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Rutgers Uni paper sets more wheels in motion to trivialize Clementi’s death

Rutgers Uni paper sets more wheels in motion to trivialize Clementi’s death

Dear Rutgers:

It’s beyond amazing that you let these so called “editorials” continue to be posted.  Do you have anyone on staff guiding these students who apparently have no guidance whatsoever on finding a proper journalistic path?  Any one at all?  Or are these staggeringly asinine postings a combination of:

  1. You have no LGBT staff on the paper
  2. Everybody on the paper has never met or befriended anyone in the gay community
  3. You just couldn’t give a flying fig about the gays that have made the sorry mistake to go to your university and you’d be oh-so-happy if they packed up and got the hell out.
  4. All of the above.

Do me a favour:  when (more importantly IF) those on your “paper” actually do graduate and try and pursue a career in journalism, don’t bother to send them my way.  As a professional journalist – one who has a paying job on a newspaper – and having spent 20 years in the business, if this is what you’re teaching students is considered journalistic principles, I hope to God I’m retired by the time they head my way.


From Rutgers

If I asked “Who are you?” most likely you would begin with an introduction. But what’s in a name? Next you might mention University and perhaps your place of employment. But those are just temporary social conditions. Exasperated, you may turn to the abstract, mentioning your gender, race, background, sexual orientation, friends and family, etc. In the end, all of these things and more make up our essence. The danger comes when we begin perceiving ourselves, or others, as being mainly part of a single label. Historically this has been common among persecuted factions: Those in the Holocaust perceive themselves as primarily “Jewish,” those in the civil rights movement become primarily “Black,” etc.

This is dangerous for a few reasons. As an individual you’re denying, or at least devaluing, the many facets of your persona – an unhealthy endeavor that I’m sure would be frowned upon by any psychologist. Perhaps even more importantly, your emphasis has irrevocably shifted to the differences, rather than similarities, of those outside your movement or worldview, therefore crippling your efficaciousness at best, or sowing the seeds of your own undoing at worst.

Instead we must all see ourselves – first and foremost – as being human, regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation, income, etc. That should have been the message of the recent tragedy involving University first-year student Tyler Clementi – humanities’ peaceful collaboration. But it wasn’t. Instead, thanks to the media’s want for a good story and the student bodies’ zeal, Clementi will forever be remembered as a gay rights icon.

Maybe that is what he would have wanted, but who knows? His friends and family would probably have been the most apt to answer that question. But they were not asked, were they? No. In a passionate fervor hundreds of people descended to remember an individual they had never known, to pay homage to “Tyler the Homosexual,” rather than “Tyler the Human Being” – just like the rest of us.

Once again, maybe he would have liked to be remembered this way, as an activist for gay rights. But we will never know. And what is worse, we did not try very hard to find out. In life we may seek endlessly for the spotlight, to be known. But in death I think we often search for an authenticity that cannot be fathomed by a procession of mourners who know nothing about how we lived, only how we died. Instead of taking time to learn about who Clementi really was, we hastily crafted an icon and sought to fill it with our own spirit and preconceptions. Clementi has not changed us, we have changed him. The result is a memorial that no better fits Clementi than any other homosexual student, in other words, a eulogy lacking any profound or distinctive meaning. Clementi has become an archetype, all of his other characteristics – his passion for violin, the way he laughs – have been supplanted by what we, who know nothing about him, think is most important. And to stack on one final indignity, we have drawn lines in the sand, claiming this newfound symbol for ourselves and creating a milieu of war, rather than peace.

But this is not a commentary on Clementi, as we too were strangers. This is not an attack on Schoool of Arts and Sciences first-year student Dharun Ravi or Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy first-year student Molly Wei either. Their crimes were obviously infantile and beyond imbecilic. Life-long guilt, among other punishments, will be duly justified. Nor is this an indictment of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, who fight for an admirable and worthy cause, regardless of whether I may deem their methods to be ineffective or inappropriate at times. This is an appeal to you humanity. The world is a scary place. The great sociologist and philosopher Erich Fromm wrote that we differentiate ourselves from others to escape the fear of death and nagging questions about life’s purpose. Maybe if we stopped labeling ourselves we could achieve, or at least make progress towards, the equality so desperately craved?

The real tribute to Clementi will forever be in the hearts and minds of those who actually knew him. To them I give my deepest condolences, and I pray Clementi may rest in the peace that seems to forever elude all of us.

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