In George Orwell's 1984, the people mediated daily on the State's declared enemies. During the Two Minute Hate, party members would scream at enemies flashed before them. Tyler Clementi's suicide is our latest Two Minute Hate.
We hate his roommate, an 18-year-old who turned on the webcam in Clementi's room. Clementi's roommate wanted to out Clementi as a homosexual, perhaps. Though more deeply the roommates goal was to shame him.
Clementi's roommate was an 18-year-old boy. Although 18 is old enough to die in Iraq, 18 is not a man. An 18-year-old brain isn't fully developed. Most of us - especially we males - who are free and successful people are free and successful because of luck.
The stupid shit we didn't have consequences. We embarrassed and ridiculed people, or we joined the mobs in laughing at others unlike us. Fortunately our victims did not kill themselves.
What if they had? Would our pranks had taken on a greater moral significance? Must we measure a boy's conduct based on his motives, or upon the consequences?
Or should we stop looking at this boy?
The Two Minute Hate is powerful because it's a distraction. We look at others - Us and Them. They are evil, and as long we we stare at them, the law of Us and Them states that we are therefore good. A screen prevents us from looking into the mirror.
Clementi killed himself because of shame, and yet he should not have been ashamed. Or should he have been? He was, after all, a homosexual - a faggot, a cock sucker. Of course he should have been ashamed. Clementi was not born tabula rasa, but instead was born into a culture that we created. The older you are, the more responsible for the culture you are.
Do you speak out against bigotry? When people oppose gay marriage, do you remain silent and polite, like a passive-aggressive beta? When instead you should say, "Get the fuck out of here with that homophobic bullshit."
Most of us dare not offend, and so we tolerate the intolerable. We say that opposing equal rights for gay is a matter of "reasonable dispute." We say that not because it's true, but because we lack to courage to stand up against hate and bigotry. We use politeness as an excuse for cowardice.
When tolerating hate, we create a culture that leaves an 18-year-old boy fearing alone and afraid. Why should he have cared that he was gay? Because we cared.
Who killed Tyler Clementi? You did, and so did I.
Instead of staring at an 18-year-old who played a teenage prank, we should ask ourselves what we are doing to prevent another Tyler Clementi.
Supporting It Gets Better Foundation is a start: