I’d like it first to be known this column is produced under duress. Diane Casazza, publisher of this illustrious weekly wonder for two-point-five decades, virtually demanded this week’s Deleted Scenes pertain to the subject of Tyler Clementi, who, in case you didn’t know, was the Rutgers freshman who leapt to his death from the George Washington Bridge after discovering his roommate, Dharun Ravi, had posted a video online in which Clementi had a sexual encounter with another male student.
Not that I’m without opinion. Being a resident of the Garden State, a full-time Rutgers graduate student (albeit in Newark, not New Brunswick) and a self-righteous windbag, I have plenty to say on the subject. Printing my opinions, however, seems exploitative and shallow, and so I’d have you know as a reader that, given my druthers, I wouldn’t be doing it.
As for my opinions on the matter, they are manifold and driven by a range of emotions, from familiar outrage at the ignorant to sympathy for a young man who, so terrified/mortified at being outed in one of the cruelest, most insensitive manners possible, he thought it better to end his life than face the consequences set upon him. New Brunswick is an hour from the GWB. Imagine what must have been going through the young man’s mind on that trip. I don’t even know where to begin.
I know where to end, though, and it’s the same place I always end. It’s the same conclusion I’ve come to a thousand times for a thousand reasons, and that is this: People are assholes. Did Mr. Ravi, who was arrested along with friend Molly Wei on an invasion of privacy charge (for starters), know his roommate was going to kill himself over a sextape? No. How could he? Nobody kills themselves over sextapes these days. They get successful, multi-season reality shows on the E! network.
But you know what? Life gave Mr. Ravi a chance, a real chance, not to be an asshole. It might have been the only time in his life that either being or not being an asshole would have any consequence, and I can’t imagine there wasn’t at least a split second before he uploaded that video in which he thought to himself, “Gee, maybe this is kind of a dick move.” But he did it anyway, because he’s an asshole.
Who do you feel for in these situations? Well, if young Clementi’s sexual partner was someone with whom he was involved in an emotional relationship, and really, even if he wasn’t, I feel for him. More, though, I feel for the mothers. And not just Clementi’s mother, Mr. Ravi’s and even Miss Wei’s mothers as well. The moms who brought up their children, sent them off to college and watched as they began lives separate from the homes in which they were raised, proud and maybe a little sad. Mrs. Ravi didn’t know her son was an asshole, and she shouldn’t have ever had to find out.
And Mrs. Clementi? I’ve known several hateful women in my life, but I can’t think of a single one who’d rather have a dead son than a gay one.
Maybe that’s the one thing about this whole story—because that’s what it is, as far as the news is concerned—that really doesn’t make sense to me. I know life’s dire when you’re young, but come on, man. Sue the bastard! You’re in a school with over 50,000 students, surely one of them has the ACLU’s phone number. And if Clementi wanted to reach out to a gay community for support, what better place to go than New York? Shit, put six of those tough-ass Chelsea boys on the case and it’d have been settled in time to get home and watch Rupaul on Bravo.
The point is it didn’t have to end the way it did for Clementi, and if there’s a lesson (which no one will learn), it’s that hate takes many forms—not all of them obvious—and that at their base, people are assholes. Next time you’re looking for an accurate example of the depth of human sensitivity and kindness, remember Mr. Ravi’s cluelessness and cruelty, because if you think there’s any substantive difference between him and most everyone else walking around, you’re kidding yourself.