Tragedy at Rutgers

September 30, 2010 1:02:37 PM PDT
I just can't shake it, although I have tried, lawd-knows, I've tried.

Can't shake the numbness that greeted me when I woke up, despite the coos of my baby daughter. It's a numbness that is nauseating. Sadness is what's behind it. Profound sadness.

Sadness for the family of Tyler Clementi, the 18-year-old Rutger's University freshman who jumped off the George Washington Bridge after his tryst with another young man was allegedly secretly videotaped and then quite publicly posted on the Internet.

Sadness for gays and lesbians - especially youngsters - who are tormented because they live with a deep secret that, for a variety of reasons, keeps them closeted.

Sadness, even, for the two other freshmen now charged in the case, for invading Clementi's privacy. Dhraun Ravi, Clementi's roommate, and Molly Wei, a resident of their dormitory, seem to be typical first-month students who did something, if true, absolutely cruel and thoughtless and, some of Wei's friends say, out of character, although we don't really know that for sure. But it's not hard to envision this - kids doing stupid, jerky things and thinking that their prank is cruel. A big ha-ha, until some kid harboring some feelings no one quite understands or knows about, is crushed by the prank, and then takes his own life. It makes me nauseous just writing it.

So many tormented levels to this story. One talented young man (and incredible musician, according to those who knew him) has his life snuffed out, two other young people will likely never be the same, and the rest of us are left to wonder what we've sewn with these new communications networks and devices. I sound like a broken record to my kids about how they should think about what pictures and words they post on the Internet, and about how mortality doesn't really exist in cyberspace - what's out there lives forever.

Unlike real life.

Unlike reputations.

Unlike careers.

Unlike freedom.

When I was a kid, and screwed up, few would know about it. Today, when a kid messes up, few don't know about it.

The web makes everything viral. And it's difficult to know what's real and what's not.

For example, there's a video making the rounds today of what appears to be Pakistan military executing what are said to be terrorist militants. It's gruesome and there's a big part of me that wishes I hadn't watched it. But it raises so many questions: Why is the military going "extra-judicial?" Are these really Pakistani soldiers, or militants posing as soldiers, hoping to create a backlash? And what did these supposed militants do? If they were responsible for, say, the Mumbai terrorist attacks, is this kind of justice justifiable? Or are civilized people supposed to be above all this?

Even a verbal and physical squabble between rambunctious Republican candidate for New York Governor Carl Paladino and a political reporter for the New York Post made it all over the Internet (and on our 11 p.m. news last night).

Tonight at 11, we'll have the latest developments in this most horrible and troubling of cases at Rutgers.

We'd also like to hear your thoughts. Please CLICK HERE to be linked to our website chats about this.

Also at 11, tropical storm-like conditions tonight, with lots of rain and high winds. Meteorologist Lee Goldberg is tracking the storm for us.

We'll also have any breaking news of the night, plus Scott Clark with the night's sports. I hope you can join Liz Cho and me, tonight at 11.

BILL RITTER

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