As a Dad, I cannot fathom the horrific pain that Jadin Bell’s parents must be experiencing. I ache for them.
Young Jadin was taken off life support this week, showing little brain activity. The officials are calling it an attempted “suicide,” but it was not a suicide. It was the destruction of something innocent, something beautiful, something of supreme contribution exposed to an environment that valued it not at all.
The facts support their word perhaps. No argument. A 15 year old boy took a rope to a playground and without assistance from any visible being, hung himself.
Please let that resonate. A person, a child, who would normally abhor personal pain and suffering, was so motivated towards self-destruction that he walked casually into a violence that mobs have deployed through out history to terrify communities into submission.
This situation too had its mob. It was a more efficient modern mob than those of the past. Modern mobs do their jobs so completely that they do not have to even show up for their final handiwork.
The La Grande Observer quoted his friend Jody Bullock “He is amazingly sensitive. If he saw a wounded butterfly [as a child] he wanted to heal it … He is an amazing young man who is smart and very social; he has a persona and a presence that you want to be a part of.”
It is fitting that Jadin Bell wanted to heal butterflies. He was the human soul equivalent of a magnificent butterfly himself who up until now did nothing more harmful than flutter sweetly into life. According to a family friend, he elevated those around him with a “couple quick words and everybody would just forget about their problems and smile. He just had a gift.”
Then Jadin met the mob. The same family friend reports that Jadin was “pushed to suicide after being bullied in person and on the Internet for being gay”.
Like history’s lynch mobs who hid under sheets and cloaks, the modern mob too is hidden so their exact identities are not known. It does not take much however to hear their voices echoing. Evidence the commentators in the local media beneath the story reporting about Jadin. One calling himself “PuzzleFighter” declares “BTW, some guy who hugs me for no reason deserves a punch in the face.” One who actually decries bullying, “Curtisjunk”, does so in the most anti-gay of ways, “I don’t care if the kid you’re talking about wore dildos hanging from his ears and a sign that said ‘Service Entry in Rear’…”
Other mob voices are merely apathetic. “BeautifulNW” states “So you don’t think children should be taught that at the end of the day, happiness is a choice? … I am all too familiar, but I chose to let my misfortunes fuel my passions, and I am much stronger because of it… Happiness is definitely a choice, even when you are young. ..And what if the “bullied” kids story is a bit embellished?”
This is not the first time the anti-gay cloud has settled over La Grande Oregon. It was not even a year ago when its mayor was publicly criticized by the local college for his anti-gay rant on Facebook.
The local commentator “Quidproquo “ confessed, “I was a real jerk to a gay kid growing up and that was because my parents were constantly putting down gay folks in our house. I realized when I was about 14 how wrong my parents were and I told the kid I was really sorry but no sorry could make up for how much teasing that kid endured on the bus every day, not just by me but by everyone.“ By everyone.
Many, rightly, want an end to bullying. My friend, Andrea Rose Free wrote a compelling article about it , and a commentator “Mickey 602” said flatly, “I don’t understand why bulling is still allowed in schools.”
However, another commentator “DT” points out that “our culture is extremely bully oriented.. look at some of the cable news channels. “ DT may be right. Becoming bully free in our US society is appearing to be as unattainable as our becoming gun free. The retort “guns don’t kill people, people do” has a bullying counterpart. Bullying is not the biggest thing killing kids like Jadin…. anti-gay hatred is. Bullying is how it is delivered.
“ CMar74” addressed this by stating about La Grande, “the culture of intolerance in that town is horrific and am thankful we removed our family from it.“
It was a commentator on Andrea Rose Free’s blog who nailed it, however, in my opinion. This is the testimony of someone who fought against the cause of bullying but found a deeper foe to combat.
“Christy” states, “As a mother of a gay son raised in Eastern Oregon…no, it ain’t easy. Bullying is rampant and though I did what I could at the time to involve administrators on behalf of my son, I always regret that I didn’t do more. However, its never too late. I am involving myself with The Matthew Shepard Foundation to erase hate in communities and schools. Though my work on this is very much in its infancy stages, I will need support from the La Grande Community and others in the surrounding areas. It all comes down to fear. What one fears, one will destroy. And destruction comes in many forms. I for one am committed to doing my part to educate and erase fear in the hopes that destruction will decrease.”
A mom named Christy is standing firm as a modern day David against a Goliath of Fear and Hatred. This is the battle we must wage. We must clear not only places like La Grande of this evil, but also places like our own backyards and our own living rooms. Please do not let her stand alone. We desperately need our Jadins, we need our beautiful butterflies. Too many of them have been transformed into tragic angels whom their loved ones will never see again.
Pundits report the need for conversation about suicide. They ask us to discuss bullying. These are worthwhile conversations. However, if we do not address fear and hatred, of gay people in particular, then we have missed the bigger picture and the mob will continue to find ways to express them, and more will die.
ROB WATSON is Director of Partners and Alliances Communication for Hitachi Data Systems, and blogs at evoL= . He has served as the president of the board of directors for Santa Cruz AIDS project, is a dedicated activist for the LGBT community, and a frequent contributor to the Huffington Post. He is the proud father of two sons he first fostered then adopted. They reside in Northern California.