Death of a Unicorn

In life, Jamie Hubley badly wanted to find a partner to share his feelings with and to feel loved in return. One can only assume that he would have been surprised and gratified to see the hundreds who showed up at his funeral to express their grief and their love for him after the 15-year-old took his own life last weekend. Hubley was the only openly gay student at his highschool, and was subjected to bullying and torment that, eventually, he found too unbearable.

I don’t believe suicide is a solution for anyone. In fact, I think suicide is a generally selfish action; it may relieve you of whatever pain or unhappiness you feel, but it forces everyone around you to suffer as well. I don’t think any of the hundreds who are suffering the pain of the loss of Jamie Hubley would say they are happy he is gone, though they may say they are happy he is no longer suffering himself. And, I think they would to a person say that they are disappointed that in 2011 a gay teen should be subjected to the kind of torment and bullying that plagued Hubley’s young life. Quite plainly, it’s deplorable, and it starts with every single one of us.

It would be too easy to rhyme off the excuse that has always been used for why students and young people pick on each other, “kids can be cruel sometimes.” Where is bcomes more uncomfortable and makes people squirm is to ask where kids learn to be cruel in the first place, because it doesn’t come naturally. Kids are adults in the making, and they learn behaviour from their environment. They learn from peers, sure, but peers of the same age and stage of development are learning from somewhere else too, right? And, those sources of behavioural cues are parents, teachers, adults that they see but don’t know, media, celebrities, athletes, etc. They’re learning from us.

The next most natural response to this kind of a tragedy is to say that parents should teach their kids better. And, you’d be right to say that “it starts at home,” you’d just be completely wrong in thinking that it ends there. Parents have to teach their kids right and wrong, but that education is only a fraction of where kids learn about morality. If it came down to responsible parenting, Columbine wouldn’t have happened; those two kids had responsible parents who taught their kids right and wrong too.

And, you have to assume that the parents know right and wrong to begin with. What prejudices do they have? What kind of role models are the parents, if they themselves and their peers are intolerant and prejudiced? I wrote just a short while ago that it’s pathetic and embarassing to see that there is still a large component of our society and our leadership who espouse the kind of intolerance and hatred that was common in in 50s and 60s. To repost the quotes from adults in our own community in response to Tim Hudak’s hate propaganda against the Liberals in the last provincial election:

“Wonderful, a bunch of grade 6 kids will get beat up.”
“The concept of wasting one precious minute of education time with “sex ed for 1st graders” is deporable.”
“Ontario Liberals are full of LGBT crowd. Even the former Mayoral candidate for Toronto who came from Dalton’s administration to run against Rob Ford was GAY.”
“because he didnt fawn over everything gay dont make him homophobic.”
“Honestly.. you folks have nothing better to do than to “teach” (perverse) our children’s minds? Homo-sexuality has been defined as a “severe mental condition”… not to mention the morality (or lack of) of it!
Sodom and Gemorrah of the 21 Century !
Shame!”

These are adults in our own community! Granted, it is aonly a sampling (though I didn’t quote everything I saw) and should not be considered representative of the whole, but it clearly indicates that the anti-gay garbage that used to be far more obviously rampant in our society is still alive and well, if a little more under wraps than it used to be.

You can like or dislike Michael Moore all you want, but “Bowling for Columbine” was still a tremendous documentary and made some incredibly powerful points, not the least of which is that our culture models intolerance as pride and violence as a tool for resolving disagreement. In academic terms, it’s a violent defence of Same against Other, or I and Not-I. People categorize things according to whether they are in the same group as them in one manner or another, and ostracize the ones that aren’t in the same group. They psychologically justify their attitudes in a multitude of ways, usually by somehow dehumanizing the members of the other group somehow, and gain approval from their peers by showing just how distant they are from that other group. Cruel, violent and inhumane actions are a good way to show that you think someone is less than you, and that you aren’t one of them. What do you think bigots did to black people, or our pioneer ancestors did to the natives, throughout history?

Parents have no control over that. They can teach their kid that bashing gays is wrong, but if music (Eminem) politicians (Hudak) and a host of other adult role models all express negative attitudes towards gays, kids are going to mimic what they see because they want to fit in. Did you do everything your parents wanted you to?

I thought so.

The solution really begins with us. We, as adults in this culture, have to make it clear and unequivocal that intolerance and bigotry are not acceptable. We need to demonstrate to each other and to children that treating people poorly because they aren’t the same as us, either because of age, race, creed or sexual preference, is wrong and won’t be condoned. You can say what you like about my obvious interest in politics and how dry and boring it is, but the reality is that the crap that came out of PC headquarters in the last election lifted the rock off of a lot of squirming, maggoty white things in our society that are always there but rarely see the light of day. Adults still have a lot of prejudice and intolerance, so we can’t be surprised that kids mirror that in school.

It’s shameful that Jamie Hubley had to endure so much torment and taunting that death seemed preferable to life. To have made such a sport out of the psychological torture of another human being simply because of his sexual preference makes us all look like dirty, filthy little primates. But, don’t blame the parents of the kids that bullied him. Blame us all.

We all have a part in creating this society, for better or for worse.

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