Tuesday, October 5, 2010

There's Just a Meanness in this World

It's been a rocky fortnight for my alma mater, Rutgers University. Tyler Clementi an eighteen year old freshman leaped to his death from the George Washington Bridge after his roommate secretly streamed live video online of his sexual encounter with a man.

Tyler Clementi wasn't old enough to buy beer legally in The Garden State and from the youthful appearance in his photos, he wasn't going to be the guy you sent on the Friday night beer run to Staten Island, where, for generations liquor stores have been selling adult refreshment to otherwise underage Scarlet Knights.

Instead, and as an alum of the class of 1974 it shames me to realize this, a very young man with a gift for musical expression felt he had no other solution to his compromised situation than to end his life even in the very moments it should have just been beginning. The people and system in place to protect him and his privacy, failed and by so doing, we all failed-him and one another.

News accounts report that the roommate and another student in on the streaming have been charged with invasion of privacy and could face up to five years in prison. I make my living with words, or try to, and I have none that can assuage the pain the Clementi family in Ridgefield, New Jersey is feeling, or calm the anger that so many everywhere else are experiencing.

It's hard to NOT hate the two kids whose thoughtless and hurtful actions precipitated this tragedy, and explaining the how and the why has been beyond the grasp of every account I've read. I caught a song I hadn't heard in years as I sat down to write this that comes as close to being an explanation as I'll ever have. "They wanted to know why I did what I did-Well, Sir, I guess there's just a meanness in this world."
-bill kenny

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