The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

‘It Gets Better,’ Except When It Doesn’t and Then Teenagers Commit Suicide

Posted on | September 20, 2011 | 6 Comments

If you haven’t paid much attention to public schools in recent years, you may not realize that “anti-bullying” messages are now ubiquitous, often promoted in the name of “tolerance” for gay youth. And this theme has atracted outspoken support from Hollywood celebrities:

Last September, the “It Gets Better Project” was launched online as a place for adults — including high-profile celebrities — to reassure troubled and potentially suicidal lesbian, gay and bisexual youth that despite the taunting, bullying and physical abuse they face as adolescents and teens, life improves after high school. . . .

This message was posted to YouTube in May as part of the “It Gets Better” campaign:

The kid in that video was 14-year-old Jamey Rodemeyer. He committed suicide Sunday, which would seem to contradict the slogans and Self-Esteem Theory behind the “It Gets Better” campaign.

Perhaps these kids need another message. Pondering the plight of Jamey Rodemeyer, and understanding what teenagers are like, I’m having a hard time imagining an anti-bullying regime rigorous enough to protect kids like Jamey from insults. It’s just unrealistic.

The essential point of “It Gets Better” is correct: High school sucks.

It just does, for the vast majority of kids, without regard to sexuality. There are a relatively small number of popular kids — the jocks and cheerleaders, mainly — for whom high school is the Best Time of Their Lives, but for the rest of us mere mortals, high school was four years of relentless tedium interrupted only by occasional moments of misery and humilation.

How did I cope with that ordeal? Skipping school, hanging out with hoodlums, listening to rock-and-roll music and smoking dope.

While I can’t necessarily recommend that approach as an adolescent coping strategy, I wonder if maybe the Jamey Rodemeyers of the world would be better off if they fired up a bong and chilled with some Zeppelin, rather than being encouraged to participate in silly self-esteem excercises.

Also, you might be surprised how much more popular a teenage loser becomes when it is generally known around school that he’s the dude who can always score some killer weed. Just sayin’ . . .

Juvenile delinquency is a bad thing, but there are times in life when mere survival is a victory, and just about any strategy that enables a kid to survive the Teenage Blues is preferable to the alternative of non-survival.

Maybe some of the parents, teachers and activists trying to help the Jamey Rodmeyers of the world should think about occasionally advising these kids to stop playing by the rules. If playing by the rules means you’re taunted and bullied and called names, what good are the rules to you? If high school is a sort of emotional holocaust for kids like that, how about questioning the legitimacy of compulsory attendance laws that require them to go to schools where they’re miserable?

There are probably a lot of activist types who want to make Jayme Rodmeyer a martyr, to use his story as a sort of morality tale to indict the supposed homophobia of American society. But there are plenty of teenage losers who aren’t gay, struggling every day to cope with whatever special sources of misery dominate their unhappy lives. Trying to turn suicide-prevention into a gay-rights issue ignores the reality of the almost ubiquitous angst of adolescence. The bullies are probably just as miserable as the kids they pick on, and they are thus also fellow sufferers under the Public Education Regime.

“It Gets Better”? Yeah, it does. Because if your high-school experience sucks as bad as mine did, it could scarcely get worse.

In the meantime, kids, chill with some Zep.



6 Responses to “‘It Gets Better,’ Except When It Doesn’t and Then Teenagers Commit Suicide”

  1. CalMark
    September 21st, 2011 @ 5:06 am

    First, blame the so-called “adults” in his life.

    Something is wrong with the parents:  supportive of “gayness” but oblivious to misery?  My guess, is a couple of oh-so-progressive types who treated him as a symbol, not as their kid. 

    And too many teachers and poo-bahs, alleged adults, play along with the clique system.  In other words, if you’re “in,” the alleged adults treat you great, or at least with some measure of deference for your “eliteness”; if you’re not  “in” (most high school kids), you’re nothing.  That’s partly what makes high school such a trial for most kids.

    Second, the whole “gay bashing” issue.  Even geniuses who go to college at 14 have huge social adjustment problems–let alone become doctors, ministers, military officers, etc.  Not mature enough.  But they’re mature enough to know they’re “gay.”  Huh?

  2. Ben David
    September 21st, 2011 @ 8:07 am

    The real burden here is premature pressure to identify as gay – for purely political purposes.

    Longitudinal studies have shown that 1/4 to 1/3 of teens experience same-sex “crushes” – and most of these teens go on to integrate a normal, healthy hetero identity IF THEY ARE JUST LEFT ALONE.
    (Which is why only 2 percent of the adult population is gay…)

    Instead progressives have made the most vulnerable kids pawns in their culture war – pressing them to label themselves gay, and shackling them with the depressing lie that they are “born that way” and can never change.

  3. Matt Lewis
    September 21st, 2011 @ 10:38 am

    Related: Why Nerds are Unpopular.

    “…it takes work to be popular. In general, people outside some very demanding field don’t realize the extent to which success depends on constant (though often unconscious) effort. For example, most people seem to consider the ability to draw as some kind of innate quality, like being tall. In fact, most people who “can draw” like drawing, and have spent many hours doing it; that’s why they’re good at it. Likewise, popular isn’t just something you are or you aren’t, but something you make yourself.”

  4. Bob Belvedere
    September 21st, 2011 @ 12:27 pm

    The Baby Boomer parents and teachers, wallowing in an self-esteem cesspit of  their own, think that, simply by coming out and having adults support you, a teenager with sexuality issues will magically get better and unicorns will dance in the clear blue sky as lemon drops fall on The Land Of Make Believe.

    Any teenager who is an outsider for any reason is going to continue to feel uncomfortable no matter how many times they’re told that they’re ‘Free To Be You And Me!’.  Their discomfort goes much deeper than any pablum-puke-based salve can penetrate.

    Bob Belvedere,
    Former Outsider in High School
    Led Zeppelin / Black Sabbath / Rush devotee

  5. Andrew Patrick
    September 21st, 2011 @ 1:20 pm

    I was a geek through middle school, high school, and halfway through college. Middle School was the worst, as it was the years of active harassment: once I learned to stand up for myself, it greatly diminished. High school was years of confusion and geekery, but I carved out a place for myself as a Proud Geek and won grudging respect.

    In the summer after my sophomore year of college I got contact lenses and a normal haircut. I began to seriously consider if maybe there was something about me that was putting people off. I changed the way I dressed, learned to listen more and talk less, and began to be less casually dismissive of things and people. The jocks and cheerleaders had grown up, it was time for me to do the same.

    A. Patrick
    Former Drama/History Geek & Newspaper Editor,
    Green Day/Rolling Stones fan

  6. ThePaganTemple
    September 21st, 2011 @ 1:50 pm

    Maybe it happens because they don’t really want to be gay, they find the thought of it disgusting, yet they feel they are locked into that destiny. Maybe they don’t want it, but on the one hand they’re taunted and abused by straight kids, and on the other they are told by authority figures “hey, that’s what you are, so you are just going to have to learn to accept it.” Hell, who knows, maybe some of these kids aren’t gay at all, maybe they’re just slightly effeminate and are being pushed to come “out”.

    These damn psycho progressives don’t give a crap, the more gay kids who do commit suicide the more they can blame conservatives, Christians, Bush, Palin, etc.

    I wonder how many gay teens who commit suicide have left behind notes that have somehow mysteriously been “lost”.