140 Characters Too Much

There seems to be a certain belief surrounding the “ideal” image of college that refers to it as a place where the immaturities and drama of high school will suddenly be replaced with intellectual conversation, philosophical ideas, and an increased level of proper actions.

The suicide of Rutgers student, Tyler Clementi, however, proves this “image” beyond the point of accuracy.

As freshmen at Rutgers University, Clementi and his roommate Dharun Ravi, experienced an atypical relationship for roommates. Barely ever communicating in the month they lived together, their relationship existed mostly through Ravi’s technology such as his twitter account where he tweeted about Clementi’s sexuality in, to say the very least, an immature and unkind matter.

In February of 2012, Ian Parker wrote a 12,000-word article, “The Story of a Suicide” for the New Yorker.  In the story, Parker discusses the multitude of unclear information surrounding the case while providing the reader with details that weren’t always included in other articles about it.

It wasn’t the length of the story that made it challenging to read; rather, it was Parker’s ability to connect the reader to the situation in a way that didn’t leave room for anything but despair.

I’d heard about the case a few times after Clementi’s death in 2010. Yet it wasn’t until I read this article, that I truly understood the case in it’s entirety. Parker didn’t waste valuable space writing about the court battles or the potential outcomes that Ravi could face. Parker instead implored a smarter writing style in which he was able to focus on the details of both Clementi’s and Ravi’s lives and the days that led up to the suicide.

Perhaps what I found most intriguing of all, was Parker’s ability to evoke emotion from the reader without having to give a persuasive argument toward Clementi and his life. His writing style was objective, and yet throughout the entire piece I found myself feeling sympathy towards Clementi. Parker’s word choice was brilliant.

As an active member in theatre and the arts, the number of interactions I’ve had with homosexual peers is something I perceive as a larger than most other students my age. While I realize that there are consequences to that above statement sounding ignorantly stereotypical, I think that there have been positive blessings to my experiences. I have been fortunate enough to be raised in a very open-minded and accepting community. I find some of my homosexual friends to be the most kind, loving, and good-hearted people. All of who have faced some sort of prejudice.

In particular, I remember my friend who I’d known since I was in first grade. Although he was a year older than I, we were able to stay close throughout the years we attended Catholic grade school together.

His freshman year of high school, he used Facebook to post over a 1,000-word post discussing his sexuality and came out to his thousands of Facebook friends at one time. It was this use of social media that my friend decided to come out for the first time. There was no specific friend or family member he told before making such a public announcement.

I remember being shocked by the fact that he was gay, the way he chose to come out, and the variety of responses he received. While the majority of his “virtual friends” responded with love and support, others, like his parents, were less than pleased. The adults of our church referred to his parents as being “upset” and “concerned.”

As I read Parker’s article, I couldn’t help but think about all the LGBTQ people I have met and whether they had experienced situations similar to Clementi’s. It sickened me to think about the immaturities that lie within what is seemingly such a mature environment.

Ravi’s beliefs discussed in the article that he was better off and therefore better than most people, are absolutely ridiculous. Regardless of Ravi’s complete invasion of privacy of Clementi, his text messages, IMs, and tweets prior to even meeting Clementi emphasize his idiotic behavior and mindset. While many people have argued that Ravi is not a murderer, there is no denying that his actions were unjustified and repulsing.

As Parker writes of Ravi: “If this helps protect him from the charge of extreme prejudice, he might still be accused of lacking empathy: there’s no sign that he was inhibited by the fear that he might cause his roommate embarrassment, or annoyance, by discussing him on Facebook and Twitter.”

During one of his conversations prior to meeting Clementi when he thought that Picone was his roommate, he told his friend the following: “He would be born in January / what a gay month.”

The absurd amount of inaccuracy that accompanies Ravi’s statements reflects more than poorly on our society. To think that Ravi’s actions were supported and furthered by his peers proves that students who may be incredibly booksmart lack the moral dignity and ethical value to even consider the feelings of their peers.

What I really enjoyed about Parker’s reporting was his ability to address the prejudices present on both sides.

“Clementi and Ravi seem to have responded in similarly exaggerated ways to perceived hints of modest roots in the other,” Parker writes.

This article definitely inspired me to analyze and realize the mass amount of prejudices present in our society and how prevalent they are in the minds of today’s youth. Clementi’s story is a tragedy. Ravi’s actions were wrong. Yet with any hope, our society will be able to learn from both of their viewpoints and become more accepting of everyone’s differences.

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