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Archive for the ‘Homophobia’ Category

“They” said that Jack Kennedy could never be elected President of the United States because he was a Roman Catholic.

“They” said that Madeleine Albright would never be confirmed as the first woman to hold the position of Secretary of State.

“They” said that a Black man would never be elected to the highest office in the United States Government.

“They” sort of screwed up, didn’t “they?”

The Governor of Indiana, Mike Pence, says that he is against discrimination of any kind and yet, he signed into law the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) which the proponents of the act maintain is exactly the intent of the law.

“They,” in this case the Indiana legislature didn’t screw up; they screwed the Governor…and he’s a member of their own party. While he is now trying to backpedal on what he signed, the conservative Republicans in his state are going, “Yeah, baby, now we can nail those damned ‘queers,’ faggots,’ ‘lesbian bitches,’ etcetera, ad nauseum, and get ‘em to  hell out of our beautiful state.” This, my friends, is an absolutely perfect example of American bigotry. “Who are these bigots?” you ask. Well, let’s start with Micah Clark, executive director of the American Family Association of Indiana. According to one source, “Clark has been publicly advocating for the bill as a means for allowing anti-LGBT discrimination since December, long before the legislation was even drafted. This directly contradicts the claims made Monday by House Speaker Brian Bosma (R) and Senate President Pro Tem David Long (R) that the legislation never had anything to do with discrimination.”

Are “they” doing the same thing in other states? Well, yes and no. Nineteen other states have similar laws but none go as far as the RFRA in Indiana goes. My question is a simple one when it comes to all of these acts: “What ever happened to the concept of “separation of church and state.” The states won’t interfere with religion and religion won’t interfere with the state. The laws that have now been passed in 20 states – and Arkansas may become number 21 – are nothing more than the last gasp of anti-LGBT politicians who are unwilling to attack real problems and have to satisfy themselves by going after a minority group. Can you say, “Raus Juden..unt off to the camps!” These are the signs of a fading empire.

Will “they” convince the US Congress to take a hard look at the bill that President Clinton signed in 1993 and attempt to rewrite that to include this anti-gay verbiage? There are enough crazy conservatives in both Houses now that it wouldn’t surprise me in the least. We are being laughed at world-wide for our stupidity and this whole Religious Freedom Restoration Act is merely adding fuel to the fire of laughter that can be heard in the camps of both our friends and our enemies.

Meanwhile, America has sent its Secretary of State to Switzerland to try to work out a deal with Iran not to proceed with making nuclear weapons. Secretary Kerry is a very intelligent man; however, he could better be using his time training for the Pan Mass Challenge which he has ridden “religiously” (oops, bad word) for a number of years or sitting in his house in Louisburg Square watching the Final Four. Attempting to negotiate anything with a Middle Eastern country – Israel included – is like trying to argue with a five-year-old screaming child…you will not; you cannot win, whether by reason or force, because they are not listening. They will do what they want to do and you cannot stop them. Sanctions mean nothing to them. “They” are sitting on the other side of the negotiating table attempting to keep from bursting out laughing at your ridiculous posturing. Would Iran like to be a player on the world’s economic stage? Sure, but it doesn’t matter; they’ll get there. They’ll play the little game that the Americans’ want them to play while back home they’re moving ahead with everything they want to do. Middle Easterners have very, very long memories. They have been around far longer than America. It may take a little more time – maybe a Century or three or four – but they’ll get what they want. Meanwhile, they’ll just sit back and watch the further decline of America as a world force because we’re too stupid to recognize the games they play. Come on home, Mr. Secretary; you’re wasting your time. Come on home and see what can be done in our own country, because at the rate we’re going and the people we have in positions of political and industrial power, we are in one hell of a lot of trouble.

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It would appear that no matter how hard we try; how forcefully we put forth, pronounce, write laws, and scream from the rooftops, there are just certain occasions when “You can’t fix stupid.” The latest example of that is epitomized by the homophobes who wish to tell gay people how or even if they can march in parades that are privately organized. Constitutionally, I guess they have the right to exclude any group from any activity that is privately funded, which just goes to show you that there are still people who are living in the 20th Century and who don’t want to be concerned about moving forward in their thinking. Put another way…you just can’t fix stupid.

The celebration of St. Patrick’s Day, according to some, is the celebration of Irish heritage. However, from what I can determine, it’s more a celebration of Irish Roman Catholic pride. For example, no one is allowed to march if they are marching for a cause. This includes pro-life Irish Catholics or anyone who does not subscribe fully to the teachings of the Holy Roman Catholic Church. In other words, if you don’t bow down to the Vatican, you can’t be in a parade. Perhaps these should be called “Hypocrites Parades.” They are parades of exclusivity rather than inclusivity, and in today’s world, that sends the wrong message to a great many people. I suppose that if you’re not Catholic but 100 percent Irish, they might allow you in the parade, but only if you’re draped in a loin cloth and nailed to a Celtic cross!

These people who are picking and choosing who is allowed to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in Boston, New York, Cincinnati, Chicago, and heaven only knows how many other places are stupid. According to Timothy Meagher, a history professor at Catholic University in Washington, D.C., “The parades are a statement of showing our colors, showing our numbers, showing that we are powerful and important.” Meagher added that St. Patrick’s Day in the United States was first celebrated with banquets at elite clubs in Boston, Philadelphia, New York, Charleston, South Carolina, and Savannah, Georgia. This year, the Boston St. Patrick’s Day Breakfast should drive many of the bigots’ wild. It will be hosted by State Senator Linda Dorcena Forry, a Haitian American who numbers, among others, South Boston in her constituent base, and it is tradition that the Senator from Southie has hosted the breakfast. Some have suggested that because she’s married to an Irishman (oy vey!) that it will be okay for her to serve as emcee.

Boston’s history of bigotry is really blight on the City. When segregation was mandated decades ago, Boston resisted about as harshly as George Wallace in Alabama did to allowing Blacks to attending college in ‘his’ state. One of my own kids is married to a man whose mother was proud of the fact that her picture was in a sociology book, shown protesting integration. Bless her soul, she has now gone to meet her maker, but bragging about that time in her life always shocked me.

We are better than all of these disputes. Yes, some of us are Irish, but not Roman Catholic. One of the early churches in the Boston area was an Irish Presbyterian Church. What people in this country seem to forget is that our ethnicity is secondary to our heritage. We are Americans. When we travel, we don’t identify ourselves as Poles or Jews, Italians or Irish, Lithuanians or Armenians; we are Americans. That’s how we describe ourselves and that’s how others think of us. Sure, be proud of your ethnic heritage, but don’t use it as a crutch to discriminate against those who aren’t exactly what you want them to be, particularly in your own country. Our doors have always been open to people from many lands. We laud the customs and culture they bring to our shores. Let us celebrate the diversity, not only of ethnicity but of other beliefs that are different from our own.

One of the things that I truly enjoy about St. Patrick’s Day – other than the corned beef and cabbage and the Irish stew – is the knowledge that all of these Irish men and women are actually celebrating a day that was given to them by an Englishman who was born in what today may be part of Scotland. That’s right; for those who haven’t heard the story, it goes like this:  St. Patrick was originally named Maewyn Succat, son of a rather well-to-do family. At the age of 16, he was captured by Irish raiders and taken as a slave back to Ireland or, as it was called in those days, Hibernia. Slavery was a little different then; no jail cells or chains. He was assigned to tend sheep in the fields and on the mountainsides. “… every day I had to tend sheep, and many times a day I prayed — the love of God and His fear came to me more and more, and my faith was strengthened. And my spirit was moved so that in a single day I would say as many as a hundred prayers and almost as many in the night, and this even when I was staying in the woods and on the mountains; … and I felt no harm, and there was no sloth in me — as now I see, because the spirit within me was fervent”. After six years, it is said that he was spoken to by God and told to leave Ireland. He did and become a priest, taking the name Patricus or Patrick. He did not bring Christianity to Ireland but was sent there to assist the Christian population and to bring Christianity to the largely Pagan population. Eventually, he became the patron saint of what we know as Ireland. During his lifetime, it is said that he baptized tens of thousands into Christianity. We don’t really know if he used the shamrock as a tool to teach The Trinity, but it makes a good story. In addition, there is no evidence that he drove the snakes out of Ireland, largely because there never were any snakes in Ireland…other than those in one or more of the many pubs that dot each village. “The old saint died in his beloved Ireland on March 17th, 460 A.D. The land that once enslaved him had now been set free.”1

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  1. Much of this paragraph has been drawn from many sources. Where quotation marks were necessary, they have been placed. Other historical references have been paraphrased. The story of St. Patrick is drawn largely from his Confession, written during his life and capturing his own version of what actually happened. Remember, this was one long, long time ago, almost before I was born.

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“I used to read your blog, but then you got boring…but I’m back now.”

Boring? Me, boring? Moi?

Damn straight, Skippy, and don’t you forget it.

The reader who sent me that comment was absolutely correct, and I thank him or her for doing so. There’s no question that there are plenty of times I climb up on the soapbox and pontificate about this happening or that. In so doing, I get diarrhea of the mouth compounded by mental constipation. The result is what can often be found on this blog. I think I may have said this before, but let me reiterate that I really don’t write for any reason other than to get people like that reader quoted above to react; good, bad, or indifferent, I don’t care.  If someone reads something I’ve written and thinks I’m mistaken in my view, I want them to come back at me with an opposing view. If the man or woman can back it up with research, I’ll even print the response on the blog.

Right now, for example, I’m somewhat irritated with the President of the United States and his minions. The problem is that I haven’t read the Affordable Care Act in its entirety so I’m on shaky ground when I begin to criticize it. First, it was late being rolled out; part of the reason for that was that the House of Representatives kept trying to get it repealed – Forty-one freaking times they’ve tried – but it was still rolled out to the public…late. Not only late, but people couldn’t get on the web site to sign up. The company that built the web site screwed it up…badly. Therefore, why was it rolled out? Why didn’t the President, as chief honcho of this bill, have the balls to come right out and say, “We’ve got some problems here, and we’re going to hold off on this thing until we get those problems resolved?” That would have been the transparent thing to do. There is no shame or embarrassment in saying that you moved to quickly in an attempt to bring a health plan to the public – “which seven of my predecessors were unable to do” – and that you, as Prexy, are going to have a bipartisan committee review portions of the Law – note upper case – because it is a Law, passed by Congress and signed by the President, before putting it before the public.

There is no question in my mind that people like Rand Paul, Eric Kantor, Ted Cruz, and some of the other Tea Party Crazies – that’s how I’ve come to describe them; even capitalizing the last word – will look on this as a significant victory, but we all know they’re so full of crap that when they breathe, they smell like great granddaddy’s outhouse, so who cares about them. And some members of his own party will have harsh words about the President’s inability to stand his ground, but frankly, that’s bullshit!

In its current format, the Affordable Care Act is a bad law. It hurts people. In some cases, people can’t even keep their own doctor…after having been told by their leader that this would not be the case.  In other cases, people are going to have to choose between food and medical insurance after having been told that the insurance would be “Affordable.” In other cases, people can’t get the care they need because the hospital that can give that care is “outside of their circle.” Listen to the American people, Mr. President. This act that you signed into law is not good. There is not one person in this country who wouldn’t agree with you that the nation is in need of a national insurance plan. In addition, what works here in Massachusetts, may very well not work in Mississippi, Minnesota, or New Mexico. Personally, I believe you would have been wiser to demand the governors of the fifty states to present plans for their states to a Federal health agency for approval. At the point of approval, the plans could be launched with the backing of some federal dollars, raised by a national sales tax of one or two percent on everything from dog food to diapers and allocated by population density. Plans from one state would be honored by those of other states. Don’t worry, abuses would soon be noticed.

Mr. President, you and I both know that the health care needs of the people in West Virginia are not the same as those in the people of Colorado. I’m not into making invidious comparisons, but attempting a national health care law seems to me like make a one-size-fits-all shoe. Yes, we are fifty states that are united, but in health care? I have no idea what governors do at a governor’s conference, but when the issue of health care became so important, it seems that the governors should have recognized the problem, taken their heads out of their butts, and gotten busy. There’s no question there would have been some ‘foot-draggers,’ but that’s where the federal government could have stepped in and provided a little incentive to get things going, e.g., no more federal funding for a governor’s pet project. Certainly, this wouldn’t have been a feather in any President’s cap, but spinning a story is done every day in Washington; what’s one more?

You, Mr. President, and many members of your inner circle, will say, “It’s too late. It’s the law of the land and we will stand our ground and work this thing out.” That’s all well and good, but you know damn right well that the next Republican president is going to try his/her damndest to repeal that law…and they will succeed.

These things I know: In 2016, the country will have a new leader. I will be 82 years old. Tom Brady will still be the quarterback of the New England Patriots and LeBron James will still be leading the Miami Heat to NBA titles. Gay marriage will still be the issue it is today although many of the homophobes will have gone quietly away. America will still be at war somewhere, but we won’t call it a war, and caskets of young men and women will still be landing at Andrews, mothers, dads, and siblings will be there with moist eyes, but whoever is the new leader will find some excuse for continue the slaughter. The NRA will still be saying that guns don’t kill people, but there will be more shootings at schools and colleges and nothing will be done. We still won’t be free of our dependence on fossil fuel and cancer will not have found a cure-all.

These are the things I know. What I do not know would fill the Smithsonian a thousand times over. What I’d like to know is if our current President has the courage to say, “This isn’t working, but I’m going to make damned certain that before I leave office, each state in this Union will have health care for all of its citizens supported by both state and federal funds.” Isn’t that worth a try?

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The fact that there is a great deal of pissing and moaning over the remarks made by Phil Robertson in GQ Magazine is not necessarily a bad thing. In his comments to People Magazine, he is quoted as saying, “I will not give or back off from my path.” That sounds like a man with the courage of his convictions, and no matter what the Arts & Entertainment network might feel, courage and conviction are two things that this country has been sadly lacking for the past decade or so.

 

Robertson believes what he believes. The backlash toward A&E would appear to indicate that there are a helluva lot of people who might darn well feel the same way or, at the very least, believe that the man has the right to free speech under the first amendment to the Constitution of the United States. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” Obviously, yelling, “Fire” in a theatre is not free speech because it infringes on the rights of those in the theatre. If this ‘free speech’ liable or slanders another party, that is an infringement on their rights. In these and other cases, freedom steps aside and prosecution steps in to take control.

 

Whose rights did Robertson trample? I’m not so certain that he did anything except to express his own personal beliefs. This is how he views the world and he’s willing to stand by his views. There are so few people today who, if put into a situation such as he was, would answer so honestly and candidly. Take any member of the Congress of the United States. If anyone of them were to be asked, “Do you believe that homosexuality is a sin that will preclude those practicing it from getting in to Heaven,” they would hem and haw and you know you would never get a straight answer. If President Obama was asked, “Do you believe that the Affordable Care Act is the proper document for all Americans?” do you honestly believe you would get anything but gobbledygook? Of course not.

 

President Harry Truman was a straight talking person, often called a son-of-a-bitch because of his no nonsense honesty. The same could be said of General George Patton, as well as Osama bin Laden. “What, are you nuts?” you ask. No, bin Laden spent his life trying to destroy America; he made no bones about this; he was focused, and when he spoke out, his words were to the effect that he wanted to destroy America. He didn’t equivocate; he did not give long and convoluted speeches. He knew where he stood and he made damn certain that we knew where he stood. We finally realized that his continued efforts were not in the best interest of America and therefore, he was dispatched. Some say he was martyred. I prefer to think of it as eliminating a potential danger to the citizens of the United States. The unfortunate thing is that too many of his disciples are not committed in the same manner that Obama was. Too many of them are not jihadists but just out and out murders wearing the disguise of jihad.

 

Truthfully, I don’t watch Duck Dynasty. It’s just not a program in which I have an interest…until now. I may have to start watching it to get a genuine conservative view. Robertson’s comments to Bible study group recently were fascinating: “…over the last 2000 years, “the sins are the same” and “humans haven’t changed. We get high, we get drunk, we get laid, we steal and kill,” he stated. “Has this changed at all from the time God burnt up whole cities because their every thought was evil?” The man makes a damned good point. If there is one person out there who has not broken at least one of the Ten Commandments at some time in his or her life, I want to meet them. People lie, cheat, and steal. Others take the name of the Lord in vain; still others covet their neighbor’s wife, and sometimes commit adultery. Ask a 13 or 14 year old what he thinks of his parents and he or she will tell you their ‘dorks’ or something worse; seems to me that a commandment just went out the window on that one.

In church, we’re told to obey the commandments of God. We’re told to lead good lives; to love thy neighbor as thyself. All of the things we’re told will get us into heaven. How do we know that? How do the priests, ministers, rabbis, and imams know this? Have they been there? Have they talked to God? I don’t mean to be heretical here, but please, don’t be so hypocritical as to pretend to know the entrance into Heaven. Sure, I could be wrong…but what if I’m not. What if there is no right or wrong way to enter into Heaven? What if the sinner who did one good thing in his or her life is just as welcome as the person who lived just a mundane life of doing no good or no bad?

I believe Phil Robertson has opened a few eyes. I believe his honesty, while perhaps shocking, is also refreshing. He has said exactly what he believes, broken now laws by doing so, offended the hell out of a large group of people, but he sure didn’t beat around the bush!

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“I would like nothing better than to see you die …..”

“However, this is the time to begin the healing process. To show mercy to someone who refused to show mercy.”

Dennis Shepard spoke those words in a Wyoming courtroom several years ago. He spoke them to one of the killers of his 21-year old son; a killer who, joined by his fellow bully, had beaten and tortured Matthew Shepard, tied him to a fence and left him to die, naked, in the freezing cold.

What kinds of people do this? How deep is their hatred of someone with an alternative lifestyle that they believe killing them…and not just killing, but torturing them to death…is the only answer? Is it possible that they believe they are doing something good to prevent the rest of the world from being exposed to those who don’t think as they do? Can they consider themselves ‘good guy’ vigilantes? I rather doubt it. My personal belief is that they are cowards. They are afraid of anything that is new; that is the opposite of what they were taught at home. That’s right, taught at home. Hatred is taught; it is learned behavior. They certainly don’t teach it at school. “Queers must be killed” is not part of the first grade writing curriculum, nor is it found in Dick and Jane. Therefore, where else do we learn?

The concept of aggressive and bullying behavior begins in the first two years of a child’s life. It seems awfully young, doesn’t it? However, it’s true; if there is an environment that fosters violence, the child absorbs it. The next three or four years are spent refining it, so that by the time, the child is off to school, it is acceptable to take what you want and to kick the crap out of those who don’t wish to give up what you want. Bullies don’t have to be big; they just have to want what another child has and be willing to take it. Once they learn they can do such a thing, they will do it until they are stopped.

While we normally think of “the school bully,” there is some evidence to show that those who were either bullied or were bullies in their youth are more likely to be involved in domestic violence situations when they reach adulthood. One research report concludes that, without intervention, bullies identified by age eight are six times more likely to be convicted of a crime by the age of 24 and five times more likely than non-bullies to end up with serious criminal records by the age of 30.

If you are as concerned as I have been about the problem of bullying in this country, continue on; if not, stop reading and go back to what you were doing.

When I was giving bullying workshops, I used to break the audience into teams and give them a case study on which to work…here’s yours:

The following case contains language that might not be considered appropriate for all readers. The author makes no apology for this, and in an attempt to make this case as realistic as possible, the language will remain. Bullying is a worldwide problem. It has been defined as “repeated systematic attacks perpetrated by groups or individuals.” Anyone who has ever been the victim might not be so charitable with his or her definition.

Nathan Barnes was nothing special; just a good-looking 14-year old boy of somewhat above average intelligence. His home life was great, with a loving mother and dad…almost too loving, Nathan might have told you. He never, ever wanted them to know anything negative, and he’d go to great lengths to ensure that they weren’t aware of his little “secret.” He liked riding his bike to school everyday, feeling the wind on his face and seeing the beauty all around him. He enjoyed science and math; was fairly good in English and the social sciences, but absolutely couldn’t stand physical education. Nathan wasn’t strong physically, had little interest in organized athletics or games in which physical domination was the key to success. He felt that his mind was his weapon. Unfortunately, at 14, others didn’t quite see it that way. You see, Nathan Barnes was the victim of bullies.

It had always been easy for bigger kids, tougher kids, kids looking to “make a name,” to do it by abusing Nathan Barnes. Pushing him around, taunting him with names, playing practical jokes on him, and even taking his personal possessions became sport for the bullies. Nathan wouldn’t tell. Nathan was “chicken.” Nathan was a wimp, a nerd, a whatever-the-popular-derogatory-term-du-jour happened to be for that school year. Nathan was terrified. Although he liked them, Nathan had trouble in his relationship with the opposite sex. Girls found that going out with “the Barnes kid” was an invitation to be the center of controversy at some Mall encounter when the bullies might find them together. Nathan either wouldn’t or couldn’t defend himself so how could a girl expect him to defend her? As a consequence, several of the girls his age also took up the taunting.

Near the end of his 13th year, Nathan happened on what he hoped was a cure; he developed stomachaches. They kept him home from school on days that he had physical education or, when that began to become obvious, he developed them shortly before gym and would go to see the school nurse, Miss Caruso, asking to be excused. She was pretty good about it, too, usually, not always but usually, buying his psychosomatic illness.

This time, it hadn’t worked. Miss Caruso wasn’t buying. “Nathan, this is the fifth time this month you’ve been in here. You say that your parents want you to go to the doctor,” she added, “but you haven’t. I ask you to bring a note from your parents, telling me what’s going on, and you don’t. I’m sorry, Nathan, you will go to gym today.”

And he had gone. He’d gone and gotten tortured, first by Coach Ryan, not only the head football coach, but the physical education instructor as well. “Don’t know what we’re gonna do with you, Barnes,” he’d said. “Even my 10-year old daughter can climb ropes better ‘n you.” Ryan’s pet, football captain, Billy Johnson, had picked right up on it. “Yeah, c’mon wimp; up the ropes; what a freakin’ girl you are…c’mon needledick.” The humiliation was bad enough, but after gym, when Johnson was telling others who hadn’t been there…well, that was that. Mary Arnold and the other cheerleaders had been merciless in their harassment. It hurt; it really hurt. He’d show them. He’d show them all. They’d be sorry.

They found Nathan two days later…in the old cabin in the woods…about two miles from the school. His book bag was on the three-legged table in the corner. The chair he had stood on was kicked off to one side. He’d left his bike in the corner, near the hot water heater. Although his hands were untied, it appeared that he made no attempt to free himself when the rope tightened. Nathan Barnes was 14 years old. Nathan Barnes had been driven to kill himself by bullies.

The Parents

Nick and Katherine Barnes couldn’t say why Nathan had killed himself. They thought they knew their son. They knew him to be a “great kid,” with a happy home life. “His room was always picked up. I never had to say a word about it to him,” Katherine told the doctor. “He was just a joy to be around.” Katherine went on to add that Nathan had been a good student…but that she had noticed lately that he didn’t seem to have much interest in school. “He seemed to be getting a lot of stomach aches that would keep him home from school,” she said, “but I thought maybe he was just eating…oh, I don’t know what I thought.”

With Nick, it was pretty much the same. “Oh, sure, there were times when I had to tell him that the lawn was getting kinda long, but you know, the kid would jump right on it.” He was great that way.” School? Yeah, yeah, I guess he liked school. I mean, he wasn’t into sports the way I was – you know, three years all-state cornerback – but hey, we all do our own thing.”

The Classmates

 At school, Nathan’s “friends” told an entirely different story. “What a fuckin’ wimp,” Billy Johnson, the football co-captain said. “The kid was always wimpin’ outta gym ‘n stuff. If it was somethin’ physical, Barnes didn’t want it. We took to calling him ‘needledick’ because he’d never go in the shower. Some of the guys liked, you know, liked to shove him around a bit. We thought he could take it, ya know?”

Mary Arnold’s story was not much different. “He really didn’t know how to behave around girls, like, ya know,” she said. “I mean, he couldn’t really make a conversation…and, well, he just wasn’t with it, ya know.” Other classmates disagreed. Paula Anderson said, “I liked Nathan. He was kinda quiet, but he was really nice, considerate. We went to The Mall together a few times and just hung out. We weren’t goin’ together, ya know, but I kinda liked him. This really sucks.”

“Nathan wasn’t a wimp,” Tommy Baron told us. “Anyone who said that doesn’t – I mean, didn’t – know Nathan. I’ll bet it was one of the jocks told you that. They think they’re such studs. They tried that shit with me til I got one of ‘em alone. They never did anything to me again. Nathan wouldn’t be like that, though. Nathan didn’t want to hurt anybody; he just wanted to be left alone or be your friend. They couldn’t understand that.”

Nathan Barnes, “boy wimp,” wasn’t “with it,” “really nice,” “just wanted to be left alone.”  The tormenting of his classmates, perhaps not measuring up to his father, and too intimidated or terrified to ever mention his concerns to anyone…Nathan Barnes took what he considered the path of least resistance. He ended his life.

The Faculty

“Nathan was a good kid, intelligent, hard working,” Louise Gagnon, his science teacher said, echoing the statements of most members of the faculty. “Oh sure, he was a bit less outgoing than some of his classmates, but I thought that a lot of that had to do with his maturity level. We see a lot of that in kids. Then, when they turn 15 or 16, they’re completely different.”

School nurse, Nancy Caruso, told a different story: “Nathan was coming in a lot lately, asking to be dismissed from any physical education activities. He always presented with symptoms that were pretty vague and yet, not the type of thing you wanted to ignore. I asked if he had spoken to his doctor and he said he was going to get around to it.” Becoming somewhat more emotional, Caruso went on. “Dammit, I should have seen this. I should have dug deeper.”

The Follow-Up

Although he appears, in this brief synopsis, to be capable of talking about his son’s death openly and candidly, it should be noted that two years later, Nathan’s father selected the same method of suicide, leaving a note in which he blamed himself for the death of his son.

The Assignment

You are a concerned community leader. You might be a member of the school committee, a police executive, or even a parent with a little clout. You wish to make certain that bullying in your community is eradicated.  You can’t do it alone. This is a team effort. Assume that you have sought and received a one-year grant of $15,000 to examine the problem in your community and to develop a plan to combat it. Here are some questions you are being asked to answer in detail.

 

  • At the very onset of this case, you were given one definition of bullying. How might you modify that definition?

 

  • List the physical, cognitive, emotional, and behavioral signs you might notice related to a bullying victim? To a bully?

 

  • Develop a budget for the allocation of the one-year grant of $15,000. Once that grant is spent, what are your alternatives for future funding?

 

  • Questions concerning the team:
  1. Who belongs on your team?
  2. Why have you selected these team members?
  3. Identify the skills required of your team.
  4. How will the team be drawn together?
  5. How often will the team meet?
  6. How will team members communicate with one another regarding issues that affect the entire team?
  7. Will you serve as team leader or will you appoint another party? On what factors do you base your decision?

 

  • Justify the composition of your team by the skills required to create a workable      anti-bullying plan.

 

  • What are the elements contained in your anti-bullying plan?

 

  • Present an outline of the overall anti-bullying plan that your team will be implementing.

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Have you ever noticed just how quickly “big news stories” can disappear from the front pages of newspapers or from television or other news sources? For weeks after Tyler Clementi jumped from the George Washington Bridge, the media was all over the case. Gay bullying came to the fore once again. It had been nearly a decade and a half since the death of Matthew Shepard, and this was just a new form…call it cyber-something-or-other of “putting gays in their place.” Some might say that the two cases are totally unrelated. To that, I say, “Bullshit!” Bias is bias and Dharun Ravi was biased against the lifestyle that Tyler Clementi chose to live. His very actions proved it, and just like the Shepard case, the result was the death of another member of the gay community…and the media sucked it up like there was no tomorrow.

Then something else more sensational came along and Tyler was relegated to obscurity. The media stopped reporting because, “There was really nothing to report.” That’s true; there was nothing to report, except perhaps for telling the story of how the gay community was affected and was reacting; except for the fact that Ravi was, “…a prisoner who was afraid to go out” for the past 20 months. The media had an opportunity to once again expose the general attitude that exists toward gays, lesbians, transgenders, etc, who are completely ignorant of alternative lifestyles, but something more bloody took the place of an opportunity.

Mr. Ravi was found guilty of all 15 counts for which he was indicted, including invasion of privacy, witness and evidence tampering, bias intimidation for both setting up the camera and another count for knowing that setting up the camera would be intimidating, hindering apprehension, and all of the rest. He could have received a 10-year sentence on the first two-counts alone. Instead, Judge Glen Berman elected to sentence him to 30 days.

That Judge Berman should so shamefully hand down such a sentence says a great deal about the judge. It says that he doesn’t truly understand that bias intimidation and hate crime are equal. He says that they are not. How he can say this in this particular case astounds me. Was I privileged to review all of the documents or listen to all of the information presented at trial? No, I was not, but I prefer to take a much more simplistic view of the situation. Tyler Clementi asked for privacy…twice. Dharun Ravi did not give that request any consideration. Clementi, after seeing the video that his roommate had posted, chose death over embarrassment and jumped from the GW. “Oh, but there’s really no link between the two,” argued the defense. Here’s a question: “What if the shoe had been on the other foot and Tyler Clementi had videotaped Dharun Ravi having unnatural sex with an animal or beating a woman, while having unusual sex with her?” And what if Dharun Ravi had been so disturbed by seeing this that he’d taken a gun and shot himself? Would Tyler Clementi have received a 30-day sentence, particularly if the judge knew he was gay? Would the media have made anything of it? The answer is, “No and no” from the way I’ve seen this case handled.

Both the defense and the prosecution are talking about appeals. I don’t have a clue why the defense team wants an appeal. Their client got away with a sentence that is a joke. The judge got away with talking a good talk, but he sure as hell, as Nancy Grace indicated didn’t walk the walk. No case involving international relations or the gay community should ever come before Judge Berman again.

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Lifestyles

(This was written a while ago. Unfortunately, I see examples of Homophobia almost every day, either personally or in the media. I guess maybe I’m just too old to understand what makes others tick.)

    Growing up in a small town in Massachusetts, I really wasn’t exposed to any alternative lifestyles. My level of naiveté continued when I went to Northeastern University in Boston. That’s not to say that alternative lifestyles weren’t a part of everyday life. They just weren’t a part of mine. During the 1950’s, homosexuality was so firmly locked in the closet that it made Harry Potter’s “Him whose name is not spoken,” seem like a blaring headline. ‘Queers,’ ‘fags,’ ‘faggots,’ ‘fruits,’ were derisive terms applied to anyone who did anything out of the ordinary, and it didn’t have to have a sexual connotation.

    As I have – hopefully – matured I have been blessed to meet and enjoy the company of many gay and bisexual friends. I have become informed, educated, inspired by how ‘together’ these friends are compared to some other folks I’ve known. The emotionally ignorant wish to equate different lifestyles with sex, and while that’s a very small part of love, that’s all many can see…and that’s really unfortunate. What I find to be worse than a prejudiced viewpoint is the unwillingness of so many at so many different levels who refuse to fairly consider how others wish to live their lives.

    Our nation was founded by men and women who were escaping persecution, yet today, we still persecute those who are different, different in race; different in religion; different in lifestyle.

Let “The Laramie Project” Go

            It appears that homophobia is striking terror into the hearts and minds of some parents in Arlington Heights. What next, book burning and dictating what will and will be taught as part of the high school curriculum? I thought that we’d grown beyond that point when WWII came to a close.

            To those who have read this far and think that some homosexual is coming to the defense of John Marquette, forget it. As father of three and grandfather of seven, I’m about as hetero as one can get. Fortunately, I number among my friends, many gay and lesbian couples. I value their friendship and insight just as I value that of my straight friends, my Jewish, Muslim, and Christian friends, and those about whose sexual or religious preferences I haven’t a clue.

            I find it difficult to understand why a discussion of homosexuality is verboten in high schools. Do parents such as Messrs. Tincknell, LaBarbera, Toth, and a few others really believe that their kids haven’t talked about this? C’mon folks, this is the 21st Century; the age of the Internet, chat rooms, open discussion. To perform ”The Laramie Project,” a play based on the vicious murder of Matthew Shepard, should be applauded by the community. It’s a mark of openness and candor and, quite frankly, I could only wish that some high school drama director in this area had the courage to do it.

            There is no question that Matthew Shepard’s lifestyle is one of which I personally disapprove. However, I will defend the right of any man or woman to select how he or she wishes to live. What I will not condone is murder or bigotry, and the three people cited in the article by Bonnie Miller Rubin and Nancy Munson can be called nothing less than ignorant bigots. I cannot help but wonder if, when Mr. Toth is stopped by a police officer, he uses the line, “Don’t forget, I’m a taxpayer and I pay your salary.” Hot damn, wouldn’t a cop just love to hear that one?

            It is my fondest hope that the members of the Illinois Speech and Theater Association will exercise a little chutzpah and tell the parents to mind their own business. John Marquette is to be applauded for his courage in raising an issue that will always be a ‘hot button’ for some. Perhaps for his next selection, he’ll try, “Bang, Bang, You’re Dead.” The school violence play, written by William Mastrosimone, shortly after the killings at Thurston High School in Springfield, Oregon, is just as chilling as “The Laramie Project.” Yet, over 100,000 performances have been given in high schools across the country.

            Please, Arlington Heights parents, give your kids a bit more credit than you seem to be doing. Let them make up their minds. You have to cut the umbilical sometime. It might as well be now.

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