by Randolph T. Holhut
Chief of AR Correspondents
October 17, 2010
KILLING DEMOCRACY, ONE DOLLAR AT A TIME
DUMMERSTON, Vt. -- Young violinist Tyler Clementi is on the cover of People Magazine. But he doesn't know it. He jumped off the George Washington Bridge on September 22.
In a political year we expect a certain amount of mean. But I'm not alone, am I, in feeling that a full bucket of hate has been poured over my head and toads and snakes are crawling in my hair?
It might start with the idiot Ohio Tea Bagger Republican running for the U. S. House of Representatives who claims his Nazi Waffen SS uniform is for "education purposes" and that he's "pro-Jewish."
But it really picks up steam with the number of gay kids who have reportedly killed themselves in the past few months.
For me, it's incomprehensible that two college kids would video a friend having sex and stream it on the Internet - whether he was having sex with a man, a woman or himself.
It's such an violation of trust and respect that I have a hard time imagining it. Yet two Rutgers college kids, a guy and a girl, did just that, and we lost the 18-year-old Clementi a few days later.
The only thing the two "friends" can be charged with is invasion of privacy. And, according to the courts, there is no such right.
At least six other gay teens have killed themselves recently. "I would say they were slaughtered by societal homophobia," said Malcolm Lazin, executive director of the Equality Forum, a national and international GLBT civil rights organization.
Others just call it "murder."
As far back as 1996, USA Today called homophobia a "health hazard." Like "Don't ask, don't tell" and the fight over gay marriage, it's old news. Chances are, it's just being reported and discussed more today.
Who do we blame for all this pain? For one thing, look to the "Do Unto Others" crowd.
This week, the U.S. Supreme Court is trying to decide if Fred Phelps and his Westboro Baptist Church protesters, now nationally infamous for waving hateful signs at military funerals, have a right to hateful action under the tenant of free speech.
Also this week, it was reported that four Staten Island high school students have been arrested and charged with aggravated harassment for the yearlong abuse of a Muslim classmate.
And then there was the nut job preacher in Florida who called for people around the world to set fire to copies of the Koran because he thought a Muslim "temple" was being planned too close to the empty space where the World Trade Towers once were.
But he lived in Florida, so he didn't know that a) it was going to be a Muslim community center and b) the neighborhood was already full of pizza parlors and strip joints, so calling it "holy" seemed inappropriate. And the eager press rushed to publicize his every ignorant utterance.
So much for "Love thy neighbor as thyself."
Where do kids learn to hate? Well, we know from Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein that "You've got to be taught before it's too late/Before you are six or seven or eight/To hate all the people your relatives hate/You've got to be carefully taught."
What's happening? Wasn't this a nation that once believed, "One nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all."
How can I help but feel that the fabric of our society is being torn to pieces for the individual gain of a number of tiny tinpot dictators - political maneuverers, billionaires, preachers, corporate greedheads, media stars - all with their own egos and agendas?
An ancient Greek orator named Isocrates (quoted in a Vanity Fair article about the Greek financial crisis) seems to have hit the nail on the head when he said: "Democracy destroys itself because it abuses its right to freedom and equality. Because it teaches its citizens to consider audacity as a right, lawlessness as a freedom, abrasive speech as equality, and anarchy as progress."
It is entirely possible that buried within the treasured ideal of democracy are the seeds of its own destruction. That this destruction is as inevitable as reality television. That we are powerless to stop American society as it sinks into the abyss.
All we can ask is, "How low can it go?" And the answer appears to be that the pit is bottomless.
Joyce Marcel (joycemarcel.com) is a journalist and columnist. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.