I would like to say that clarity of thought came to me on my own, but it didn’t — I needed a Canadian to tell me.
I became vaguely aware of Canadian comedian Rick Mercer sometime in the last several months, I think in the same time period that I was discovering Jack Layton (or maybe before, when I was learning about Canadian politics). Thankfully, I didn’t have to wait for Mercer to die before I figured out I should be paying attention — he’s kind of an angrier/ more blatantly patriotic/ more blatantly activist Jon Stewart (if I may mix my satirists and my nation-states), and I not infrequently have no idea what the hell he’s on about, because I’m American. But I like him and his Rick Mercer Report.
He opens his shows with a Rant; the following ran after last month’s suicide of Canadian gay teen Jamie Hubley, 15 years old. Jamie’s suicide note makes clear reference to the entirely admirable and often beautiful It Gets Better Project: “I don’t want to wait 3 more years. This hurts too much. How do you even know It will get better? Its not.”
Mercer is himself gay (a thing he doesn’t mention in the clip, but to me he comes across as assuming people already know — in a subsequent interview he said “I don’t know how many times a guy can come out of the closet in this country”), and this rant is a thing of towering, beautiful fury:
It’s no longer good enough for us to tell kids who are different that it’s going to get better. We have to make it better now, that’s every single one of us. Every teacher, every student, every adult has to step up to the plate.
Two important caveats: I absolutely do not mean this as a knock against It Gets Better. Much as we adults should make it better today, we can’t. There is no magic wand, and providing hope is of immeasurable importance — is genuinely life-saving, I believe. The point is that we really need to try harder, and make it clear to all and sundry that we are making that effort.
And Mercer himself, in his justified rage, makes a crucial mistake: He says “every year in this country 300 kids take their own lives,” and then makes it sound very much as if all those kids were victims of anti-gay bullying. Clearly that’s not the case, and it’s worth pointing out. Some kids are utterly without hope for other reasons.
Having said that — please watch this (it’s all of 1 minute, 35 seconds long) and pass it around. Show it to kids you know — I wish I could put it on endless loop in the hallways of America’s middle- and high-schools. Last week’s news of the lesbian homecoming couple in California was delightful and affirming, yet the plain truth is that far too many kids still wake up afraid, every day, simply because of who they are.
And PS: If you’re interested in more Rick Mercer, I loved this whale-watching trip he took (rather improbably) with opera star Measha Brueggergosman (click here) and this, the most recent rant, which both amused and informed about Canadian politics (click here). Basically, this American <3s Rick Mercer, is what I’m saying.
Thanks to melanie, commenter at Ta-Nehisi’s blog, who called my attention to the anti-bullying Rant.