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Welcome to The Seattle Times' online letters to the editor, a sampling of readers' opinions. Join the conversation by commenting on these letters or send your own letter of up to 200 words letters@seattletimes.com.

October 3, 2010 at 12:01 PM

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Gay college freshman commits suicide

Posted by Letters editor

Understanding bullying, abuse as essential as math, science

Editor, The Times:

I have been deeply impacted by the recent suicides by kids who were bullied and teased because of their sexuality [“Gay Rutgers student torn in chat-site postings,” News, Oct. 1]. I think this is an excellent opportunity to once again address the issue of bullying altogether.

We must raise the consciousness both in our schools and in our society to the point where it is clear and self evident why kids and adults bully other people. We must be able to respond first with protecting the victims and then with as much compassion available to us address what is going on in the kids who are behaving in this manner. I firmly believe we must use the already established methods and explore new ways of resolving these issues.

I was fortunate as a child in school. I was rarely teased. But I saw it often and I all too often saw authority figures look the other way. I saw kids tormented, I saw the looks of helplessness on their faces, and I experienced my own cowardice to stop them, fearing it might turn on me. I am sad to say that on a few occasions I was the one bullying, and I felt how it stemmed from feelings of hurt and fear within me. I once saw myself hurt another in a way that pains me to this day and brings tears to my eyes even now. This was as vital a part of my childhood education just as important as math, science or anything else the school provided.

Please. Make this a vital part of the education of our children. Give them a safe place to learn, play and grow, where they do not spend countless hours in fear and sadness because we are unable to provide them with a safe environment.

— Josh Grahl, Seattle

Sexuality merely one facet of life

The suicide of the Rutgers student (Tyler Clementi) is a tragic reminder of how severely ignorance and fear can affect a young person.

It would seem he bought unquestioningly into the narrow, ill-informed view of human sexuality that is so popular in America.

Simply put, that view consists of the belief that sexual orientation is the most vital part of every person’s self definition, and that celibate and bisexual people do not exist.

When I was his age, I spent several weeks in Scandinavia. Decades later, I remain convinced that they’ve got it right: sex is merely a single facet of life. It does not have to be an all-consuming, terribly dramatic business.

Yes, people have sex. They also eat, sleep, play sports, make music, grow crops and do a thousand other things.

Why would any person feel obliged to define him/herself solely by what they do in the bedroom?

We are the sum total of all that we do, not just the one thing.

Our uniquely American penchant for labeling ourselves and others has become a cultural sickness. Tyler feared being labeled homosexual, so he took his own life.

We really need to do better by our young people. The future of our nation is at stake.

— Abelard Montague, Seattle

Help eliminate fear in schools

Too many of our children and our children’s children live each day at school looking over their shoulders, waiting for something to happen to them. Let’s all help eliminate this type of attitude in our schools.

— Edward Johnson, Federal Way

Stand up to ‘homophobic bigotry’

Another life is ended because of shame.

In the case of the young man who jumped off a bridge in New Jersey because a video of him kissing with another man was put on the Internet — sadly, it’s that simple.

And how many more young men and women will choose to take their unwarranted shame to the grave with them?

If we as a society stood up (and spoke out) against homophobic bigotry every time it crawled out from under the slimy rock (or bible) from which it came, maybe some of these young folks could start to do the same.

And maybe (with some help) they could find the courage to pass that shame right on back to its rightful owners. That’s right, the bigots who passed it down to them.

It isn’t going to end until then.

These youngsters need our help; how about “we” show some courage, and start speaking up ourselves.

— Marty Zupan, Seattle

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