Wednesday, October 06, 2010

The Politics of Bullying--Less that a Month to Election Day

Everyone is talking about bullying in our country right now. We have heard the story of Tyler Clementi and how his personal dignity was destroyed by the senseless and shameless bullying by two of his fellow students at Rutgers University. Tyler committed suicide after learning that his roommate and girlfriend had secretly streamed video of him online while he had a date with a same-sex partner. This unconscionable act by his roommate and his partner is being prosecuted as an invasion of privacy but it can not bring Tyler back to us. We need stronger laws to protect people from any kind of bullying. Perhaps if we make the laws strong enough, people will think twice before doing something stupid that leads to the end of another promising life.

I think we can say without debate that this issue would not have happened had Tyler been engaged in a heterosexual relationship. He was most certainly a target for bullying because he was gay. This is a terrible indictment of our culture that values one group of people over another. It would be no better, however, had the bullying been for any other reason and Tyler had killed himself nonetheless. We have to stop our culture of insensitivity and violence toward one another. It is time that each of us does all that s/he can do to put an end to bullying of any kind in any part of our society. Amazingly, part of the issue is the perception that many of our religious organizations implicitly condone violence against members of some minority groups. This perception creates a climate of bullying that has to stop.

In June of 2009, the State of North Carolina voted to pass State Bill 526, the School Violence Prevention Act, making bullying in the schools illegal. It was signed into law later that month by Governor Beverly E. Perdue. We owe this victory for the protection of our school children to the Democratic Party of North Carolina and to Senator Julia Boseman of New Hanover County, in particular. Additionally, we have to give credit to the endless efforts for advocacy by Equality NC, a political action group that supports equality for the LGBT community of North Carolina. I thank my friends at ENC for their efforts and I thank the Democrats who supported this bill exclusively. I especially thank Senator Boseman, the first and only lesbian State Senator so far in the history of North Carolina, who sponsored this bill. She is, to me, an indication of social progress and she represents a "good start" for us all.

Sadly, bullying is a political issue in this country. If you check the record of where the support for this law came from, you will find that the vote came down along party lines. Of a total of 114 votes, 63 Democrats voted to protect the children of North Carolina while not one Republican voted to pass this bill. In fact, 51 of the Republicans in the State House of Representatives voted to oppose this bill.

When the Republican Party sides with bullies, we need to take note of that as a people and keep it in mind when we go into the voting booth. You can find a history of Republican opposition to many aspects of this issue. For years, they have opposed the enumeration of groups of people who suffer from discrimination on a routine basis. In particular, they have rallied around themselves to stop the addition of sexual orientation and gender identity, two groups that most need protection in our society, to the list of groups in non-discrimination laws for hiring. They oppose the Employment Non-discrimination Act (ENDA). They also have opposed the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT) policies in the military.

Please research these issues on your own if you do not believe me. I do not mean to imply that the Republican Party has cornered the market on bigotry, but it certainly has done its part by omission to protect the bigots and to allow discrimination to go unpunished. If there are bigots and homophobes in the Democratic party, please do not vote for them either. I am just saying that you are less likely to find them among Democrats than you will among the Republicans.

We have less than one month left before the 2010 elections take place. Please get out and vote your values, whatever they are. If you are not yet registered to vote, go do it now. If you are registered, please volunteer for a candidate whom you can support to improve the climate of tolerance and understanding in our country.

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