Every once in a while a tragic incident occurs that serves as a wakeup call and in that sense, events over the past few weeks were both devastating and inspiring.
The news of Rutgers student Tyler Clementi’s suicidal leap from the George Washington Bridge after being publicly outed on the internet by his college roommate reverberated and pierced through our everyday complacency to make us take a long hard look in the mirror. The image staring back at us was not pretty.
Well you better listen my sisters and brothers,
’cause if you do you can hear
there are voices still calling across the years.
And they’re all crying across the ocean,
and they’re cryin across the land,
and they will till we all come to understand.
None of us are free,
None of us are free,
None of us are free, one of us are chained,
None of us are free.
(Mann, Weil, Russell – recorded by Ray Charles and Solomon Burke)
It’s 2010 and despite the fact that public opinion polls tell us the younger generation is more accepting of the GLBT community, the hatred, intolerance, and bullying are very much still with us. The inspiring part is that people from all walks of life are reacting by taking out their flashlights to illuminate the bigotry and demand that it stop. We attended a vigil of several hundred people carrying candles last week, gathered under a tent to shelter from the pouring rain, to listen to inspired high school students and other speakers reflect on those who have recently taken their lives. They affirmed their commitment to fight intolerance and bring the message, “It Gets Better.”
Fort Worth TX city councilman Joel Burns took the opportunity at a regularly scheduled council meeting to talk of his own experiences and his very powerful and emotional address has gone viral. If you haven’t seen it, click below and listen to his story – it’s inspirational. Many in the GLBT community and beyond are frustrated with President Obama for dragging his feet and playing politics on implementing a repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. Yet when was the last time a president of the U.S. spoke to the nation about our own bigotry and spoke directly to those impacted, emphasizing the message of “It Gets Better”?