Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Anderson Cooper covers school bullying, with emphasis on increase in anti-gay bullying

Anderson Cooper is covering school bullying and cyberbullying all week on his AC360 program, but special attention was paid last night again to the story of Tyler Clementi.

Jeffrey Toobin, CNN’s legal expert and attorney, said that this is not a problem that is easily resolved just in the legal system; it needs to be handled by parents and school systems with internal discipline. But then that’s the rub. We have an element in our culture that considers homosexuality immoral, and since the legal system no longer will support that view as it once did, it will resort to ostracism to try to maintain that cultural view. It’s ironic that while both gay marriage (including gay parents) and ending “don’t ask don’t tell” in the military get considerable support in mainstream debate, in some school systems the situation is as bad as ever, especially in more rural areas (and not always in the South).

We have an understanding that in civil society you don’t show hostility about race or religion (although recent events seem to test our tolerance about religion, at least in some “conservative” circles); but somehow making slurs about the f-word is still often acceptable. Anderson noted a trailer he had seen from Universal Pictures about a Vince Vaughn film (“The Dilemma”) where a character says, in the previews, “That’s so gay”, Anderson implied that showing a homophobic slur in a preview for general audiences was inappropriate (it would be OK in the MPAA-rated feature when it is a character-driven drama where that’s part of the character). And this from a studio that surely has employment practices that protect LGBT people. (That was not always true in Hollywood; in 1965, Technicolor supposedly had a huge purge of LGBT employees.)

If “social conservatives” want to use indirect ostracism to get their way, the next question is logically, what do they really want? What is it about homosexuality that is worse than being a deadbeat dad? Part of it seems like homosexuality seems to them like a proxy for something deeper: that the responsibility for producing the next generation and the sacrifices that go with it aren’t shared equally. We often hear the debate put in purely religious or scriptural terms. I would go so far as to say that sometimes gay rights gets mixed up with hyperindividualism, which is related but not the same thing. Another aspect is that some married parents behave as if they believe that they need their kids’ loyalty (that means interest in continuing an “immortal” family lineage) to remain interested in their own marriages.

Ellen DeGeneres was heard to say, "it gets easier" for kids as they get older. That's hardly a principled answer. People are supposed to submit to wrongful behvior of others and "forgive" it because they are second class citizens?  My own experience with teasing was largely centered in the later grade school and junior high school years, not for being "gay" but for not performing competitively as a boy.  It did get much better for me in high school (as DeGeneres would predict), but then I was halfway "outed" and expelled from William and Mary for admitting "latent homosexuality" to the Dean of Men in November 1961. Nevertheless, I eventually served in the Army starting in 1968 (after three draft physicals), and the miltiary, in the end, turned out to be a relatively positive experience.  I would lead an "alternate universe" adult life in which I wanted nothing to do with the emotional world of the "collectivist" family (as described by Carlson, Mero, and others), because my initial competitive experience had been humiliating. The entire experience left me believing that the problem was that if I didn't step up physically, others would "sacrifice" in my place.  Is that the point? What a Sunday School lesson. Say, it's about respecting autonomy.

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