By Rocco Papa
On September 21, 2011, Lady Gaga took to her Twitter account to tweet about the death of one of her little monsters. Jamey Rodemeyer took his life after being bullied about his sexual orientation. The tragic incident left the singer so upset, she vowed to encourage President Obama to pass a law making bullying illegal. Gaga’s proposal became a trending topic on the social networking website in just hours.
While an artist like Lady Gaga raises some good points and appears to have good intentions, there’s a lot she may not have considered. Of course bullying is wrong and uncalled for. Of course people shouldn’t be made fun of to the point where they want to take their own life. But making it illegal to bully someone doesn’t seem to be the answer. It sounds like grief talking –someone reacting in such a way in the midst of emotional pain. This is why people say not to react when you’re upset.
I have a feeling that if Gaga’s proposal takes effect, it will have the same impact that another law did. It’s the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy that Gaga so famously fought against. Former President Bill Clinton passed the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy on December 21, 1993. Clinton appeared to be well-intended. He explained that this would make people see that sexual orientation wasn’t a big deal and that everyone would have the opportunity to serve in the military. What it actually did, was restrict freedom from individuals who couldn’t openly be themselves. For example, heterosexual male soldiers can talk about missing their girlfriends, but homosexual male soldiers can’t talk about missing their boyfriends?
The unfair result of this law was noticed and fought against by many including Gaga. She even made a speech in Maine called “The Prime Rib of America” followed by dressing in prime rib at the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards. On September 20, 2011 the law was repealed. Just one day later, Gaga made a proposal that could put the country back into a restrictive, unfair environment.
Let’s say that someone took something you said the wrong way. Your words were taken out of context and your friend took it to heart. They took it to mean something you never intended it to. This happens all the time. Nobody is perfect. Does that mean that you will be arrested and thrown in jail, because your friend thought you were “bullying” them? Are we going to be at the point where we can’t even be comfortable interacting with one another? Are we going to be overly cautious about everything we say or do? Can you imagine living in such a state?
People who support Lady Gaga’s proposal claim that bullying is the verbal equivalent of a hate crime. They see bullying the same as murdering someone because they’re gay. While I believe bullying is wrong for any reason, I don’t think bullies are murdering these kids. I got bullied nearly every day in elementary school and middle school. I haven’t taken my own life and don’t plan to. When someone commits suicide, there are usually so many other factors at work that it would be impossible to view bullying as the only motive. Bullying surely is a motive for these suicides, but it’s probably not the only motive.
Part of the reason I haven’t committed suicide is because of my amazing mother. Whenever I got bullied, she would always stick up for me and fight with me. She would call the Principal’s office, speak to teachers, and do everything in her power to let me know she was on my side. She was (and still is) my support system. That is what people who are being bullied need: the essential support system. It could even consist of only one person. That’s powerful enough to help strengthen you.
One of the greatest things about this country is the rights promised to us in the First Amendment of the Constitution. Freedom of speech and expression is why America is valued as much as we are. Bullying is wrong and the amount should decrease worldwide. People should be exposed to support systems to help them get through. Hate will, unfortunately, always exist. We can’t eradicate it and I think it would be destructive to try to.
If you are in need of a support system, call The Trevor Hotline at 866 4-U-TREVOR. Or visit the Trevor Project website at www.thetrevorproject.org