There are few things in this ever shrinking world that manage to unite tens of thousands of people who are all angry at the same thing. Even Whitney Hillman - the highschool junior who kidnapped (chickennapped?) her chicken from her classroom and ran out the door and into an awaiting car all in an effort to save him from being slaughtered at school for means of a project - hasn't reached 2000 supporters yet.
But then again, her story didn't get as much national attention as it should have. It did find its way to CNN.com - which is how I discovered her and her pet chicken named Chicklett - but she wasn't interviewed by Anderson Cooper or asked to be on The Today Show or anything like that. Animals Rights stories rarely make the news. Sad. (If you are interested in her story, here is her facebook. It's truly an amazing story.)
But the story that did manage to find its ways to just about every news outlet was the story of Clint McCance. Now for those who don't know - or may not remember if you are reading this years later - Clint McCance is (at the moment, yes, still "is") the vice president of the school board; it's an elected position. In honour of the five boys who all committed suicide within a month - all due to bullying bc of their sexuality or preceived sexuality - the nation was asked to wear puple on 20 Oct. Many people did. But When this man was asked to do that, he flipped out. Completely flipped out. So, like any mature adult who holds a position of power and influence over children in a public school district, he took to his facebook page. Seriously. He wrote: "they want me to wear purple because five queers committed suicide. The only way I'm wearing it for them is if they all commit suicide ... We are honoring the fact that they sinned and killed thereselves (sic) because of their sin? ... It pisses me off though, that we make special purple fag day for them. I like that fags can't procreate. I also enjoy that they often give each other AIDS and die ...I would disown my kids if they were gay. They will not be welcome at my home or in my vicinity. I will absolutely run them off. Of course my kids will know better. My kids have solid Christian beliefs." Yes. This man seriously wrote this.
Within a day or so, his facebook "fan" group, entitled "Fire Clint McCance" had over 60,000 supporters! And I am proud to say that I was/am one of them. Friday night - the day this really hit the airwaves - Anderson Cooper dedicated part of his show to talking about this. Unfortunately I don't have cable so I was limited to what people were saying, watching clips, and reading the transcript. And all I can say is: Wow.
I watched the clips is an off order, obviously not the same order as the show, but it worked. First, I saw Ellen. As usual, she hit the nail on the head and was absolutely correct. I really thought she was going to start crying again, much like she did when she first spoke out following the death of Tyler Clementi. During her short interview with Anderson Cooper, she said that the homosexual community needs the help of the heterosexual community. And she's right. It's not enough to say - or think - "we accept you and we love you just the way you are". No. We need to do more than that. We need to stop all this bullying and all this perversion of religion.
Which brings me to my point. Bullying is absolutely horrible. It makes people feel like they are worth nothing and - obviously - it makes children children! kill themselves. This isn't right. But what's worse is when people actually try to justify their bullying with religion. They try to pervert religion and God into saying that it's okay. Well guess what - it's not.
God loves everyone. God, Yahweh, Allah, Jahova. Whatever name you use, he's the same person. And he loves everyone.
Let's start with the over used verse from the Christian Bible - John 3.16 "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life." What does this mean? It means that God loved the world - and everyone in it! So long as you believe in him, you will have eternal life. No where does it mention that only certain believers get in.
"So God created humankind in his image, in his image of God he created them, male and female he created them." Genesis 1:27 If God created everyone in his image, then he didn't make mistakes. He created heterosexual people just as much as he created homosexual people. Therefore, he loves them just as much.
Let's journey now to Leviticus. This has to be one of the most interesting books of the Tanakh. "You shall not hate in your heart anyone of your kin; you shall reprove your neighbour, or you will incur guilt yourself. You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people, but you shall love your neighbour as yourself: I am the LORD." Leviticus 19:17-18 I think this is extremely powerful. God wants you love everyone. No matter what. This is reinterated in Matthew 5:44 "But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you". And again in John 15:12 "This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you."
Anyone who bullies in the name of God is wrong, and they are perverting his word. End of story.
But that's not the end of the story for bullying in general. Or for Clint McCance.
The second clip I saw was an interview with the parents of one of the boys who was recently pushed to suicide. His name was Asher Brown and he was 13 years old when he shot himself to death. I didn't know this boy, but just from listening to his parents, he must have been an absolutely amazing person. His parents, Amy and David Truong were on the show and - obviously - extremely upset about McCance's words. But through it all, they just kept saying that they will forgive him and that they and their friends will pray for him and his family. The most touching thing I have ever heard came from this boy's father, David, who reacted to the death threats and hate mail McCance has been receiving with this: "There's one thing I want to say regarding that, to stop this violence and attitude, that you can't add more violence and more horrible attitudes to it. Please stop. Don't threaten his family. Don't threaten him. It does nothing. Show him compassion. That's the only thing we can really offer him and his family right now." Isn't that amazing? A man whose son was bullied to death, whose son was "dehumanized" as his wife put it by McCance's words, still has it in him to say that we all need to show this man some compassion. And that is exactly what a good Christian, what a good person, is. They forgive and they don't hold grudges and they don't hurt other people.
What really upset me last night with Clint McCance's interview was that he didn't actually apologize. He certainly was sorry he got caught and that he was thrown into this firestorm. He was sorry that he had to send his wife and children away because of the death threats and the hate mail. He was sorry that he was being pressured to resign. But he didn't apologize for what he said. He said he chose some "unfortunate words" and "extend my apologies for my poor - my poor speech". That's it. He apologized for using the wrong words. When Anderson Cooper asked him what exactly he was apologizing for, he said "It was over the top ... I just went too far with it". Well it's nice to know that you feel you went over the top. I'm sure that makes it aaalll better. *sarcasm* Over and over again he just says that he used the wrong words. Never did he apologize for what he said, only how he said it. And that breaks my heart. These children need a hug and all he did was drop kick them. After punching them in the face.
McCance did say he was going to resign. And I think he should. But not for the reason he stated. He isn't resigning because he's a poor role model or because he himself is a bully. No. He's resigning because "It is to -- to help my community, to help my school. I don't want them to receive bad press or have a distraction because of some ignorant comments that have -- that I made". *As of yet, he has yet to resign*
As David Truong said, I hope his children can forgive him.
Children are bullied for all sorts of reasons. Yes, being homosexual is definitely a big reason, but it's not the only reason. When I was in highschool, I personally knew someone who was bullied due to homosexuality. His own parents kicked him out of the house and refused to have contact with him, much like McCance promises to do to his own children. I knew others who were bullied for several other reasons, all of it rooted in them just being a little bit different.
Bullying does lead to depression. And for some, it leads to suicide. All of these suicides are 100% preventable. All of them. If only someone would have listened. If only someone would have cared. If only someone would have noticed. A lot of parents don't know the warning signs and a lot of schools don't care. I know mine didn't.
We need to help these kids. All of them. Every single one of them. There are several organizations out there: The Trevor Project and PACER Teens Against Bullying are two great places to start. (ETA: I failed to mention another great organization, which is actually the one that brought the McCance story to my attention: The Human Rights Campaign. My apologies for leaving them out.)
I know there are a lot more out there, but these are the ones I have read about it. Please, if you would like to add names, put them in the comment section and I will add them to my list. And for all you real Christians, or as a very good friend of mine puts it - Followers of Christ - and for all you real Jews and real Muslims and real Mormons and real Jahova's Witnesses and anyone else I haven't mentioned, here's a good prayer list for you.
1: Tyler Clementi - 19 years old - jumped off a bridge after his roommate recording him having a sexual encounter with another man and then posted it online.
2: Asher Brown - 13 years old - shot himself to death after years of bullying due to being gay, despite coming out to his parents who fully accepted him.
3: Seth Walsh - 13 years old - hung himself due to bullying
4: Billy Lucas - 15 years old - hung himself due to bullying
5: Zach Harrington - 19 years old - killed himself after attending a city council meeting where anti-gay comments were made
6: Jesse Logan - 18 years old - hung herself after being bullied because she sent her boyfriend nude photos of herself and he spread them around after they broke up
7: Hope Witsell - 13 years old - hung herself with her favourite scarfs after being bullied because she sent nude photos of herself to a boyfriend who spread them around after they broke up. Even after she died, bullies still tormented her, writing "Did Hope really kill herself?" "I can't believe that whore did that" on her facebook and myspace.
8: Phoebe Prince - 15 years old - hung herself after being tormented in school, possibly because she was an Irish immigrant. Teachers saw her being bullied in the school library the day she died and did absolutely nothing about it.
9: Celina Okwuone - 11 years old - hung herself after being bullied because of her weight and her taste in music, among other things. Her parents found her cell phone by her body; it was filled with hateful texts, calling her "ugly", "blacky", "bitch".
10: Miss Zhang - 13 years old - killed herself after being bullied - and beaten - by a teacher because her hair was too long, despite several hair cuts. (Her first name was not released)
It may be too late for these children, but it's not too late for all the other children who are being bullied every day. You can help them. We all can. And we all should.
** Bible verses from the NRSV
** Transcripts from CNN's Anderson Cooper 360 here and here