Which has more value?
By Kenya Smith
It’s sad to see the hate is steadily rising in this country. People have become more aloof to the pain that people actually go through because of their race, nationality, religion or sexual identity.
Recently, 15-year-old Nigel Shelby, from Huntsville, Ala,, committed suicide after he was bullied for being gay. After Shelby’s death, people decided to raise awareness about bullying, especially bullying towards LGBTQ youth. In response to what happened, a police deputy wrote in the comments section, “Liberty, Guns, Bible, Trump, BBQ: That is my kind of LGBTQ.” His inspiration for the comment comes from a T-shirt which says “I support LGBTQ: Liberty, Guns, Bible, Trump and BBQ.” As a result, the deputy was suspended from his job.
While many would say that the deputy and the individuals who created the T-shirt were just practicing their freedom of speech, there’s a deeper issue that we need to address.
The tongue is powerful and dangerous. In Proverbs 18:21, King Solomon tells us that life and death are in the power of the tongue. Believe it or not, words do have power. James 1:26 says, “If anyone among you thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one’s religion is useless.”
These passages tell us that while we do have the freedom of speech in America, we also need to remind ourselves that our mouths are like guns, and the words that we speak are like bullets that can cause damage to the soul if we’re not careful. Whether we agree or disagree on certain issues, let there be a present and consistent level of civility, love, respect, kindness and dignity towards each other. There is no excuse for tit-for-tat drama, because that type of behavior is childish.
The death of a human being shouldn’t be something to celebrate, trivialize or joke about. Nigel was someone’s son, someone’s nephew, someone’s sibling, and someone’s friend. They will never get the chance to see him walk across the stage to get his high school diploma and his college degree. How would you feel if you were in the same situation as the family who lost Nigel? How would you respond if someone made the same statements as the deputy did or wore a T-shirt similar to the “Liberty, Guns, Bible, Trump and BBQ” one as a means for ridicule?
The late Fred Rogers once said, “We live in a world in which we need to share responsibility. It’s easy to say, ‘It’s not my child, not my community, not my world, not my problem.’ Then there are those who see the need and respond. I consider those people my heroes.”
That is why I stand with Nigel’s family during this difficult and upsetting situation. I wouldn’t want anyone to be aloof when I’m going through something similar. Which has more value, a teenager or a T-shirt?
Kenya Smith is a Suffolk native. Email her at email@example.com.