Taking a break this week

Raz Potter Washburn Review

I’m taking a pause break from questions this week to post an observation, and I’ll admit upfront that it’s my editorial on a particularly touchy issue in media at the moment. When I read articles about children (and adults) committing suicide over being bullied (cyber or otherwise), it causes a particular amount of disgust, sadness and alarm. I had someone post on my Facebook about a teenage kid named Jadin who hung himself after he no longer could handle being bullied for being gay. The suicides of teens and adults who are ridiculed for being “other” have gained momentum and attention online as well as televised media. Movements such as the Trevor Project and the Matthew Shepard Foundation have proved instrumental in advocacy of equality of the LGBT community. To those of you who are taking a stand against needless hatred: thank you. You’re the unsung heroes who make life bearable for another, sometimes without even realizing how your kindness may have made all the difference. 

For those who know me, you know I am a certain breed of loud-mouth who is massively opinionated and generally jovial. Growing up as an “other” in the (straight as well as LGBT) community, I experienced firsthand what it is to be “weird” or an outcast. My uniqueness makes me wonderfully unoriginal in many ways. I say that because we’re our own “breed” and happen to assimilate (or not) into whatever makes us most comfortable. The thing is though, choice abounds, and today, especially in America, we all have the choice to express ourselves however we so choose.  

Here’s the thing: it seems to me that in a highly individualistic society, we’ve stretched to a particular point of self-centeredness wherein we’ve forgotten what empathy for our fellow “man” really looks like, and it’s certainly not limited to gay people. 

Today I spoke with an older gentleman who works for Washburn (we’ll call him Tom) about a student’s rudeness when the student commented in passing to Tom that he was moving too slowly and needed to get out of the way. I spoke with Tom at length about how he feels that we (as a younger generation) sometimes don’t think about what it’s like to be old, or misunderstood, treated as an inconvenience, or seen as “lesser” when, “everyone grows old, and he’s gunna be slow too eventually.”  I commented that it is lack of empathy which propels us to see others as “lesser than.” Rather than being grateful for the fact that we are still able bodied or “spring chickens,” we see those who are slower (either mentally or physically) as defective or an object of ridicule. Now, I’m not attempting to go all “Chicken Soup” right now, but what I am saying is this: one moment of kindness toward another can change their life, and you’ll never know the repercussions of one act of generosity. You never know what another person is dealing with.

So I challenge all of us to do a minimum of one kind thing a day. Perhaps if Jadin had been met with understanding instead of brazen ridicule, he might not have died before the age of 18.