“Kill it because it’s different!” and other stupid fucking ideas.

A good friend of mine shared a link to a Rolling Stone article yesterday that both simultaneously enraged me and depressed me to the point where I felt like I was losing faith in the average human being’s capacity for love and compassion.  I’ll link it here, but it’s a very long and harrowing article, and to make it easier on you I’ll summarize it, but if you have the time, please read it.  Just… steel yourself beforehand.

The article, written with pathos by Rolling Stone’s Sabrina Rubin Erdley, tells the story of a public school district in  Anoka, Minnesota (which just happened to be Michelle Bachmann‘s home district before she relocated) where it was established school policy to remain “neutral” whenever the issue of homosexuality was raised by students.  The only problem was that because school officials were so frightened of losing their jobs for expressing any views on homosexuality, instances of bullying of middle school and high school students that either identified as gay or were suspected of being gay were not addressed, even when brought to the attention of school staff by students and parents.

The horrible culmination of this was an incredibly high suicide rate that has grabbed headlines across the nation, according to the article.  Once the news was out that LGBT teens were exhibiting incredibly high suicide rates, and that the parents of these children were demanding answers from the school board, local, regional, and state-wide anti-gay political groups immediately turned around and did the only rational thing they could think of: they blamed the kids.  One truly abhorrent human being, Tom Pritchard, the president of a political group calling itself the Minnesota Family Council, said that kids who “embrace homosexuality” increase their risk of suicide due to the fact that “they’ve embraced an unhealthy sexual identity and lifestyle.”

Even worse was that the school board effectively stuck their head in the sand by declaring that, after an exhaustive investigation, it was their opinion that none of the suicides was linked in any way to harassment or bullying, once again proving that school administrators know how to do only one thing well – cover their ass.  I was disgusted by the spinelessness of the school board in giving precedent to institutionalized hatred over the safety of students in the district, either by caving to outside pressure exerted on them by political groups or by letting their own personal beliefs override their duty to provide a safe environment for students to learn and grow.

My heart aches for the families and friends of those middle school and high school students who took their own lives.  I’ve struggled with depression and anxiety for many years myself, and while I’ve never seriously considered suicide as a way out, I was also lucky to have attended an incredibly progressive school district that welcomed students of all stripes and that strove for the most part to encourage a safe and welcoming environment where students could feel that they could be themselves.

I simply can’t understand the mindset that leads to such reckless hatred of the LGBT community.  Does it stem from strict literal interpretations of the Bible, which is highly prevalent in the Evangelical Christian faith?  Or is that just used as an excuse to satisfy the need of people to simply destroy anything that’s different from their own experience?  How can you separate yourself so far from human empathy to the point that you can look at someone different from you in a completely dehumanized way, seeing them as the Other and therefore making it morally and socially acceptable to torment them?

I’m not even talking about the cruelty of children here, either; it’s a universal truth that kids can be heartlessly cruel, simply because they haven’t yet developed past their own solipsistic tendencies in order to realize that the world is filled with people that are all interconnected.  It’s up to older generations to guide kids towards a more moral and ethical way of looking at the world, and the responsibility for this emotional education jointly falls upon parents and educators.

However, this social responsibility on the part of the older generations in this particular school district was obviously not met, leading to the naturally xenophobic tendencies that accompany the adolescent mindset being given free rein; with no checks on the thought and behavior of the average teenager, an already cutthroat and vindictive sub-society degenerates into the emotional equivalent of a handful of filthy, half-naked castaways clutching a conch.  The fact that this didn’t dawn on these so-called “educators” on the school board makes me want to start tossing Molotov cocktails and cackling with the glee of a man who has lost his mind and has found that he’s much happier this way.

The issue here isn’t even whether the school board should be anti-gay or not.  The sexuality of these teenagers is irrelevant in the context of the public school system, as these children are Americans and are entitled to their education free of harassment from any source.  You don’t even have to enter into the debate as to whether LGBT teens “choose” to be gay or not, as if it’s just a phase that they’re going through and they’ll grow out of (like growing a mullet in high school), though I never understood how anyone could possibly think that a 13 year old kid would get up one morning and say, “hey, you know what?  My life isn’t nearly miserable enough.  I think I’ll choose to be gay for a few years to see if I can’t have a really shitty time.”

However, the article does end on a hopeful note.  Not only has the school board finally looked the other way on enforcing their “neutrality” policy, every single middle school and high school in the district has formed its own Gay Straight Alliance student group in order to provide a social safety net to both LGBT and straight students, even though doing so has proven to be a controversial move.  Even more gratifying to know is that lawyers for the Southern Poverty Law Center, after being contacted by one of the teachers in the school district that finally spoke out against the anti-gay climate, has brought a lawsuit against the school district.  According to the article, lawyers for the school district are already in settlement talks.

According to the article, a total of nine students took their own lives in the 2010-2011 school year.  This is a frightening statistic, but worse is that there are nine kids that will never grow up.  Nine families will have to somehow fill the void left by the sudden disappearance of a son, or a daughter, left wondering if there was something they could have done – something anyone could have done – to prevent the tragedy.

I hope that things get better for the kids in that school district, and every other one in this country and across the globe that are in similar situations.  Still, no matter how much better things get, it won’t bring back those sons and daughters that have been lost, and while it may be comforting to think that steps are being taken to prevent more senseless death and loss in the future, it doesn’t change the fact that those nine kids – and countless others all over the world – are gone for good.

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5 thoughts on ““Kill it because it’s different!” and other stupid fucking ideas.

  1. It’s stuff like this that really makes my blood boil. Me and my group of friends were tormented in school, right up until we got our numbers up in HS. After that, nobody dared, and we took it upon ourselves to give the ‘elites’ a taste of their own medicine whenever they tried bullying people around. Freaks, geeks, gays, fools, we had them all, and considering we were the “unsavory” element of the school, we weren’t often challenged. It’s not enough for teachers to stand up against this shit, kids need to be taught empathy, that we’re all in a community and need to look out for one another. School is too much like a caste system, and without banding together, there’s little hope. I just hope my kids understand and stand up for themselves and others.

    There’s not much I dislike more than a bully….

    • I agree – where do most kids learn how to view and respond to the world? From their parents and caregivers. If the parents are bullies, or don’t educate their kids on why it’s wrong, of course their kids are going to be little motherfuckers.

      It makes me both sad and grateful that I don’t have children of my own – sad that I don’t have an opportunity to raise a kid in a way that runs counter to those assholes in the Midwest, and grateful that I can’t fuck things up and add to the problem.

  2. “According to the article, a total of nine students took their own lives in the 2010-2011 school year.” Every adult in that community failed these children. This hurts my heart.

  3. Pingback: Are you as tired of straight white guys as I am? « Amateur Professional

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