Some musings on Tyler Clementi’s suicide.

First, this justusboys thread is worth reading. In it, Clementi complains about his roommate’s actions and wonders what to do.

I could just be more careful next time…make sure to turn the cam away…
buttt…
I’m kinda pissed at him (rightfully so I think, no?)
and idk…if I could…it would be nice to get him in trouble
but idk if I have enough to get him in trouble, i mean…he never saw anything pornographic…he never recorded anything…

I feel like the only thing the school might do is find me another roommate, probably with me moving out…and i’d probably just end up with somebody worse than him….I mean aside from being an asshole from time to time, he’s a pretty decent roommate…

Days later:

so I wanted to have the guy over again.

I texted roomie around 7 asking for the room later tonight and he said it was fine.

when I got back to the room I instantly noticed he had turned the webcam toward my bed. And he had posted online again….saying….”anyone want a free show just video chat me tonight”…or something similar to that…

soooo after that…..

I ran to the nearest RA and set this thing in motion…..
we’ll see what happens……

I haven’t even seen my roommate since sunday when i was asking for the room the first time…and him doing it again just set me off….so talking to him just didn’t seem like an option….

meanwhile I turned off and unplugged his computer, went crazy looking for other hidden cams….and then had a great time.

He would be dead less than 24 hours later. Tone is hard to tell from internet postings but to me he sounds completely in control, angry but not raging. All things considered he seems to be handling it well. So what happened?

Second. I like Tim Burke but this post disturbs me. What should happen to the two students who streamed the webcam feed?

What I’d like is that the two Rutgers students spend the rest of their lives talking in public about what they did, and how what they did touches on all of our lives, and maybe implicates more of us than we’d like to admit. I watched and chortled at the Star Wars Kid: I bet you did too. Didn’t we help to make a world where it’s slightly more permissible to think of humiliating someone with a viral video?

What I’d like is that the two Rutgers students have to work in everything they do for a more humane culture, for a wiser use of communicative media. I’d like them to have a special charge to live and teach the Golden Rule to their children, their friends, their neighbors, their co-workers, their communities, to any stranger who will listen and maybe even those who’d rather not.

I want this for everyone who causes this kind of pain to the world. I want state officials and policemen who prosecuted innocent men on flimsy evidence that is exposed later by genetic testing to have to spend the rest of their lives trying to make it right for the justice system, to dedicate themselves to fixing the problem. You can’t apologize for stealing someone’s life, and no payment can really compensate. Make it better, make it never happen.

For my part, I find the thought of a world with endless atoning but no atonement to be horrifying: Sisyphus giving community-service lectures. Even worse if this life is forced on the offenders. The coercion renders their actions as meaningless and repulsive as the vapid lawyerly apologies Burke decries earlier in his post.

It’s hard to say what “should” happen to Ravi and Wei, either from a legal/political viewpoint or a moral one. Forgiveness is hard to understand in easy cases, even more so when the wronged person no longer exists. I wonder if sheer self-preservation will make it difficult for them to come to terms with what they’ve done, since fully appreciating it might destroy them. (I’m not sure I could continue living, if I were in their position.)

On the other hand, it’s worth remembering that Ravi and Wei are teenagers. They are newly-minted responsible agents who pulled a prank that turned tragic; they didn’t deliberately bring about this outcome. (There but for fortune, for many of us.) More accurately, they didn’t bring it about themselves; it took another agent’s decision to create the horrible result.

As with so many cases of suicide, I feel empathy at the pain that pushed Clementi to this decision and– forgive me for admitting this– frustration at his choice. His postings are poignant in hindsight because they suggest that he was close to living out a much different story: he complaints, the two are disciplined, he gets a new room. In time he laughs about it. “You think you had a bad coming out experience?!” That was within his reach. Heartbreaking.

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