You are so young and so beautiful. A promising life. Starting at Rutgers. You’ve probably been told how intelligent you are. How far you’ll go.
My father never would have said any of that to you. He would have said, “You may think you’re smart, but you have no common sense.”
It was a refrain I heard time and time again. It was a reminder that he expected me to live to a higher standard. That good grades and accolades weren’t enough. He expected me to do the right thing. As he often reminded me, it is easy to be a book-smart asshole.
And far too easy to go along with the crowd.
I wonder about what happened that night. Your friend borrowed your computer. I imagine you were standing over his shoulder, watching as he spied on his roommate. Did he tell you what was going on? Was he laughing? Did you laugh too?
Or did some part of you feel uneasy? Why didn’t you say anything? Did you see his twitter feed? Did you know he was going to attempt to stream the video again two days later?
What were you thinking? (Shades of my father!) Or weren’t you thinking at all?
A little while back I was party to a discussion about an elementary school child who was being bullied. The parents of the bully were called. But another child who had joined in was simply reprimanded by the teacher. I argued that his parents should be called as well. I said that were I his parent I would want to know. Some of the teachers said that this child was simply a follower. He did not initiate the bullying. It was not his idea.
But he joined in.
I believe that sometimes followers are the most logical kids to target with anti-bullying education. They have already shown that they can be swayed by others. What they need is to be given the strength to do the right thing.
I know that your defense attorneys will probably argue for leniency. They’ll argue that you are a good person and a decent human being. They’ll argue that your life shouldn’t be destroyed for a foolish prank. That you never intended that your action (or inaction) might harm somebody. Might cause them to be driven to suicide.
But I would argue intention has little to do with anything. Because even if you never stopped to consider that Tyler Clementi might commit suicide, surely you knew that turning a webcam on him when he had asked for privacy was not the act of a decent human being. That a decent human being might have turned to her friend and said, “Ravi, that is wrong. Get the fuck out of my room.”
Because inaction implies acceptance.
Now you need to do the right thing. I don’t know what that might be, but I do think it will probably be very hard. But Tyler deserves no less.
Another thing my father said was that you always need to be careful about choosing your friends. Because you need to choose who you will become, and not let them choose for you.