Will It Get Better?

This week I had intended to talk about something else but sometimes life gets in the way.

This week an American soldier got booed and scorned publicly at a political debate for asking a question.

This week yet another young person – in this case a 14 year old boy in Buffalo, New York – killed himself because he could no longer take the relentless bullying he endured at both his school and from his online community.

This week I publicly acknowledge – both of these events are connected because both of these young men (certainly compared to me they’re young) are (in the case of the 14 year old it’s “were”) gay.

Stephen & Jamey

This week I thought about a famous quote:  “People get the governments they deserve.” (FYI, it’s been attributed to everyone from French philosopher Alexis deTocqueville to 60s Gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson and is usually intended to those of us lucky enough to live in a democracy).

This week I decided that what is important is not who said it (or any variation of it) and in what context, but rather

  1.  Is it true?  – and –
  2. Can it be applied to other areas in life?

This week I decided – the answer is – “yes.”  To both 1. and 2.

This week there are two clips I must ask you to watch and listen to.

The first is from Anderson Cooper and centers on the 14 year-old Buffalo boy, Jamey Rodemeyer.  It features footage of Jamey doing an “It Gets Better” you tube video just four months ago to encourage other gay youth to stick it out and not feel bad about themselves.  It also features footage from a right wing evangelical Christian leader proclaiming that a. bullying is merely part of growing up, and b. the opinion of a current member of the U.S. House of Representatives noting the “gay problem” and the legitimizing of this group in mainstream society is a more serious problem in this country than terrorism.  [On the latter point, I couldn’t help but think of this as the “Jewish problem” many Germans talked about pre-World War II and wondered if this Congressperson (her name is Sally Kern) was pondering some similar “Final Solution” to take care of what she sees as our current problem.  She needn’t worry in the case of Jamey – he found said solution without her.]

Watch the entire video here

The second is a short clip from the Wednesday night Republican candidates debate when Stephen Hill, a young soldier who, thanks to the recent overturn of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” respectfully by Skype (or maybe it was on a pre-tape) came out as gay and instantly gets booed.  He soldiers on (as our men and women in uniform do) and asked the candidates across the board whether they would reinstate said policy.  Needless to say, Sgt. (or Soldier?) Hill did not receive the public support or even answer he had hoped for.

And the second video here.

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This week I was reminded of something I’ve known for a long time but sometimes choose to forget because I have a pretty good life free of this insanity – the booing of this soldier, who is far more brave than I will ever be, and the fact that not one candidate on that stage spoke up to chastise the audience for booing a man of uniform in a time of war, is undeniably connected to the toxic atmosphere that pushed young Jamey to his death and will push other young Jameys to the same fate in the coming months and years.

Can we do better?

This week I acknowledge that it’s a lot more fun and entertaining to talk about film and television and why they’re great or why they suck and what this says about us as a society and how artists can make a difference in the world.

And how you can be a great artist.

And how you can fight all the self-doubt.

And how we all have a lot more in common on that score than we are all willing to admit.

And how, as a wise person who at one point I didn’t particularly like but then actually grew to like very much told a group of people I was in from all economic backgrounds and from all over the country that — “you’re more alike than you’re different.”

This week I’m particularly thinking about this last quote and wondering whether it is really true.  Because unless I’m mistaken, it’s not unreasonable to think that Sally Kern and her kind don’t feel this way at all and, in fact, are looking at their own “solution” to some of what (or whom) they consider society’s problems.

This week I’m considering whether I bear at least part of the responsibility for not speaking up (and doing) more when something like this happens.

As some of you have been nice enough to say – I do talk a good game.   But this week I have decided to take whatever brains, talent and cleverness I have (limited though it might sometimes be) to work on a new project that will try to change things in a more active way.  (More on that at some future date).

This week I’m hoping that – in whatever small, big or in-between way you can see fit – that you can take some small or larger action and try to do the same.  Because in no way, shape or form do I think or believe this week represents who we are.  Or – what we deserve.