Not Soon Enough

By Jeffrey Page

Marriage must not be a political football but a fundamental right. Some states understand this and allow women to marry women if they choose and men to marry men if they choose. In fact, we’re at a moment now at which half the half the people interviewed in polling say they have no problem with gay marriage.

Clearly, conditions for gay people will improve. Future generations will look back to our time and be stunned when they read about the people of North Carolina amending their state constitution – in 2012! – to ban gay marriages and civil unions. Twenty-nine other states have similar restrictions.

That time of unfettered equality will come, but not soon enough. For now, some still look at gay men and women with deep contempt. We may be headed in the right direction, but we can’t seem to move fast enough.

This story is about Tyler Clementi, a young gay student at Rutgers University in Central Jersey who entertained another gay man in his dormitory room, unaware that this encounter was being filmed by Dharun Ravi, his roommate. Ravi showed the tape as a piece of amusement – like a gay joke, like a pinky across the tongue and then the eyebrow, like an exaggerated lisp – to his friends. Clementi heard about this and, one day later, jumped off the George Washington Bridge.

Ravi was charged with 15 counts including bias intimidation (a fairly new statute in New Jersey), hindering an investigation, invasion of privacy. Never was he charged with actually participating in Clementi’s death, and a jury convicted him on all counts. He faced 5 to 10 years in prison.

And then, the ancient loathing (or indifference at best) of gay people came through. It was not enough that Tyler Clementi is no longer among us, not enough that Ravi’s camera was the instrument to get him to end his own life, not enough that Clementi’s parents are deprived of him. In fact, Ravi entered the courtroom of Superior Court Judge Glenn Berman for sentencing this week, and was not in a talkative mood at all.

He did not apologize for what he had done. He did not explain why he had done it. He did not offer to address Tyler Clementi’s parents. He even declined to address the judge. He did not ask to be forgiven. He did not say he would never do it again. He did not say if he finally understands the inhuman stupidity of what he had done. He did not explain what he felt for Tyler Clementi. He did not say that he has learned anything as a result of Clementi’s death. He just stood there, not uttering a word.

The judge said: “I’m not condoning what this gentleman did.” Gentleman?

“I’m not minimizing it. I’m not defending it.” And then he went on to minimize it. He handed down a sentence of 30 days in the county jail, and you could not have been blamed if you wondered if a person named Tyler Clementi ever actually existed.

Thirty days works out to about 48 hours for every count on which Ravi was convicted. Thirty days in this case is not a sentence but a minor inconvenience.

We will reach the day when men like Dharun Ravi are called to account for their violations of the rules of decency and the rights of others. It will be a time when men like Tyler Clementi are as valued and respected as any other deserving man, say for example, a Jersey judge.



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2 Responses to “Not Soon Enough”

  1. Jean Webster Says:

    Jeff, Good, good piece.

    I too was appalled when I heard the verdict the other day. I was in my kitchen, listening to midday news on NPR, making lunch. Sadly, I’d heard right. 30 days! I was shouting at the cupboards, but they were as hard of hearing as that judge. What an insult to the deceased young man. His parents, and all the other gays and lesbians. On the other hand, I hope you are right. That at some future date American citizens will be amazed about how narrow-minded people were “in the old days.”

  2. Jim Gilbert Says:

    There are two issues here. One is the proper consequences that a hateful punk like Ravi should receive for committing a hateful crime, and the other is the options that the criminal justice system has in assigining consequences. Obviously, this alleged gentleman is not familiar with self discipline and needs others to provide discipline for him. I don’t know if 30 days or 5 years or 10 years in prison would repair his defecctive character traits. He certinly could use re-education in the practice of moral judgment. But the criminal justice system has no mechinism to provide such re-education. In fact, jailhouse education reinforces the moraly challanged. Right now a principal objective of the criminal justice system is to criminalize black men.The system is rotten to the core. Introducing Ravi to such a system will not address his propensity to hatred. He did receive a wrist slapping rather than more approprate consequences but he really needs to learn that God dont like ugly. The so called correctional institution should provide that lesson.

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