November 30, 2020

Editorial: It Gets Better

If you’ve spent any time on the Internet this week — and with finals around the corner The Journal knows students are finding the lures of Facebook and Stumbleupon near impossible to avoid — you’ve probably heard of Jonah Mowry.

Yes, the 14-year-old gay teenager made a video in August chronicling his years of bullying and subsequent self-mutilation. The video was recorded the night before Mowry was to start his eighth-grade year. Mowry, so overcome with emotion and hurt, doesn’t speak in the video but instead shows a series of notecards to the camera.

“I’ve cut … a lot,” one card says. “I have scars.” Mowry then shows the marks over his arms and shoulders to the camera. “The first time I cut myself was in the second grade.”

The video goes on as Mowry shares that he is scared to start school,  he has only one real friend and that he understands why his peers hate him — because he is gay, a fact Mowry himself cannot accept.

Mowry’s story is painful and tragic, and The Journal staff sends their support to Mowry and his family. Bullying and intolerance, particularly in such a young person, is absolutely unacceptable.

But what The Journal finds even more disturbing are rumors that surfaced after the video went viral last week. Based off a positive, smiling video Mowry posted on Dec. 4, many viewers in the world of the web say the heart-wrenching post must have been a fake.

“I’m disappointed that somebody could look at the first video and then look at the second and think it’s a lie,” Mowry’s mother said in an interview with ABC News on Tuesday. “He’s a child. He’s a 14-year-old boy. He’s very young.”

The Journal doesn’t care to join the argument deciding whether the video was valid or not. We remember the confusing and complex emotions that accompany adolescence, and accept there may be no way to verify how Mowry is feeling at any moment of his teenage life.

What we do care to say is this — calling Mowry names because of an inconsistent online video is bullying in itself. What started as a cry for help has landed Mowry with more scrutiny and criticism than any 14-year-old should have to take.

What is wrong with the world, when a child’s joy is questioned and condemned? The second video should bring hope to viewers that, as author and activist Dan Savage’s anti-bullying campaign states, “It Gets Better.” Instead, viewers are incensed. They feel cheated or lied to, as if Mowry’s inner thoughts are something we are all entitled to.

The Journal wishes Mowry the best of luck in his endeavors growing up in a difficult and complicated world. Leaving adolescence unscathed can be difficult. We admire Mowry’s courage and honesty, and can’t wait until his personal life is no longer under attack.

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