THE DAILY HERALD
HOTLINES & HIGH HEELS
by M.T. Hartz
Last Updated: March 23 at 9:48 p.m.
ANYTOWN, U.S.A — AnyTown gained national attention this week after an anonymous hate letter circulated around Facebook. The letter was originally sent to the Juarez family in February, after moving to Addison Heights subdivision. Now, it has been shared over 25,000 times, viewed by millions of people, and stirred hearts to take action.
Earlier this evening, hundreds gathered in the Town Hall Conference Room to discuss a piece of proposed legislation, called the ‘Love Your Neighbor Act.’ Six reporters sat in the front row of the small room with over 1200 local supporters packed like sardines behind the News9 camera. Over the weekend, Mayor Daloney asked local Isabelle Crawford to address the crowd and public, and to serve as the spokesperson for this issue.
Ms. Crawford is a sophomore at BU, studying psychology. In an interview, she said, “I hope to become a counselor for youth one day. If I can help young people feel good about their life, I will feel good about mine.” She also said she was surprised, and honored, the Mayor asked her to speak. She was nervous as she looked at the large crowd, and before taking the stage, she turned and said, “I think these black heels were a bad choice.”
According to Ms. Crawford, the ‘Love Your Neighbor Act’ would require citizens, starting when they enter kindergarten, to take proactive steps, “[t]o create ripples of kindness by contributing to society through spontaneous volunteer work, random acts of kindness, and positive talk.” It would also require neighbors to greet one another, and welcome new Move-Ins to the street with small housewarming gifts. Its goal is not only to promote community amongst one another, but to implement a simple solution towards reversing the 30-year trend of rising prejudices and corresponding suicide rates among teens and young adults; which according to the National Center for Statistics, are the most vulnerable.
Experts in the fields of sociology, psychology, and medicine are collectively working to find common links that help explain the rise of depression and self-harm in young people. Dr. Walton, M.D., said, “The most common denominator is discrimination.” After intense interviews with over 100 parents who’ve lost a child to suicide, doctors from all fields concluded it was the hate of others that propelled such a drastic solution. Nearly 90% of parents interviewed shared piles of letters with antagonizing threats, or told stories about the years of harassment and bullying their child endured.
“Words of hate go deeper than any cut. It takes only minutes to stitch an open wound, but it takes much more to mend a broken spirit,” said Dr. Gray, Psy.D., “And, yet, because we can’t see the pain in others, it’s easy for us to dismiss, pretend it doesn’t exist. We sympathize with someone who lost a limb, for instance. It’s very visual. But, someone who’s lost the will to live? We might miss it, hidden behind a smile, because pain is deeper than skin.”
The City of AnyTown, population 10,567, is looking at innovative ways to combat this trend and help people feel comfortable in their hometown. The Mayor told reporters in a news brief, Monday, “There’s been a lot of trust lost in society over the last few decades. Everyone wants to keep to themselves. They are afraid to show concern, because they might say or do the wrong thing. People are being conditioned to stay silent, out of fear of retribution. We can no longer depend on people to always do the right thing. A core purpose of government is to keep its citizen’s safe. And, we are going to do just that. It’s sad this is a policy that’s had to be written, but we are glad it’s not too late.”
Tagging alongside this issue, a recent study from Wharton University shows people aged 18-35 are more confused than ever on their role in society. When asked a series of questions pertaining to their overall satisfaction of life, Professor Dalton, PhD, told us, “The data shows they are neither satisfied with their current life, nor the prospects of their future one. This is very hard to digest.”
Local mother, Sandy Thomas, 39, said, “I see the effects of this on my daughter every school day. She leaves in the morning dressed like a tomboy, but as soon as she comes home, she rips off those clothes and puts on her dresses, applies some lip gloss, and braids her hair. She’s only nine; people need to let her be as girly as she likes. She’s just trying to figure out who she is.”
If it passes, LYNA will require neighbors to act congenially to one another, at all times. In other words, people will be forced to understand the other person’s view. Those accused of breaking the law would face a penalty, either a fine of $100, or be held in contempt.
After Ms. Crawford finished her speech, we interviewed Peter Faulk, 44, father of two, who said, “I hope this Act passes really fast. It’s important we let our actions speak as loud as our words. We tell our kids they can be anything they want. And, then they go out into the real world, more confused and unsure of what is acceptable. They are the ones that lose. We need make sure they are winners.”
We also reached out to renowned Psychologist, Brenda Brown, PhD, for her thoughts. She said, “The adolescent years are hard and the mixed signals these kids receive are not easy to process. The worst offender I see in my practice is this notion they need to be better versions of themselves. They wake up every morning not feeling they are worthy enough to be accepted the way they are. It needs to stop. I love the idea of this Act and hope more cities join in, making it a nationwide movement.”
By the end of the meeting, people were rising from their seats, clapping, and chanting, “Yes! Yes! Yes! LYNA Yes!” The twenty year old, who asked everyone to address her as Iz, motivated the crowd with change. Turns out, the heels were a perfect choice.
Full Transcript of Speech
Good Evening! Thank you for coming out tonight in support of the Love Your Neighbor Act. I’m Isabelle, or Iz, as my friends call me. I think I’d prefer it if you called me that, too. I’m about to share something I’ve never shared before, so if we can call ourselves friends, it might make this easier.
My senior year of high school, my younger sister, Valerie, committed suicide. She was one of the most beautiful girls in school. She was popular, fun to hang out with, and very smart. She had this long, brown, flowing hair I was so jealous of; and a perfect smile, which lit up even the darkest rooms. On the outside, everything appeared like she had the perfect life.
A few days before she died, I overhead her crying in the bathroom. It was late, and I was tired. I figured her boyfriend had broken up with her, or something like that. I was sure if she needed to talk, she had someone to call. She had lots of friends. And, she had me in the next room. So, I went to bed. She never came to talk to me that night. I thought everything was fine.
But, two days later, I found her unresponsive [PAUSE] in her room. I searched for answers. There was no handwritten note, only an image left on the screen of her computer. It was a photo of her smiling and waving. The image she wanted me to remember her by, not the gruesome image next to me. I must have sat there, staring for a long time. It felt unreal.
I heard my mother calling us to the table for dinner. How was I going to break the news to my parents? At that moment, I felt my heart break for my sister, my mother, my father, and me.
I didn’t run to her side that night I heard her crying, or hug her, or ask her what was wrong. It didn’t seem my business. I regret that moment; that action I didn’t take. I don’t know if it would’ve made a difference, but at least right now I would know I’d given her something. Instead, I feel indebted to her. That’s why I am here tonight. To speak with you about LYNA, the Love Your Neighbor Act. I’ve come to learn that loving others is really hard. We can only give what’s in our heart. When we hurt, it’s hard to find love for someone else. I think, maybe, on a deeper level, that’s what really held me back from hugging my sister that night. There wasn’t enough love to give.
Say what you will, but I believe my sister died a martyr, a victim of society’s pressure. Society confused her, sent her lots of mixed signals. It bullied her within, and her mind eventually turned against her. She lived to please the world. And, it killed her.
The loss of my sister taught me a very important lesson.
[LOOKS STRAIGHT INTO CAMERA]
Death unexamined is life lived in vain.
Death unexamined is life lived in vain.
As you can imagine, I’ve spent much of the last two years thinking of why she died. My conclusion is that it was a collective effort; it took all kinds of people, situations, and actions over several years for her to reach a conclusion that would give her peace. It’s easy to say the system failed her, or that she slipped through the cracks; that she needed to ask for help, to let us in; that it was nobody’s fault in particular.
I disagree. It is somebody’s fault. It’s all of our faults. Every single person in this room is to blame for hurt and pain caused in someone else’s life. None of us are perfect.
We can make things better; now, with LYNA. LYNA is a piece of legislation that belongs in our society; A Goodwill Policy that restores humanity. Without it we will live lifeless, and loveless. Our town needs more love, not more volunteers to answer Hotlines.
You may feel a little shy right now, comfortable sitting on the sidelines. That’s okay. But, don’t let it last much longer. We need to raise our voices, and open our hearts. We are here because we are surviving; not thriving. We haven’t become victims just yet.
I’d like to ask you a few questions. Are we survivors because we are stronger? More capable? More fit for society?
Our pride would tell us the answer is Yes. But, in truth, the answer is No. We are vulnerable creatures, born helpless, on a pilgrimage to death. We only survive because we adapt, shedding part of our self so the rest can live a little longer. We change who we are. And expect others to change, too.
So, I ask you: Is this a good thing?
In closing, I’d like to quote the great Martin Luther King, Jr., when he said, “The only way to drive out hate is to love.” Give love to those around you. And, give love to yourself.
As we wait for City Officials to decide whether or not the citizens of AnyTown will adhere to a Goodwill Policy, regular hotlines and counseling are open and available, free of charge. If you, or someone you know, is having unhealthy thoughts, or expressing a desire to cause self-harm, please call 1-800-273-TALK immediately. If you have been the victim of Hate, contact your local police station to take action.