Jamey's Suicide

Jamey's Suicide September 22, 2011

Jamey Rodemeyer committed suicide this month.  The 14 year old was bullied for being gay. 

In May he posted a personal video on ItGetsBetter.org telling the world that since coming out he had received much support from friends, family, and strangers.  He had an upbeat view on life.  Sadly, the hope, faith, and optimism turned to tragedy when the relentless hate unleashed against him took its toll.  Before you read any more of this commentary watch his video.  Remember, it’s when he had a positive outlook …

Please … view Jamey’s video if you haven’t done so before you go on.  I tried watching it twice and couldn’t get through it.  Perhaps you’ll succeed.    

As you can see in moments this young man was warm, charming, thoughtful, whimsical, and intuitively bright filled with a sense of joyful awakening.  It didn’t last.  In a September blog post he wrote “I always say how bullied I am, but no one listens.  What do I have to do so people will listen to me?”  He added that “no one in my school cares about preventing suicide …”

Sandra Tan of the Buffalo News reported that an anonymous post declared “JAMIE IS STUPID, GAY, FAT AND UGLY.  HE MUST DIE!”  According to Ms. Tan, another post read “I wouldn’t care if you died.  No one would.  So just do it J  It would make everyone WAY more happier!”  This is just a sample.

Jamey “was always putting people first,” said an eight grade classmate quoted by Ms. Tan.  “He always wanted other people to smile, even on the worst of his days.”  Adding to this tragedy is that he had the love and support of his family.    

Hate, bigotry, anti-Semitism, and homophobia are learned.  Babies are not born with such views.  It occurs from teaching and socializing within families and greater society that enables such views.  Fortunately, groups like the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) have shown strong leadership in trying to stop bullying.  ADL makes a difference

In June 2011, I had the privilege to hear Abe Foxman, Executive Director of ADL, speak in Schenectady, NY about his organization’s efforts to confront and address bullying.  He drew parallels to the chilling reality that when persons of conscience stood up for Jews during World War II the Nazis often backed off.

Only Albania protected its Jews and hid others from different parts of Europe.  Muslims and Christians participated in these heroic acts.  Mr. Foxman challenged his audience with a simple, yet powerful question.  “What if” other people in the world had shown the same resolve, the same Godly commitment as the Muslims and Christians of Albania?  How many more Jews could have been saved?  What if persons of conscience stood up to stop bullying?   

In The Brothers Karamazov, Fyodor Dostoevsky wrote:

… The moment you make yourself sincerely responsible for everything and everyone, you will see at once that it is really so, that it is you who are guilty on behalf of all and for all.

Each and every one of us is responsible for the pain and harm inflicted on others.  Perhaps it stems from the negative energy each of us has the potential to project into the cosmos.  Or from the complacency we show in not trying to stop it.

Negative energy especially includes dogmatic, legalistic clergy who, despite the science, insist that acting on feelings from being lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) or searching is a sin.  According to the revised dogma and legalisms, however, being LGBT and searching is no longer a sin, but acting on the basic human need to love and be loved in the fullness of a relationship remains something bad and contrary to God’s laws.

Putting marriage equality or traditional marriage aside, what if the word sin is removed from the equation so that the personhood, the humanity of another individual is not marginalized?  What if we stayed focused on what makes us part of the same family Created by the Creator? 

Ultimately, the misguided kids who taunted Jamey into despair and hopelessness with such an extreme and violent act are far less responsible than the clergy, parents, and other adults who have created and now enable such a hateful, destructive environment where kids act in such a loveless manner.

There are many throughout the world, not just in Buffalo, responsible for Jamey’s death.  Yes, throughout the world.  Negative and sometimes vicious comments, based on priestcraft, ignorance, denial of science, and perverted biblical interpretations among other things have contributed to Jamey’s death.  Religious legalists and dogmatists and adults who raise children with bigotry or prejudice played a role.      

I tried watching the video again.  I couldn’t.  In the end, we’re all responsible for what happened to Jamey – those who are hateful or ignorant and those of us who don’t speak out or fail to do it often enough to educate and stop the inhumanity.  “What if” we all tried a little harder? 

Paul is author of Crucifying Jesus and Secularizing America – the Republic of Faith without Wisdom.

© Paul Peter Jesep 2011

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