And We Call Ourselves Accepting?
As far as people go, I am rather intolerant. I am intolerant of people who do not clean the coffee maker after they use it. I am intolerant of couples that walk too slowly together on the sidewalk and therefore block all of the people behind them. Mismatched outfits and too much eye makeup make my blood boil. And don’t even get me started on people who don’t know how to parallel park.
However, I’ve always felt that I exemplify a very accepting society when it comes to the bigger issues. Things like racial inequality or sex discrimination. I’m all about equal rights for everyone, regardless of race or gender. In fact, when my professor made me argue for school segregation and against gay marriage last week as a class exercise, I started laughing because I literally had nothing to say.
Why wouldn’t we want everybody to be happy?
Doesn’t everyone feel this way?
Doesn’t the law basically say just live and let live?
Yeah, apparently not. The events of the past couple of weeks have informed me that I am completely wrong about the world and the people living in it. Turns out, my tolerance isn’t the rule, it’s the exception. And minority groups, especially the gay population, have to put up with way more than I realized.
As a University of Michigan student, my local news is recently headlined with the story of Chris Armstrong, our student body president who is being harassed by Andrew Shirvell. An Assistant Attorney General for the state of Michigan, Shirvell has gone out of his way to harass Armstrong online, accusing him of using his presidency to advocate a “radical homosexual agenda.” Shirvell has not only shown up at student government meetings to criticize Armstrong, but also seeks him out at home. While Shirvell claims he has freedom of speech to say whatever he wants, as someone who has actually studied Supreme Court cases, I was always under the impression that government officials were the ones trying to limit hate speech despite the First Amendment preserving its existence. Wrong again.
And then I heard about Tyler Clementi jumping off of the George Washington Bridge forty minutes from where I live.
In an effort to not turn this into a rant about cruel people or bad judgment, I’ll just sum it up again. Clementi’s roommate had a WebCam in their dorm room that taped Clementi having sex with another man. His roommate took this footage and streamed it to the Internet. A couple of days later, Clementi jumped off the bridge. Coincidence? Highly doubt it.
Though the Civil War ended in 1865, it took about a hundred years for real laws to come in place giving African-Americans their rights. And in the middle of all of this, there was still persecution and murder and violence. I can no longer speak for what the rest of the world thinks, but I do not think it is appropriate for a group of oppressed people to have to wait one hundred years before they can stop worrying about being bullied on a daily basis.
While America may allow everyone to have his or her own belief, this freedom does not entitle us to be cruel. As a society, we see stories every day about our neighbors going out of their way to make others’ lives a little more difficult. For what? What’s the point? If Shirvell or Clementi’s roommate are experiencing higher quality lives after what’s gone on during the past two weeks, then someone please alert me.
So just stop. Stop being difficult just for the sake of being difficult. Stop ruining other people’s lives just because you can. I don’t think that being a little more accepting really ever hurt anyone.