The recent suicide of Tyler Clementi, the Rutgers freshman who jumped to his death after his sexual encounter with another man was streamed live online by his roommate, is a tragedy practically too horrific to be believed. It’s such a sad and senseless waste of a life that had so very much potential.
I have read all sorts of opinions about this event, ranging from pure sympathy for Clementi and his family, to the fact that there must have been a great deal going on in Clementi’s life, and that this one event, tragic though it may be, was not a cause for suicide. Questions have arisen as to who knew of Clementi’s sexual preference.
And my reply to all of it is that it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter what else was going on in Clementi’s life. It doesn’t matter who knew, or didn’t know, of his sexuality. The fact that he was gay doesn’t even matter.
What does matter here is that a human being’s right to privacy was violated, his most personal and intimate moment broadcast live online for anyone to see. And it appears that this happened because the alleged perpetrators did not agree with Clementi’s sexual persuasion.
The alleged perpetrators, Dharun Ravi and Molly Wei, both graduated from New Jersey’s West Windsor-Plainsboro High School North before starting their college careers at Rutgers University in September. This high school provides a number of programs that help teach tolerance and respect for diversity, including a Gay-Straight Alliance, Interact Club, Peer Leaders groups, and STAND, a group committed to speaking out against intolerance locally, nationally, and internationally.
How is it that these two students managed to get through 12 years of school, with so many opportunities open to them, without learning much, if anything, about common decency and respect? How did they miss the lessons on live and let live, or that what one consenting adult does in the bedroom with another consenting adult should have no bearing on anything outside of the bedroom?