In an unusual and in many ways amazing editorial the Sioux City Journal devoted its entire front page to an attack on bullying in the wake of the tragic suicide death of Kenneth Weishuhn after the 14 year old experienced extreme and relentless anti-gay bullying. I certainly commend the Sioux City Journal editorial staff for their effort to address what is becoming an epidemic - needless deaths due to bullying and mistreatment. Unfortunately, the editorial fails to take on the principal force that is fueling the type of anti-gay bullying that caused 14 year old Weishuhn to take his own life: the non-stop poison being disseminated by the Christian Right which seems to believe that the only good gay is dead gay. And right behind the Christianist in terms of responsibility for the bloodbath are members of the GOP who whore themselves to the vilest elements of the Christian Right. Until such time as society and our elected officials have the balls to openly and repeatedly condemn the Christianists and their message of hate and intolerance, anti-gay bullying will continue to be among the last acceptable forms of hate based intolerance and bigotry. Here are highlights from the Sioux City Journal editorial:
Siouxland lost a young life to a senseless, shameful tragedy last week. By all accounts, Kenneth Weishuhn was a kind-hearted, fun-loving teenage boy, always looking to make others smile. But when the South O'Brien High School 14-year-old told friends he was gay, the harassment and bullying began. It didn't let up until he took his own life.
Sadly, Kenneth's story is far from unique. Boys and girls across Iowa and beyond are targeted every day. In this case sexual orientation appears to have played a role, but we have learned a bully needs no reason to strike. No sense can be made of these actions.
Now our community and region must face this stark reality: We are all to blame. We have not done enough. Not nearly enough. This is not a failure of one group of kids, one school, one town, one county or one geographic area. Rather, it exposes a fundamental flaw in our society, one that has deep-seated roots. Until now, it has been too difficult, inconvenient -- maybe even painful -- to address. But we can't keep looking away.
The documentary "Bully," which depicts the bullying of an East Middle School student, opened in Sioux City on Friday. We urge everyone to see it. At its core, it is a heart-breaking tale of how far we have yet to go. Despite its award-winning, proactive policies, we see there is still much work to be done in Sioux City schools.
[S]chools must be at the forefront of our battle against bullying. Sioux City must continue to strengthen its resolve and its policies. Clearly, South O'Brien High School needs to alter its approach. We urge Superintendent Dan Moore to rethink his stance that "we have all the things in place to deal with it." It should be evident that is simply not the case. South O'Brien isn't the only school that needs help. A Journal Des Moines bureau report last year demonstrated that too many schools don't take bullying seriously.
But as Gausman and Nate Monson, director of Iowa Safe Schools, are quick to remind us, this is more than a school problem. If we want to eradicate bullying in our community, we can't rely on schools alone. We need to support local agencies like the Waitt Institute for Violence Prevention and national efforts like the one described at stopbullying.gov. Bullying takes many forms, some of them - Internet, Facebook, cell phone - more subtle than others. . . . . All public and private institutions need to do more to demonstrate that bullying is simply unacceptable in our workplaces and in our homes.
Some in our community will say bullying is simply a part of life. If no one is physically hurt, they will say, what's the big deal? It's just boys being boys and girls being girls. Those people are wrong, and they must be shouted down.
We must make it clear in our actions and our words that bullying will not be tolerated. Those of us in public life must be ever mindful of the words we choose, especially in the contentious political debates that have defined our modern times. More importantly, we must not be afraid to act.
It is the business of all of us. More specifically, it is our responsibility. Our mandate. If we're honest with ourselves, we will acknowledge our community has yet to view bullying in quite this way. It's well past time to do so. Stand up. Be heard. And don't back down. Together, we can put a stop to bullying.