Comments: Bully Pulpits 

Thursday, Jun 7 2012

Last week's cover story examined the way schools are increasingly handling the bullying of gay kids as a civil rights issue ("The Gay Selma," by Jessica Lussenhop). Readers applauded Lussenhop — and had harsh words for Mitt Romney, whose past life as a scissors-wielding high school bully featured prominently in her story.

"Make no mistake about who Romney is," writes Maggie Sennish. "Anyone who assaulted and bullied a gay student in high school is a person of irrefutable bad character. We all know basic character is in place by high school. Put rich, privileged, homophobic and social backwardness in a person, and you get Romney." While we might quibble with the idea that character is fully in place in high school — um, doesn't anyone else regret their actions as a 16-year-old? — when it comes to Romney, we hear ya, Maggie!

James Savick points out that bullies like Romney have long had the backing of America's religious leaders. "Gay bullying has been encouraged by churches for decades," he writes. "They see it as 'tough love.' The idea is that if you give someone enough trouble over their sexual orientation, they will give up their homosexual 'hobby.' It has never worked."


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Another reader had interesting observations about a different example of bullying addressed within Lussenhop's piece — that of Tyler Clementi, who killed himself after his Rutgers roommate, Dharun Ravi, spied on Clementi's gay hookup via webcam. Ravi has since been sentenced to 30 days in jail.

"The Tyler Clementi story reveals how the road to Hell is paved with good intentions," Szwartz writes. "There was no evidence that Ravi disliked Clementi or that he had anti-gay bias. We want to believe that Ravi is a nasty person who hates others. There was no evidence of that."

Instead, Szwartz argues, it was the fear of exposure — and our society's anti-gay prejudice — that killed Tyler Clementi. "Our society, especially our churches, are the real culprits. We have vile people like the Santorum-ites actively spreading anti-bigotry, telling gays they are inherently evil and they should kill themselves. Our culture of shame is what drove Clementi to suicide. If he had been a freshman who was nailing the senior cheerleader, he would have been Big Man on Campus."

Szwartz concludes, "Our culture reflects us, and we do not want to admit our role in Clementi's death. What about the famous gays who stay in the closet? What responsibility do they owe?"

Bottled Up

The state Assembly District 50 primary race may be over, but readers are still arguing about Torie Osborn versus Betsy Butler ("Democratic War for L.A.'s Richest," May 25). And they're still talking about those damn baby bottles.

Reader Shawn Flanagan had harsh words for Marta Evry, the blogger who did much to publicize Butler's dubious decision to mail several thousand Evenflo plastic bottles to voters. Evry was quoted as saying the bottles were a waste, since "it's not something anyone can use unless you have a baby."

"How dumb is Marta Evry?" Flanagan writes. "It's not true (you can rig up baby bottles for your pet to drink from). Plus, is Evry aware that if people don't need a bottle, they could give it to someone who does? Just because there are very few children who need bottles in the 50th District — raising young children cuts into the time people have to do the truly important things in life, like running art museums and poetry houses — doesn't mean the bottles aren't needed elsewhere."

He's With the Band

Readers also had much to say about Michael Wilton's story about Ted Cohen, who "babysat" Van Halen during its David Lee Roth–fronted heyday ("Van Halen's Babysitter," June 1). Cohen alleged that Valerie Bertinelli played the Yoko Ono role in Roth's departure from the group.

"It's always a woman that f#cks good things up!" writes Jcs012872. "Like Tom Leykis always says, women are dream killers!!!" Ouch!!!

Quiikquack responds, "Instead of blaming Valerie, why not just face the fact that Ed and David just don't like each other, and their massive egos just don't mesh? Why do people always want to blame a woman for problems that would have occurred anyway?"

But Manny Miles spoke for many more readers when he lambasted us for messing up one key fact in our telling of Cohen's account. "This whole article lost credibility when an obvious fact of the band was stated wrong. Who the hell doesn't know the Van Halen brothers are the guitar and drums of Van Halen?! If you thought Michael Anthony was their drummer, then who knows what else in this story is wrong?" Manny, please see our correction just below this letter; we are beet-red with shame.


Michael Anthony is Van Halen's bassist, not its drummer. Also, last week's news piece, "Howard Berman's Last Stand," incorrectly referred to Berman's role on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. He is its ranking member, not its chairman. Finally, in the three years prior to the SuperClasico match-up described in last week's Considerable Town piece "The Biggest Game," Chivas USA had in fact scored against the L.A. Galaxy, contrary to what we stated. We regret the errors.

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