It’s About Human Decency

There are many things about the world I cannot understand and hate is one of them.

Over the past few weeks, report after report has rolled in of gay teens and young adults committing suicide due to bullying at school or in their community. It’s something that makes me so sad, so angry and upset, that it’s hard for me to write this post. How, tell me, can someone bully a person so persistently, so viciously, that that person feels they cannot live in this world any longer? How can someone commit themselves so fully to hating a person that it drives their target to take their own life? How could anyone ever think they have the right to treat another human being that way?

I don’t care what you believe. You could think that homosexuality is a choice, that the “gay lifestyle” will corrupt our world. You could think that all gay people are sinners, aliens, crazy people. I don’t care what you think or how crazy your opinions are.

Surely, we can all get behind human decency. I’m certain we all agree that treating people with respect, no matter what the situation, is important.

The problem is that I’m not seeing that. I don’t see that in the world, in the news media, in the way people treat others on TV, in classes, in their everyday interaction. Something has happened to our ability to be respectful. We have forgotten the golden rule: treat others as you want to be treated. We have forgotten it, and children are dying.

We’ve all been victims of taunting and name-calling. Whether it’s someone calling us fat, ugly, too tall, whether it’s someone deriding our religious beliefs or political affiliation, whether it’s someone bullying us for our race, gender, sexual preference, we’ve all dealt with it on some level. We all know how it feels. Most of us have probably participated in it at some point in our lives. It’s a part of life. One group gets picked on. That group picks on another group so they can feel superior. The chain continues down, trickles down the line, until someone gets told too many times they’re not worth it. They shouldn’t be alive. And so, they go home and hang themselves. They find a gun and shoot themselves. The taunting turns to something sinister. The taunting takes a life.

It’s easy to forget that pain. It’s easy for us to forget how our words can hurt others. It’s simple to think of it as “just a joke” or something that you “didn’t mean.” But we all have a breaking point. These people were broken one too many times.

It comes down to human decency. This should be our wake up call. Think about how we treat each other and how we treat ourselves. Every life is worth it.

I was teaching some sixth graders yesterday, and they were being particularly loud. I had to ask them numerous times to quiet down. I had just reached my breaking point when the program director walked in and started yelling at the kids.

“When the teacher is talking, you don’t talk! She has had to ask you so many times to be quiet! It takes one word for a human to understand! She should only have to say one word and you should be quiet. You’ve stopped being human right now. You’ve stopped being human!

It was a lesson in respect, and it struck a chord with me. We’ve stopped being human. It takes one word for a human to understand that they need to be respectful. It took us five lives.

Let this be our wake-up call.

Let us remember how to be decent.