Being judged, enforcing thoughts, opinions, feelings, teaching hate rather than to embrace, having a closed mind rather than an open mind, being scared of the unknown rather than being curious, the inability to accept difference; all result in fear of diversity and often leads to hate crime. To be diverse is to know one’s self and not follow suit. We were all given the gift of life, but that does not give us any right to terminate the life of another. Far too many lives have been lost due to hate crime, this just has to stop!
For some reason unbeknownst to me, when flicking through the hundreds and thousands of choices of movies, shows, documentaries and mockumentaries on Netflix, random tittles stand out and regardless to how many stars they have or if I have or haven’t heard of them before, I know that I need to watch it through. Whether it is comical, devastating, romantic, a thriller, fiction or non-fiction, the genre nor the A-Z cast list pay any part in my decision, like a calling, I just know that for some reason, I need to give it a go!
It turns out that both my choices of late have exactly the same message as the movie that I wrote a poem about not too long ago. “Boys don’t cry.” Diversity is not a crime and the majority of the population need to stop the hate! It’s the hate that leads to crime and suffering.
On Tuesday 5th July 2016, I watched a mockumentary called, “A girl like her.” Yes we have all seen the movie about teenager’s relationships, but this piece of art explores beneath the surface, digs deep to find both the beauty and ugliness of truth. The style was tasteful and realistic, allowing the audience to get tangled in the web of truth and lies, pain and bravery. This mockumentary isn’t just a, “dark version” of “mean girls.” It bravely explores both the lives of the victim and the bully; it explores passion, loyalty and cruelty and is simply compelling. It evokes the desire to understand the characters from every angle, to dig deep, and go beyond the surface. There are three main and crucial characters in this story, the bully, the victim and the victim’s best friend. The plot is tight, the story transitions well and somehow forces you to have compassion which allows us to understand the actions and decisions that these high school teenagers make. The role of the antagonist and protagonist almost flips; the story takes you one way and then takes you off into another. Ultimately the message was, “Pro Anti-Bullying”, exploring how damaging, invasive and detrimental exclusion, ridicule and cruelty can be. I won’t go into too much detail in case you haven’t seen it.
The reason why the documentary stands out to me is because it digs a little deeper than the usual message of, “Bullies are bad and bullying is wrong!” This we already know, but this story also explores the bully’s choices and the bully is out right confronted and the victim’s actions are of consequence. It explores the strength and weakness of friendships, family, institutions and relationships. There was one scene that stuck out with a powerful, thoughtful, heartfelt and poignant message. The parents (rightly so) had a mass meeting with the faculty in light of a very serious incident (a crucial part of the film which I cannot share, you just have to watch it) and challenged the faculty, questioning how bullying is dealt with, the code of conduct and why nothing was working as their kids seemed to be getting bullied every day and nothing was being done about it. A wise father stood up and said, “The parents who are here today are probably not the parents of the bullies, most of the time the parents that show up here are the parents of kid’s that are doing well. But I think that we also can’t lose sight of the fact that the mental health of these bullying kids needs to be recognised too! We’ll never stop the bullying until we find some method of reaching out to the bullies and getting inside of their heads, and finding some way to bring some healing to them. I’ve learned that over the cause of my life that hurt people are the ones who hurt people and these bullies are hurt!”
Wow! Food for thought, right!? What a selfless, noble attitude and interpretation, an accurate theory in my opinion. We can punish, but if we don’t explore, acknowledge, accept, and understand our behaviour, how can we learn from our mistakes? This is why prisoners reoffend upon release, why hate crime exists. Without education and access to the big world out there, we get comfortable and stuck in our own little bubble and only learn and care about what happens on our own doorsteps.
• “Small town/small mind!”
• “Different race/out of place!”
• “Wrong religion/bad decision!”
All a matter of opinion actually, not permission to hate because people aren’t the same as you, don’t think like you do, do like you do, look like you do. What a childish notion, “I’m right, you’re wrong, therefor my way or the highway, I’m worthy of all things good and you are not!” That is pure ignorance and ignorance breeds ignorance. With social media, twenty four hour news, the internet, which I appreciate not everyone but a large portion of the population are fortunate enough to have access to, to see, “how the other half live” and that we are all just human, how can we then excuse or justify the inability to acknowledge difference. You may not like what you see or hear and you are entitled to think as you wish, but not to take the law into your own hands and enforce hate crime. We are all individuals. We should embrace diversity, not hate.
The documentary film I watched Wednesday 6th July 2016 was all true, seriously disturbing and extremely sad. “Matt Shepard is a friend of mine!” A true story about a young man’s withstanding of multiple abuse for being diverse. Again, I don’t want to say too much because it is definitely worth watching, to be reminded of how brutal human beings believe that they are justified to act, because they feel uncomfortable being around, acknowledging and accepting people who are different. This story is an example of the spectrum of ignorance and compassion. It reminded me that in order to achieve positive change and make a difference, we must draw strength from tragedies of the past in order to prevent tragedies in the future. If we peacefully protest and encourage folk to open both their minds and eyes to the positives of being different, the positives of accepting others with an open mind, heart and soul, we may make a difference.
The parents in this story are so strong and forgiving; they channel their pain into pathing a safe and positive path to diverse people in the present and future. They raise awareness to avoid future tragedies.
They proudly shine a light for their child. Matt hated himself sometimes, couldn’t cope with being different, he feared being judged, unsafe and abandoned if he accepted and disclosed his secret. He struggled to find his own two feet; he suffered from depression and seemed too loath himself at times. To loath someone else is one thing, but to loath yourself is quite another. His diversity made him have to hold back, naturally sociable, but untrue and dishonest about certain things, therefore completely not himself, all due to fear of hate and prejudice. He was on a journey of self-discovery, finding his feet, living his life and ignorance and hate got in the way.
I can relate to both stories. I was bullied throughout my entire education, four to twenty-one years old and have also been bullied in my adult life. I have tried to commit suicide numerous times. I wear a mask to please those around me. I love everyone but not myself. I suffer from depression, anxiety and BPD and I am ashamed about my physical and mental diversity. Neither of which I have control of but do make me, “different”/”diverse!” I may not have figured myself and my problems out yet and problem solving should always start at home but I am going to flip it (I already understand and accept diversity) as I am better at helping others. I am taking a diverse approach and reaching out from the outside in. Open your eyes to all the petty hate which leads to extreme hateful behaviour and crime. I give a shout out to the ones that we have lost but let it not be in vain. Let us try to not fixate on wasting our energy and hating those who have done wrong, but try to learn from their actions, in order to intervene and encourage embracing diversity. You don’t have to like or agree with everyone, I am under no illusion that one day the entire population will join hands and accept each and every one, but making it personal and fighting it won’t solve anything at all. For every victim out there, there are a hundred thousand more people going through the same difficulties. People with issues need to turn their cheeks and walk away; change is on the horizon and hopefully coming to stay. So stay safe, be true to yourself, accept individuality and put a stop to hate and hate crime. All lives matter and together, we may be able to save some.