I will be the first to admit that Dharun Ravi is probably not the coolest guy in the room and if I was 14 years younger and a Rutgers student I don’t think we would be friends — or who knows, maybe we would be. That is all I can say on the matter since I and millions of others who want to pass judgment on him know next to nothing about his personality or who he really is; let alone if he is good or evil. How people in this day and age can still be fooled into breaking down a person’s persona, personality and ultimate determination if they’re getting into heaven based on a few media snippets is absurd and beyond me that a rational and intelligent person can stoop so low.
Dharun came from an Indian family in a sheltered Jersey suburb; far from the multicultural rainbow of San Francisco or Park Slope Brooklyn where I’m from and in case people haven’t yet gotten the memo, in suburban high schools it’s not cool to be gay. Yes, we have made great strides in tolerance, but still, in suburban high schools it’s not cool to be gay. I will spare you my in-depth sociological reasoning, but in short, teenagers are less close minded they used to in a right or wrong sense, but still typical teenagers believe macho and misogynistic tendencies are the way to go. And this is where Dharun comes in. He has never met a gay person prior to Tyler Clementi (although there is some speculation that the defense claimed he had a gay friend at some point) let alone shared a tiny room with a gay guy having sex with older men. And yes, he was uncomfortable with it. It doesn’t make him a belligerent homophobic or a bad person, it makes him a stupid, ignorant suburban teenager, like millions and millions of other stupid ignorant suburban teenagers. You don’t believe me? Well let’s look for a moment at the victim. Tyler Clementi in the weeks leading up to the move in with Dharun said in an email to a friend, “I wonder if Dharun’s parents own a Dunkin Donuts?” So let me get this straight: Dharun is a horrible monster for never having met a gay person before and then feeling uncomfortable about living with a gay guy who was having sex with a 30-year-old, but Tyler’s remark that he’s Indian, his parents must own a Dunkin Donuts is even remotely acceptable? Of course, ever since the Simpsons it is okay to make fun of Indians? And of course, how could an educated kid from an upper middle class family think anything else? I mean there are only 1.5 billion Indians in the world, at least half of them own Dunkin Donuts. Sorry, perhaps its me, but on this point alone it would seem Tyler’s ignorance is much more blatant. Should be given 10 years and then deported?
So now we come to the case: Yes, what Dharun did to Tyler is pretty messed up and he did it twice, and his behavior was somewhat bullying. The main law however which he broke was the invasion of privacy by filming Tyler having sex with his boyfriend. Fair enough, that is not a cool thing to do. Yet how many people have done such a thing? At my wife’s law firm a few years ago, a lawyer had taped women getting undressed in their offices over a long-term period (he put a camera in a clock and left it in their office) and was eventually forced to resign and disbarred from practicing law. Was he given 10 years and deported? That would have been laughable and remember, this is something he did over a year, multiple, multiple times. Dharun did it twice. How many other cases do we know of someone filming people without their permission? Go on Google and type in some celebrity’s name and then ”naked…having sex…topless”. A lot will come up. I don’t think they approved it, do you? Now, yes Dharun bragged about it on Twitter. Again, not cool, but in his stupid teenage mind, it was probably a prank.
So after all of this does he really deserve deportation and 10 years in jail? Even a couple of years in jail? For a first time offender, that would mean that his crime is on par with some forms of rape, bank robbery, corporate embezzlement, assault, sexual assault, aggravated assault, drug trafficking. Really? What he did was on par with those crimes? I don’t think so. Had Tyler of been a woman who didn’t commit suicide we never would have heard about this case in the first place. Or even if he just didn’t commit suicide it would never have been brought to trial. So what should be the punishment for Dharun? How about being expelled from school for one thing. Community service, sensitivity training perhaps and something TBD which would have compensated the family of Tyler. 10 years in jail and then to be deported? Come on America, wake up! One kid’s life is already over and now you want to ruin another’s for doing nothing more than being a stupid kid who didn’t use good judgment?
With that being said, there is something else that bothers me. It is so apparent that this case was about much more then Tyler Clementi’s death. It is the culmination of America’s new obsession: cyber bullying and it’s victims. We always need a hysterical obsession which helps us cope with the real pain of our daily existence and cyber bullying is our new thing. Isn’t it fun? What will the media think of next? So this is our new obsession and we finally have our villan: Dharun Ravi. Someone we can pin the blame on that will make this whole thing go away and allow our children to live in peace. And these aren’t my words, just listen to the DA. He is on his way to becoming a national hero by tackling cyber bullying head on. I’m sure he is deeply concerned about it and not just super psyched for the chance to gain national spotlight and advance his career. Sorry DA and all of your supporters, I don’t like cyber bullying and homophobic behavior either. But to place the blame on one kid and make him a scapegoat is completely antithetical to our democracy. The first time I heard of a country scape goat a person like this was when I saw the film Midnight Express as a child; when the Turkish courts wanted to make an example of the American prisoner dealing drugs by giving him 30 years. I guess American courts have a lot to emulate in 1970s Turkey. The DA should be proud. In the end I will paraphrase Allen Ginsberg “Dharun Ravi is not your problem America, you are the problem America.”