My Two Cents… please don’t hate me.

Posted on | October 8, 2010 | 15 Comments

First, let me say this…. I think that what happened to Tyler Clementi was God awful. I think the fact that his roommate did that is terrible and think that we should do everything in our power to make sure that we teach our children that this is not the way we treat people.

But … and here’s where I’m going to say something that may offend you… I don’t see how ruining the lives of two other children will solve anything. See, I have a son. And I want to do everything in my power to teach him to be tolerant. I want to teach him that it is wrong to hate, wrong to judge, and so very wrong to bully. But no matter what I do, there will be times when my son makes mistakes. There will be times when he does something so stupid that I’m going to want to throttle him.

But you know what I don’t want? I don’t want his mistake to become fodder for a prosecutor. I don’t want him to make a mistake and have that mistake broadcast to everyone with a television or a computer or a radio. I don’t want him to make a mistake and face five years of prison over it. I want him to learn that mistakes can happen but that he can atone for those mistakes no matter how terrible they are. I want him to learn that everyone screws up but that he can distinguish himself by apologizing and learning from his mistakes. (And dear God, I hope that his mistakes never, EVER cost someone their life.)

I can’t even fathom what Tyler Clementi’s family is going through. I can’t imagine the hurt and the betrayal that they feel and that Tyler probably felt. But what isn’t discussed is how his roommate must feel.  Lest we forget, Dharun Ravi is only 18 years old. He’s barely an adult. He’s a college freshman. He’s. just. a. kid.

And as much as I never want my son to be in Tyler Clementi’s shoes, I equally do not want him in Dharun Ravi’s. I don’t want my son to be the victim of hate. I want him to know that whoever he loves and however he loves them is perfectly fine with me. But as a mother, I have to look at Dharun Ravi’s actions and wonder if they weren’t just disgustingly misguided. What he did was so very wrong. But I wonder if there is any one of us that hasn’t said something on Twitter we wished we could take back. Are there any of us who didn’t go along with a crowd and make fun of someone behind their back or worse, to their face? Because teenagers can be cruel. And groups of teenagers in a dorm setting? That can be the worst of the worst. There is so much pressure to assert yourself. So much pressure to be the cool guy or the popular girl. No one wants to be left out.

And again, I don’t want this to diminish my feelings of grief over what happened to Tyler Clementi. I only want to flip the coin and look at the other side. Dharun Ravi is an 18 year old college freshman. He did a stupid thing. And my guess is that he feels like vomiting every day over what he did. My guess is that he wakes up every morning and wishes he could go back to that night and do everything differently. My guess is that he is sick all the time these days and wishes that this would all just go away and he could be a normal college freshman with Tyler Clementi as his roommate again. Because when it’s all said and done,  he’s just a kid. He’s an 18 year old kid, out on his own for the first time. A college freshman who arrived on campus less than three months ago. Just a kid.

And kids make mistakes.


15 Responses to “My Two Cents… please don’t hate me.”

  1. Emmie Bee
    October 8th, 2010 @ 6:32 am

    It's true. I'll admit I wasn't very nice in school sometimes. I'd probably guess there are at least a handful of people from my past who would consider me a bully. & looking back I don't think I had any idea how hurtful words could be. So, I agree that kids are just stupid. Sure, they SHOULD know better but a lot of times they just DON'T THINK. I don't think this necessarily had anything to do with his upbringing. Everyone says it starts with the parents- but my parents taught me to be tolerant of all people & to be respectful of people- and NOW I live by those rules. But at 16, 18? I didn't give a shit. It wasn't that I wasn't taught.
    Anyways, I think he should have to deal with the situation by owning up, apologizing & dealing with whatever punishment is given. Honestly, jail may be better than having some other kids who aren't thinking seeking revenge on him or something.

  2. Alena
    October 8th, 2010 @ 12:39 pm

    I think it was a mistake, I think he didn't think that it would end this way. But I have to wonder where do we draw the line of just a "mistake". He was intentionally hurtful, no matter the fact that he didn't think it would end the way it did. Drinking & Driving is a mistake, but should it be one that we easily forgive when it costs someone their life? Someone let's their anger get the best of them and beat someone…it's a mistake but should it be easily forgiven?

    I think there should be punishment. If we excuse this action what lesson is being taught? That bullying isn't a crime? When a mistake costs a life…I think it's too big a mistake to look over.

  3. Law Momma
    October 8th, 2010 @ 12:48 pm

    Oh I agree with both of you. There has to be punishment. I just wish people would see both sides. They were both kids and something terrible happened. I doubt that the roommate knew Tyler even knew about the webcam and I'm sure had he known he would have felt terrible. But yes, it's bullying. It's just such a different KIND of bullying. It wasn't directly to his face. It wasn't, I don't think, sinister in motive. It was just a stupid kid doing something stupid that he didn't think his roommate would find out about.

    The fact that it cost a life is a tragedy and certainly must be punished. But, as the mother of my friend who was killed by a drunk driver said in court… in defense of the kid who hit her: "Let's not ruin two lives… mychild is dead. Ruining the life of another child will not bring her back, it just means two lives were ruined in one horrible event."

  4. mae
    October 8th, 2010 @ 12:50 pm

    We have all had our moments. And Emmie is right, we can teach our kids to be respectful and kind but there's going to come a day when they have a moment too. Probably more than one.

    I don't want to demonize Ravi or his friend. I never said they were evil and I think it's highly unlikely that they are. I have no idea how they were brought up or what they were or were not taught about morality, bullying or whether coke or pepsi is the better soda (coke. obv). They could be alter boys or puppy kickers or both, I have no idea.

    But. I do not believe that assuming the young man (he is a young man. I'm not calling him a mature adult but I'm also not going to refer to him as a child. he's not a kid and he didn't make a kid's mistake.) feels so badly about the incident that he should be considered appropriately punished.

    This is why I don't know that I agree with hate crimes legislation. I don't think you can punish or reward someone for what's in their head, because you can't get in there to see what it is. People should be punished and rewarded based on their actions.

    This young man did not JUST tweet something about his roommate that was in poor taste. He didn't just make fun of his gay roommate.

    Ravi's intent was to broadcast his roommate having sex with another consenting young adult (i'm assuming the other individual was over 18 but I don't know for sure.) onto the internet without either man's permission. It's my understanding things never got that far between Clementi and the other individual.

    He didn't just try to do it once and feel bad about it, and regret it. Two days later he tried to do it again, but this time he gave his friends and twitter followers plenty of notice. Hours. So they could be sure to watch.

    This is why we have laws and a judicial system. So that the people reacting to the crime don't get to decide what happens to the person who committed the crime.

    My understanding is that the maximum sentence for what this young man did is 5 years.

    If he got not time off for good behavior yada yada 12 months to trial blah blah he'd be out well under the age of 25. He's obviously a bright young man and should have no trouble finishing his undergrad while incarcerated.

    I hope he also gets some intense therapy. And I hope his friend Molly gets some too (I doubt she'll get 5 years but she needs something).

  5. Unpolished Parenting
    October 8th, 2010 @ 12:52 pm

    I just wanted to say thanks for reminding us that more than one family will be forever changed by this tradgey. I've been reading a lot about how kids these days are cruel and mean… well I don't think it was much different for us, our parents generation, or our grandparents generation {not that that excuses what happened by ANY means}. We say we will teach our children love and tolerance. But what do our daily actions say, even when we are not with our kids? I can't say my thoughts and actions have always {read: often} been for love and tolerance. Just a thought… thanks again for an alternate perspective on this.

  6. Alena
    October 8th, 2010 @ 1:12 pm

    I think Unpolished Parenting nailed it…what do our actions teach our children? When grown women, who are mothers, are bullying and attacking people on their blogs. It's not really an example of tolerance and acceptance. Our words have to match our actions so our children don't follow our mistakes.

  7. Blair@HeirtoBlair
    October 8th, 2010 @ 1:18 pm

    What happened is tragic. Horrible. Terrible. My heart breaks & I am INFURIATED. I DO NOT condone any kind of hate.

    What he did was more than a scandalous Tweet or a mean thought or gossip in the high school halls. But he also did not kill anyone & I think that is what people are forgetting. Yes, what he did is horrible. Yes, it was cruel. But he did not actually kill Tyler. Tyler made that choice for himself. A heartbreaking choice that is senseless for all.

    I do think that Ravi should be punished. He needs help. Hell, the majority of society needs help on this. But at what price to another life?

  8. Heather
    October 8th, 2010 @ 1:33 pm

    I actually knew Tyler. I play violin in the community orchestra that he participated in when he was in high school. When people say he was a talented violinist, that is an understatement. He was brilliantly good. I sat with him at a few rehearsals, and I teased him that he was making me feel old because he'd be practicing pieces I worked on 10+ years ago. I also remember relating to him because he was going to college, but NOT to major in music (which for someone with his talent, is unusual). I guess he always wanted music to be something he loved, not necessarily his "job". And he was the bright kind of kid that could have done well at ANYTHING.

    This is not to say I knew Tyler very well, because I didn't. He was quiet and shy. I look back and I *wish* I knew him better, because I had a rough time in high school & the start of college(for different reasons), and there were times when I thought it would not get better. But obviously it did. I have a 10 month old miracle to prove it. I wish i could have expressed that to him.

    That being said, I share a lot of your opinions on the situation. I think what his roomate did was awful, and I hope he gets the maximum time for the heinous invasion of privacy. But he did NOT commit an act of murder, intentionally or unintentionally.

    I also disagree with the notion of hate crimes. People should not be punished for their thoughts, only their actions. Is a murder any less wrong if someone did it because they didn't like the person's hair color vs. they didn't like the color of the person's skin or their sexual orientation? There is a lot of hate and judgment in this world, and it is what we do about it that defines who we are.

    But in terms of Tyler, I think the biggest tragedy here is that he felt the way he did. He clearly felt shame and embarrassment about who he was, and he should not have had to feel that way. Someone who was more confident in themselves would have probably been just as embarassed and upset, but probably would have dealt with it in another way besides taking such drastic action. As much as his roomate did something he probably knew was wrong and hurtful, I find it hard to believe he was trying to drive Tyler to kill himself.

    So, I don't think the answer is necessarily to pass feel-good laws that outlaw bullying and other mean behaviors. Children are always going to be mean, and be influenced by peer pressure and the desire to be popular and well-liked (even at someone else's expense). Dare I say it, I think the responsibility lies with parents. We need to teach our children tolerance and respect for people who are different than us, or even people who are the "same" as us who we just don't like or agree with. And we need to teach our children to be proud, independent, confident, and compassionate individuals.

  9. R's Mom
    October 8th, 2010 @ 2:34 pm

    I disagree with you, to some extent. I fully agree that Ravi should not be charged with murder…

    But, I also think what happened went far beyond being immature or making a mistake. He set up a webcam. He purposely recorded him having the encounter, and let people know when/where they could watch it. That goes beyond an "innocent" twitter that says something like "whoops I just walked in on my roommate with another dude." This was premeditated. This was a gross invasion of privacy. This was also not done by a 12 year old. No, Ravi's not a "mature adult" but this goes beyond just a childish prank.

    I am not saying this because I think Ravi's life should be ruined. But he should pay the price for the invasion of privacy. It's criminal. And how will kids/young adults learn that such behavior is not acceptable if it doesn't get punished?

    So again, do I think criminal charges for murder are appropriate? Not at all. But can I chalk up Ravi's actions to being simply "misguided." No. There's a little too much planning and forethought involved. And brushing it under the rug — saying that his guilt is punishment enough — kind of makes it seem like what he did was okay. And that kind of invasion of privacy is absolutely not okay.

  10. Law Momma
    October 8th, 2010 @ 2:37 pm

    Alright… it appears my post was not as well written as my three glasses of wine brain thought. I do NOT believe that guilt is enough of a punishment. Not at all. What I DO believe is that there is an element of extreme immaturity here rather than intentional hatred.

    But no. Feeling sorry is certainly not an adequate resolution. I just don't think plastering his face all over the media as someone who hates homosexuals is the best answer.

  11. disastersindomesticity
    October 8th, 2010 @ 2:39 pm

    While I agree with some of what you said, I have to disagree with you on calling him a kid. Of course he is someone's child, someone's son. But he is not a kid anymore. He's an adult and is fully capable of understanding what he was doing was wrong (if not then he's got sociopath issues and needs help). I am not saying that he could have possibly known the full consequences of his actions (none of us really know this whether we are 18 or 80), but he knew that what he was doing would cause pain and should have had a vague idea that what he was doing was illegal.

    I teach college Freshman and have for almost 7 years, and year by year I see them becoming more and more immature and less responsible, more entitled. Part of the problem is very few people are expecting them to act like an adult and take responsibility. If you think of them as children, or "just kids", they are going to act that way. The problem is that at that age they have all the rights, abilities, and opportunities as an adult and if they don't have the maturity to deal with these rights and opportunities then things can go very wrong.

    The solution is not to go on thinking of them as just kids. It's to start teaching them responsibility and treating them as adults, and part of that is teaching them that their actions have consequences. If they break the law, they go to jail (or at least face a trial).

    I am not saying that he should go on trial for murder, because Tyler's death was a consequence he could not have foreseen and was probably not his intention, and was a result of many social forces and problems a lot of young gay youth face in this country. And I'm not saying that the media should demonize him, or that a prosecutor should use this case to further his/her career. All I'm saying is that Ravi is not a kid and should face the proper and legal ramifications of his illegal actions.

    If you allow the people in charge of this case to say that "he's just a kid", then you send a message to all of the teenagers out there that they do not have the same responsibilities as an adult. They don't have the same responsibilities but they have the same rights (own a gun, serve in our military in foreign countries, consent to sex and therefore have a child, live on their own, drive a car, etc). And I believe that is a dangerous contradiction to have in a society.

    And from what I've heard and seen, much of the press and outrage that has been expressed has not been vocalized towards Ravi. In fact I had not even heard his name until I read this post. Instead much the the public outrage has been towards our society in general that is intolerant towards LGBTs and the lack of support for LGBT youth in particular. It's more of a "things need to change" campaign than going after a particular individual.

    That is just my 2 cents.

  12. Rebekah @ Mom-In-A-Million
    October 8th, 2010 @ 2:50 pm

    If we think about a comparable crime happening in real space, instead of virtual space, does that change the tenor of the discussion at all? Imagine if, instead of logging on to a webcam to spy on his roommate, Ravi had crept up outside the window and peeked in. Imagine if, instead of asking his friends to watch a second private moment, Ravi had brought a group of friends to peek in that same window. The violation there is clear: it's criminal trespass (or would be if he wasn't living in a dorm but in a private residence) and violation of personal privacy.

    The initial incident where Ravi and his girlfriend chose to spy on Clementi is no different than what a peeping tom does. And we would all call the cops on a peeping tom. By inviting others to spy, they compounded the crime.

    The other fact to take into account is that Ravi and his girlfriend were the ONLY students on the Rutgers campus exploiting Tyler Clementi in this way. THOUSANDS of other kids go through every day not spying, exploiting the sexuality of others, and planning acts of terrible violation. If they can do it, so could Ravi and his girlfriend. They acted in a way that was morally deficient. Period. In my opinion, they acted in a way that was also criminal. Period.

    Yes, we all make mistakes as college students. We forget to pay our phone bills and the phone gets cut off. We miss paper deadlines. We drink too much tequila and pay the next day. But this went beyond the realm of ordinary mistake, even accounting for the fact that Ravi could not have known it would drive Clementi to suicide. Even without that foreknowledge, he should have know that a profound violation of another's privacy is wrong morally, if not wrong legally. And if he stumbled into a violation of the law, then he needs to face the consequence.

  13. Jeanne
    October 8th, 2010 @ 4:01 pm

    I have a little heartburn about this for another reason. I think what he did (bullying) was horrible and he should be punished. But I don't know that the direct consequence of what he did was death. Tyler chose to take a permanent way out of a temporary situation, probably because this wasn't the first time he has been hurt this way.

    Ravi and whats-her-name did something that was a violation of what was expected at school, so they should have been permanently expelled from state schools there. All of this semester's work should have been failed. There was also a violation of privacy that is already legislated, charge them with that as well. Make them spend the next 5 years making weekly presentations to school kids about bullying and working with victims of bullying.

    Make the punishment fit what they did, not the downstream consequences of what they did, because all of the previous bullies had a hand in that as well. Otherwise, we are giving a free pass to bully someone who can handle it or who internalizes it and doesn't act out for years. It's the bullying and invasion of privacy that's wrong and we should be dealing harshly with it even if everyone survives, it's the only way to curb the behavior.

  14. KLZ
    October 8th, 2010 @ 4:13 pm

    So….here's the thing about this bullying craze.

    It is horrible that these teens have committed suicide. Horrible. Unspeakable.

    But there are millions who are bullied and don't commit suicide.

    It is a personal choice.

    We've all been bullied in one form or another. There is absolutely no way to remove it from schools – OR SOCIETY. Think of how many of us feel bullied by other moms.

    Do I think we should act better than that? Yes. Should we teach our kids? Yes.

    Do I think that that will instantly remove the problem.


    I think that reaching out to the victims means more than trying to end bullying. Because that's never going to happen on a large scale, even though it should.

    But suicide is a personal choice. Meaning we can do something at the individual level. You can reach out to those victims, one at a time, and maybe make a difference. Maybe save a life.

    But you can't change the fabric of society just because you want to.

  15. Dee
    October 8th, 2010 @ 6:53 pm

    "But you can't change the fabric of society just because you want to".

    Um. Yes, you can.

    George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, John F. Kennedy. And those are just major people who ushered in sea change- we absolutely can change the fabric of society and laws (desegregation orders, for ex) do help usher in change.

    Yes we can change the fabric of society, yes we have done so many times, and yes, of course, we should continue to endeavor to make such changes, by speaking out and having appropriate laws.

    Margaret Mead said: "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has"

    Truer words, never spoken.

    PS: Dharun Ravi is being blasted all over the media, just like what he did to Tyler. That's some poetic justice right there. He is not a murderer- yes, suicide can't be "blamed" on others, but no one is charging him with murder. I think the charges being considered are entirely appropriate because Ravi committed a crime.

    And being flamed in the media is something Ravi brought on himself.

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