesn’t exist? What exactly is the “sanctity of marriage”? Is it the reality that heterosexual marriages have a divorce rate of over 50%? Is that sanctimonious? Is it one of our Republican presidential candidates openly admitting that he believes in “open” marriages and expecting his bedridden wife to be accepting of him going elsewhere for sex while she’s unable to provide it for him? Is that sanctimonious? Or, is it Kim Kardasian’s farce of a 72-hour “marriage”. THAT’S sanctimonious, for sure!! Why, exactly, is it so important for them that they’re willing to sink hundreds of thousands of dollars into a movement to eradicate same-sex marriages? More importantly, how is it that our political leaders are involved with such a movement!? Whatever happened to “…with liberty and justice for ALL”? I think that the comment posted to the facebook blog page yesterday was so on-point, it bears printing here again:
…look at your country’s history. “Enough of thinkin’ everything that you’ve done is good”, just saying (in Rufus Wainwright’s words). Here in Germany, a politician who makes homophobic remarks would have to step down the next day. We have a gay Foreign Minister and Berlin has a gay mayor. In the US, homophobes can become governors and run for president.
To understand the true impact of this level of hatred and intolerance, one only has to realize that these teens who do the bullying, especially against their LGBT peers, real or perceived, are learning from adults like these that it’s not only ok, it’s expected. Then, when you look at the level of LGBT teen suicides that are caused from the bullying, it should be easy to understand that we have a very real, deadly serious problem on our hands. The way to address it, the way to win this hard-fought battle, is to continue to increase our numbers of people who are ready and willing to stand up, make their voices heard, and make sure these evil-minded people understand that their hatred and intolerance is not acceptable. Period.
Ok, this is going to seem as if I’m stepping from under the bullying/teen suicide umbrella. However, in the grand scheme of things, it’s really not. It’s actually bullying on a much grander scale, and it’s sanctioned. And, it’s because of people like this that the LGBT teen suicide issue is on the front burner.
Pop quiz: Who is Art Pope?
Art Pope is one of the most influential political money men in North Carolina and a close national ally of the billionaire Koch brothers.
Art Pope is a North Carolinian with lots of money. And, he uses that money to fund Republican anti-gay groups around the country, including the two groups who are doing the grunt work for the North Carolina swing of this tour. I do everything in my power to keep from getting political with this blog. However, sometimes it’s impossible to avoid. First, let me say that I live with a Republican, devoutly Christian woman whom I’ve known since high school, and she is absolutely nothing like the mean-spirited, hate-filled, narrow-minded Republican “leaders” we have running for our country’s top office today or their followers. So, this is certainly not a condemnation or attack on all Republicans and/or Christians. That said, this entire lot of “contenders” is a very dangerous group of people. And, anyone who disagrees need look no further than this video. I’ve said it here before that if any of these candidates were to happen into the White House, they would plunge our country back to the 1950s. This trailer will give you a better idea of what I’m talking about.
One candidate has boldly stated during his campaign that if he wins the presidency, he will make all existing same-sex marriages illegal. Maybe it’s just me, but I think there are many, many more important things for a candidate to be obsessed with besides who loves whom. Imposing ones biased views on the nation is not part of the job description of President of the United States. I’ll stop there. This topic gets me really heated!
There was a comment left on the facebook blog page today that, I thought, was quite telling:
…look at your country’s history. “Enough of thinkin’ everything that you’ve done is good”, just saying (in Rufus Wainwright’s words). Here in Germany a politician who makes homophobic remarks would have to step down the next day. We have a gay Foreign Minister and Berlin has a gay mayor. In the US homophobes can become governors and run for president.
Wait. I thought we were supposed to be the “world leaders”!!! Enough said.
Back to Art Pope. Mr. Pope is funding what’s called the “Values Bus Tour”. It’s an anti-gay marriage campaign, really an anti-gay campaign, that started in October and is slated to go nationwide. Ok, for those of you chomping at the bit to scream First Amendment right at me, save it. I’m well aware of that. I’m not going to suggest that he needs to be stopped. His views are dead-wrong; however, He’s entitled, under our Constitution, to his views. And, whether I agree with them or not, he’s also entitled, under our Constitution, to voice his opinion. I get that. However, under that same Constitution, I get to voice my opinion:
These are extremely dangerous people. In fact, they are extremists. To be sure, one of the Republican presidential candidates is PART of this “Values Bus Tour”. AND, HE WANTS TO LEAD OUR COUNTRY!!! It is my opinion that it’s totally okay to have your differences. However, for a person, or a group of people, to not only believe that their opinion is THE ONLY opinion that matters but try to shove THEIR opinions down a whole nation’s throat is beyond reprehensible. To spew hatred in the name of God will get you a ticket to Hell much faster than my being gay will get me there. And, to that end, in accordance to the Bible that these maniacs love to wave in everyone’s faces, only God can judge me. Therefore, if by chance you’re right that I’ll go to Hell for being gay (and, you’re NOT!), it’s NOT your place to condemn me there. That is between me and God. Worry about your own eternity. I’ll stop there.
One of their members had this to say about LGBT teen suicide:
…gay teens kill themselves because they know that they’re “abnormal”.
Worse, he does “fundraising around the idea that gay kids are immoral and telling them otherwise is ‘disgusting’.” Oh, and did I mention that they take their message of hate to Christian high schools? What feeds the bullying that we’re seeing in schools against LGBT, or even suspected LGBT teens? Hatred and intolerance. And, where are they learning that from? Keep in mind that one of the members of this group of extremists is running for the Presidency of the United States!
My whole issue, and I point I’ve raised before, is that we need to a.) keep increasing in numbers…and conviction; and, b.) speak up and be heard. Every single voice is important. If you look at the comments on the blog about the “Values Bus Tour”, it becomes obvious that there really ARE people in this country who agree with this type of backwards, narrow-minded thinking. For the record, though, there were real people, back in the 60s, who vehemently opposed the Civil Rights movement, then, as well. However, the people who opposed the oppression continued, undaunted by the oppressors. It was a hard-fought battle. Lives were lost. But, in the end, it was worth it. Well, the struggle continues. The battle line is drawn. To win this fight, and I wholeheartedly believe we will, we need voices, voices, and more voices. We need people who are not afraid to stand up for what is right.
Lastly, if there’s any question as to how all of this connects to LGBT teen suicides, I’ll simply say two words: Anoka-Hennepin.
When I wrote about Sophie Miriam Herold’s hateful rantings yesterday, “Spreading Hate”, the last thing I said was for everyone to send her an email “…to cheer her up.” You may remember that Sophie was the one who said that “homosexuality is abnormal and disgusting.” Well, how many of you sent her an email? Were you kind and loving in your message? Or, did “lay into her” in response to her amazing level of…whatever you want to call that rant? Well, here’s what I’ve learned about Sophie:
- First of all, this isn’t something new she’s started doing. One comment to another anti-gay rant of hers is from a year ago. Therefore, it’s safe to assume that she’s been doing this for at least that long.
- In reading what she posted, that received the response a year ago, I was reminded of an old truism I heard decades aga: The opposite of love is fear. This will come as a surprise to some people, but Sophie’s “anger” is a manifestation of fear. She’s afraid of her own feelings. See, Sophie denies herself her true feelings that she has for someone of the same sex. Or, as we like to call it, lesbian.
Why do I think that Sophie is a lesbian? She can say it better than I can, in her own words:
I know what I’m talking about, I have had feelings for the same sex a while ago. These feelings were different to anything I’ve ever felt before. When this person was around me, I felt safe, relaxed, comfortable.
I’m not sure if you know that feeling, it’s…you’re totally calm, you don’t feel the need to prove yourself to the other person, you always find something to talk about and, most importantly, there is a sort of ‘basic agreement’ between
the two of you what means that you don’t need many words to communicate with the other person, and when there is silence between the two of you, it’s not an awkward silence, it’s a feeling of being understood.
I could have done what you did: just go for my feelings for the same sex. But I didn’t. I cut off contact to this person completely, I even moved to another city and denied all attempts of contacting me.
I mean it was hard, in fact I’m still thinking about this person, almost every day since six months, but I bear with it. You just have to do something in order to distract yourself, you know? Then it works. Not every day, but most the days.
This is an excerpt from one of her “anonymous” emails she sent to someone, apparently a year or so ago. Reading the whole thing is very revealing, indeed.
What this says, in my opinion, in an attempt to suppress her own lesbianism and, worse, play her “gender role”. At 21, she’s accepted that she has to “do what society expects..or suffer the consequences.” To me, that’s sad. Somewhere along the way, someone has beaten her self-esteem down so badly to a point where she doesn’t feel she deserves to be happy, that she’s put on this planet for one purpose, and one purpose only: to perform her gender role as expected of her from society. Personal happiness be damned. Clearly, she’d found love, possibly even the love of her life. And, to paraphrase her words, “all was right in the world.” However, she denied herself that happiness. Her “gender role” is more important. Now, rather than being happy with herself and with the girl her heart chose for her, she lives in fear. She’s fearful that she’ll never find that true connection again. Sure, she’ll find some guy to perform her gender role for, and she might even force herself into believing that she loves him. The truth will always be the truth, though. And, the truth, her truth!, is that she’s denying herself of the love every human soul craves. She found it. But, she moved away from it.
Now, that fear has turned into anger. Anger at herself for not being true to herself; anger at a society that imposes its beliefs on individual, personal lives; anger at the LGBT community for doing what she’s, so far, been incapable of: loving ourselves and embracing the real love we deserve. And, that fear has now manifested itself as hatred. Make no mistake, that’s self-hatred we’re reading. Self-hatred that was born of fear. Sophie writes:
What if all the people in this world just go for their feelings, for what makes them happy? The world would turn into chaos! You have no right to ‘simplify’ your life by being gay.