Last week 19 year old Tyler Clementi’s life came to an abrupt end. Tyler Clementi was not a member of the armed services, or the police force. He did not choose to pursue a career or an activity that put his life at risk on a daily basis. His parents had no reason to think that their son, a freshman at Rutgers University who was studying to become a musician, would be placed in harm’s way. He wasn’t hit by a bus while trying to cross the street. He didn’t fall from a balcony window during a frat party. He didn’t die from an incurable illness. Instead, he was pushed over the edge by his roommate and another student. True, Dharun Davi and Molly Wei did not march him up the George Washington Bridge and push him off – but they might as well have.
As a parent of two teenagers, I can barely put the words to paper that express the anger I feel right now. If I had an opportunity to speak to Dharum Davi, I would ask him “Why couldn’t you have stood up and said to Tyler ‘Look, I’m uncomfortable with your lifestyle, and I’d really prefer to room with someone else.’ At the very least, you could have just been honest and said ‘You’re gay, you’re my roommate, and I’m completely freaked out by it. People are going to think I’m gay, and I can’t deal with that. I need to be out of here. Sorry.’ Maybe if you were a little more evolved you could have tried to see life through his eyes. Maybe if you’d spent less time watching reality shows where people routinely destroy others for sport and entertainment you would have been able to see Tyler differently. Maybe if you’d read and understood more books like “To Kill A Mockingbird,” you would have cut Tyler a little slack, and left him alone.
Instead you chose to bully him. That’s right Dharum, you of the slight frame, the big smile, the breakdancer - you are a bully … and a coward. You didn’t approach Tyler, drag him into a stairwell and beat him up. You didn’t call him derogatory names as he walked down the hall. No, cowards don’t like confrontations. Instead, you went behind his back and video-taped him while he was having a tryst with another man. If that wasn’t bad enough, you streamed it onto Youtube. Oh and then you did it again. And tell me please, who’s the deviant here - a young man who asked for privacy so that he could just share some intimacy with another human being, or the person who chose to secretly record the encounter, and then broadcast it to the universe, not once but twice? I’ll bet you even smiled and said “sure, no problem,” when Tyler asked if he could have the room to himself for awhile. As for Molly Wei (who is claiming innocence in the debacle), she’s as guilty as if she’d allowed Dharun to use her room to beat the daylights out of Tyler.
So what has been accomplished? A talented musician, who was only a threat to other violinists vying for the same seat with a world class orchestra (and according to his professors at Rutgers, he would without a doubt, have gone on to play in some of the world’s greatest orchestras) took his own life because he felt it was no longer worth living. The Clementi’s have lost their child. The two students’ whose actions pushed Tyler over the edge, will find their lives drastically changed. At the moment, they can’t even come out of their own homes. I don’t think they will be going back to Rutgers. I don’t think they will be attending school anywhere anytime soon. I can’t imagine what their parents are going through. They will now live forever with the shame of their child’s actions. They will probably bankrupt themselves, having spent thousands of dollars in legal fees. I wonder if Dharun could have ever imagined how many lives would be ruined by his actions.