Monday, October 11, 2010

Suicide: It's an equal-opportunity killer

In case you've forgotten, America -- and given the state of the American hype machine the past week or two, I think you may have -- being gay is not the only reason youth get bullied.

It is not the only reason they kill themselves.

And, frankly, I'm starting to get scared that people are getting the message that gay-bashing is the only bullying going on out there. I'm afraid everything else is going to get overlooked.

HOW ABOUT this, America? How about we stop the bullying -- and suicides -- of all youth? Gay, straight, fat, thin, geeky, brainiac, spazzy, dorkish, gimpoid, stuck-up, slutty, virginal, lame-o, klutzy, doofus and religious fanatic.

Let's help them all.

Let's protect them all.

Let's save them all.

At its root, teen bullying -- or any bullying, for that matter -- isn't because kids are gay (or fill-in-the-blank). It's because kids are different in some way, and adolescence is hell on "different."

It's easy as hell to become the Other when you're 15. Hell, it's easy enough when you're 50. We humans don't "do" Other very well.

I've seen kids catch hell for all kinds of reasons. And oftentimes, kids who catch holy, unrelenting hell end up hating themselves enough -- or wanting the pain to stop badly enough -- that they embrace the most permanent solution they can think of . . . for themselves, or for the pain.

THERE WAS a rash of teen suicides in Omaha about five years ago, bringing wider attention to a deadly trend across Nebraska. The deaths led the Omaha World-Herald to publish a huge, and excellent, series on the subject -- not that our short attention spans let us recall this.

Or recall that the teen deaths, while sometimes linked to bullying, rarely had anything to do with homosexuality.

I don't mean to minimize how badly gay kids get treated -- they often are treated horribly, and that is horribly wrong. And, indeed, sometimes the specific illustration can give us a good idea of the general picture.

Sometimes, the "little" story tells the bigger one in a manner we can wrap our brains around.

But in this case, I think it's possible that the smaller picture might end up obscuring the larger one.

And the life that costs may be your kid's.

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