Bullies can't stand up to the power of purple

Clayton Potter wore a purple plaid shirt to school Wednesday. Even as I was starting to tell him I liked the shirt, it came to mind that Wednesday was the day designated as Spirit Day, when people were urged to wear purple in support of efforts to end hate and anti-gay bullying.

The idea is credited to a young Canadian lady named Brittany McMillan. Her idea spread across social networking platforms like bedbugs in a Brooklyn brothel.

"Purple represents Spirit on the LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer) flag, and that's exactly what we'd like all of you to have with you: spirit," she is quoted as saying on Facebook and elsewhere. "Please know that times will get better and that you will meet people who will love you and respect you for who you are, no matter your sexuality."

She initiated the idea after Tyler Clementi, a student at Rutgers University, committed suicide when his roommate used a webcam (computer camera) to "broadcast" Clementi's same sex date.

Clayton's friend, Sam, (not her real name, but it might be some day, she said) a 15-year-old, bisexual high school sophomore with whom I talked and texted, said her friend chose to quit high school rather than face the bullies.

"I haven't experienced bullying, but my friend has," she said. "A lot of bullies are guys. Most of them are in gangs, and they pick on boys that don't have girl friends. They call them gay."

"I know one guy who dresses like a girl and everyone picks on him. Guys and girls do that. That's the reason he quit school."

Sam said that when she saw the Spirit Day plan, she was on board immediately.

"I wore everything purple," she said. "I was totally supporting this."

Clayton heard about and saw the Spirit Day event in school and online. So why did he pitch in?

"Nobody should feel like they need to commit suicide because of any type of bullying," he said. "I feel bullying is as bad as any hate. I think bullies think it's easier to justify bullying gays rather then, say nerds, and I think gays (cope with) more bullying than anyone else."

Bullying behavior, including mean speech (especially of the anonymous sort) is the result of low self-esteem, ignorance and cowardice. It's a pattern of intimidation and often, violence. To me, it is a shameful flaw in human behavior that a person would conceive and conduct acts of hatred and harm based on displeasure with someone else's lifestyle. That a bully would compel another person to feel the need to die is sickening.

Gay bashing and bullying are bricks in the wall of hatred. Sadly, we live in a society these days where resentment, name-calling, hate mongering and belittling are the low hanging fruits on the vine of free speech. For too many the arts of articulate discussion and intellectual debate have devolved into cage matches of verbal violence.

Unfortunately, the comments on theday.com and other websites have become playgrounds for this conduct.

Although I have never written a word in support of President Barack Obama, one reader commented on a story I wrote and referred to me as an Obama-loving liberal. I don't mind that someone does not like me, especially if they know me. The comment proves they do not. Apparently, to justify their misinformed dislike and satisfy their yearning to be mean, this person presumed that I am liberal, and further presumed I am a fan of the president. Their sentiment revealed two more ingredients of hate: contrived resentment and perceived superiority.

I'm all for freedom of speech. Just be sure it really is free, and isn't costing someone else their life.

This is the opinion of Chuck Potter.

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