Every five minutes, somewhere, there is yet more evidence that our society is becoming ever more coarse. The murders in Mattapan just a week or so ago are a good example. A young child murdered in the arms of his mother, and his mother as well, were among the victims. Followed were the usual meetings in church basements and the outcry of a community in grief.
The requisite commentary on tough neighborhoods, African-American homes and families which are inordinately fatherless. In fairness, though, this kind of violence and grief is hardly limited to any particular ethnic group.
Last week, another egregious example of how hardened we have become. At Rutgers University, 18 year-old Tyler Clementi was secretly videotaped during a sexual encounter with a male counterpart. The culprits? His roommates. Two of them who had undoubtedly previously masqueraded as friends. YouTube was not good enough, these two decided on a live stream to the internet. It took only three days for Tyler to complete his spiral into despair, embarrassed needlessly beyond recovery.
Tyler was a promising violinist. What a loss. What a tragedy for his family and true friends. Ever more coarse, we have become, and for the most part we stand by doing little more than shaking our heads. I, too, am at a loss as to where a single person might begin to fix all of this.
Whether it be Mattapan, Rutgers, or Mont Vernon, NH where a young mother was hacked to death in her own home, and her 11 year-old daughter left for dead, for any of us to continue to think there is nothing wrong seems somehow escapist. I maintain that we all own a piece of these terrible chapters in American history. I include myself. After all, my kids play X-Box, watch scary movies, and engage of most of the typical behavior and entertainment as do their peers. We could all begin by boycotting such venues.
But something is wrong. We are creating misfits. I do take the time to talk to my kids, regularly, about reality and fantasy. Truth and consequences. Games are games. Life is real. In life, there are consequences. The mean and scary people in entertainment are safely distant and unreal. Not true for the mean and scary in real life. There are no X-Box games celebrating charitable work, or helping an elderly person cross the street. Indeed, there is little celebration by anyone anymore for such deeds. That may be part of the problem.
The other element I sense is the fixation of our young with electronic media. There is less and less human-to-human interaction. This creates, I believe, a dangerous disconnect. You can hurt someone through Facebook and never have to face the actual person. There is a mob mentality in such places as well, where there are always legions of people waiting to pile on. Perhaps it’s time for a “I Hate Facebook Club”. Anyone interested?
Though I didn’t know Tyler Clementi, I suspect the world lost a sweet and intelligent soul, in exchange for a couple of kids who are not so sweet. I don’t believe the kids that videotaped him wanted or expected this outcome. More likely, they expected a ‘viral video” and the flash of instant and fleeting fame that comes with it. It sure is a good chance for parents to talk to their kids about it, though. That would be a start.