Making light of a person’s human rights

What Dharun Ravi did was wrong. Very wrong.

A young man in the prime of life, Tyler Clementi took his own life because of the insensitivity and heartless actions of Ravi and Ravi’s friend, Molly Wei who took the liberty of broadcasting Clementi’s personal life online via a webcam. Both Ravi and Wei showed little concern for the socially awkward Clementi who had, just weeks before enrolling in Rutgers University, informed his parents about his sexual preference. By all online reports, Clementi struggled to fit in and this invasion of privacy by Ravi and Wei was the final straw that broke the camel’s back. On the evening of September 22, 2010, Clementi left his room, drove his car to the George Washington bridge and jumped to his death.

Wei accepted a plea agreement in May 2011. Nearly two years after Clementi’s death, Ravi fought charges of bias intimidation, witness tampering, tampering with evidence and invasion of privacy.

What NJ Superior Court Judge Glenn Berman did today is equally tragic.

He sentenced Ravi to just 30-days in jail, $11,000 in court assessments and 300 hours of community service. Ravi, after a tearful (and long overdue) apology, told the courts that he would report immediately to jail officials to begin his time behind bars while he appeals the conviction.

Really? You’re going to appeal a 30-day sentence and some chump change for bullying a guy who did not deserve your displeasure and for ultimately contributing to his death?

Ravi told the media (through a lawyer of course) that getting his jail term underway was, “the only way to go on with my life.” I wonder if Tyler Clementi thought jumping off a bridge after you filmed him in a private moment would help him go on with his life. You get 30-days dude, Clementi got a coffin.

Yes, in the end Clementi made the final decision to end his life seemingly when his life was just starting. But does the punishment fit the crime? Judge Berman explained that sentencing Ravi to 30-days was to help deter others from acting as Ravi did. Well then, why didn’t you sentence him to five years? Five years is a deterrent. 30-days is an insult.

Yes, I understand that you don’t want to ruin another life after one has already been taken but it is this kind of justice that has many people wondering why our justice system is falling apart. We allow child molesters and murderers to go free on technicalities but we hold others like Brian Banks in prison for a rape that he didn’t commit.

I despise bullies.

I abhor individuals who entertain themselves by toying with the emotions and lives of others.

Ravi and Wei got off easy and they both know it. Ravi’s written statement to the courts seems more like he’s grateful for dodging the bullet rather than feeling remorse for his actions: “I accept responsibility for and regret my thoughtless, insensitive, immature, stupid and childish choices that I made on September 19, 2010, and September 21, 2010.”

I am always livid when I read about cases like these where someone feels hopeless, even depressed about life and the actions of others compound their melancholy and feelings of abject despair.

My assumptions are of course merely that – supposition. I don’t know what was in the hearts and minds of Wei and Ravi when they decided to subject Clementi to their disapproval and amusement and I certainly cannot judge them because I have no right to do so. But I hope that they and others who have impinged on another person’s rights have learned a valuable lesson from the resulting firestorm that followed their actions. We all fall victim to our own human frailties. But being prone to human nature does not excuse us from forgetting about the humanity of others.

French writer Joseph Joubert said the following about kindness that I think applies indelibly to all of our interactions as humans: “A part of kindness consists in loving people more than they deserve.”

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