The Kids Are Not All Right

By Sam Trego on Jan 11th, 2011

I wrote an article last September about the recent gay teen suicides that I have hesitated to publish for many reasons.  One of them is that its subject is far more about politics than it is about parenting tips.  The other reason is that it’s not exactly the most “cheery” of all subjects.  It’s downright disturbing.  It’s depressing.  This story doesn’t have a happy ending and there’s little that is positive about it.   It also comes from a fearful place in me… something that there seems to be a lot of in the world these days due to politics, the economy, and in my own life, of simply being a parent.  Being a parent is in a way gives you a whole new list of things to lose sleep over.

I decided however to publish the article today for as I began to write on a completely different subject for the Raising Alek column, my mother called me and asked me if I’d watched the news in the past couple of hours.  I said no, and immediately logged on to msnbc.com to read of the horrible tragedy that occurred in Arizona where Congresswoman Giffords and 18 others were shot in a senseless attack at an event where she was speaking to her constituents.  This event just happened as I write this article, so there is no indication of what the motives were of the disturbed individual that committed this heinous crime.  I’m not about to go out on a limb and suggest that they were politically motivated, at this hour it’s just too early.  We do know that it happened at an event where a Democratic Congresswoman’s district was one that Sarah Palin had illustrated cross hairs of a gun site over on her website, asking her followers to “reload”.  Was Sarah Palin’s hateful and dangerous rhetoric to some degree responsible for this horrible massacre?  Time will tell.  But this event has reminded me of the pain that our community has known for far too long when hate incites violence.  We have been asking, begging, and pleading for decades that the right wing tone down their rhetoric for it leads to violence.  We don’t know if Sarah Palin’s hateful rhetoric had anything to do with setting off this nutjob in Arizona, but we do know that hate rhetoric on any level creates a dangerous climate for ourselves, and for our children.

As a parent, the recent eruption of gay teen suicides in this country hits a nerve that goes into that “parent’s worst nightmare” place.  When 18 year old Tyler Clementi leapt to his death from the George Washington Bridge on September 22, in New York City, it was the fifth gay teen suicide in three weeks. We can only pray that the sadness felt around the country might be a wake up call to the reality that the climate of hate, judgment and intolerance created by the right wing politicians and “religious” leaders in this country is literally killing our nations’ children.

The sadness of these events has prompted an outpouring of calls for active compassion from around the world.  Now others are saying what the gay community has been saying all along.  All of our marches, protests, talk shows, books written, pleas made to the “religious” and radical right couldn’t change the right wing from making hate a nationally embraced platform for the Republican Party this last election (please Google Sharon Angle, Christine O’Donnell, Joe Miller or Kelly Ayotte on their positions for a deeper understanding of this statement).  Sharon Angle thankfully did not make it to the Senate seat that she lusted after in Washington D.C., but people are dead now as a result of her and others like her who got on the bandwagon this election season of releasing a toxic cloud of hate and ignorance into our political climate.  The acid rain now falling is killing our children and that’s something that I as a parent have to call out and demand that the political and “religious” right own up to.  It is hopeful to see the outpouring of concern in other communities besides just the gay community over these senseless deaths and yet it’s hard to forgive these ignorant people for the mess they’ve created.

So now some on the right are beginning to understand that maybe Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was a part of the toxic environment that our right wing politicians and “religious” leaders have been vomiting upon us for years?  Let’s hope that they might be started to get it.  Let’s hope that the death of Tyler Clementi will be remembered as a turning point in this country.  Matthew Shepard’s death in 1998 brought to light how HATE kills.  The Matthew Shepard Foundation has been significant in helping to bring about change through education and awareness for over 10 years now.  Let’s hope that these unnecessary deaths might inspire the same.

Many of you have probably already seen the amazing new public service message video that’s gone viral on Youtube that features Cindy McCain and a celebrity cast of spokespeople passionately speaking out about the dangers of spreading hate for political gain.  If you haven’t, just search for NOHATE in Youtube and you’ll find it quickly.  It’s a terrific video that leaves you thinking “it’s about time” that someone gets this important message out.  Something that is jaw-dropping astounding to me is when Cindy McCain, the wife of the hypocritical Senator that has spent the last couple years of his political career to do everything possible to keep the DADT policy in place, says “Our political and religious leaders tell LGBT youth that they have no future. They can’t serve our country openly. Our government treats the LGBT community like second-class citizens – why shouldn’t they (bullies)?” It’s kind of like – wow… hell just froze over!  The wife of one of the most H8ful people in this country just split with her husband’s ignorant, flip-flopping and hypocritical position.  Is this really happening?  Well don’t get too excited.  Just a few hours after the release of the public service announcement, Cindy Tweeted:  “I fully support the NOHATE campaign and all it stands for and am proud to be a part of it. But I stand by my husband’s stance on DADT.” Only in politics can someone say something and then basically 12 hours later say “I didn’t say that”.  Clearly Cindy McCain wants it both ways, as her tweet contradicts her position that quite effectively connected the dots between society’s attitudes towards the treatment of gay and lesbians with the climate that makes it safe for violent individuals to taunt, bully and in some cases beat or kill homosexuals.

You can’t do a public service announcement bringing to light the fact that political leaders are creating a dangerous climate for the people they are supposed to be serving when you are married to and then claim you support the most vocal lawmaker in the country that is fighting against equality for Gays and Lesbians.  At least you can’t do this without being called a hypocrite.

One thing that I do believe in is that we as a community cannot fight hate with hate.  If simply hating the haters back was the solution, it would be easy.  As a parent the fear button is always going to be pressed for one reason or another… that is part of the natural setup that keeps our kids safe.  As a community we can envision a day when we are not discriminated against, hated and killed because of who we are.  These series of recent events are a wakeup call that shows we have a lot of work to do.  The repeal of DADT was a great accomplishment.  I think it’s important to keep those accomplishments and the inspiration of activist organizations such as the Matthew Sheppard Organization at heart as the goals that we can and will achieve as a community one day.



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