I have written before that one of the reasons I love theatre is because it is such a powerful way of making us stop and think about our social situation and what our obligations are as human beings to try to make this world a better place. I am privileged to be part of the premiere of a new play, Linger, which does this in a beautiful and intense way.
DID YOU KNOW . . .
Did you know that nearly a fifth of the 5,462 so-called single-bias hate crimes reported to the F.B.I. in 2014 were because of the target’s sexual orientation, or, in some cases, their perceived orientation?
Prior to 2010, such statistics likely would have been unavailable because assaults targeting people because of their sexual orientation was not considered a hate crime until President Barack Obama signed major civil rights legislation making it a federal hate crime to assault people based on sexual orientation, gender and gender identity. The law enacted during the Obama Administration expanded the the scope of a 1968 law that applies to people attacked because of their race, religion or national origin. The provision is called the Matthew Shepard & James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act and it is named after Matthew Shepard, a gay college student tortured and killed in 1998, and James Byrd Jr., a black man who was chained to a pickup truck and dragged to his death the same year
It took more than a decade of debate and persistent advocacy and 14 separate congressional floor votes before President Obama could sign the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act into law. The length of time it took to put in place a law that should have been a no-brainer is yet another example of how partisan politics stand in the way of protecting the most vulnerable in our society. But even more troubling is that even as the majority of society advocates and supports inclusivity and equality for members of the LGBTQ community, violence against LGBTQ people continues to increase. Ironically, those who study hate crimes say that the shift of our culture to inclusivity and acceptance may be the reason for increase in hate crimes directed against LGBTQ people, as it motivates those who oppose LGBTQ people to become more radical and causes them to strike out often in violent attacks.
DID YOU KNOW . . .
- Smartphone ownership has become a nearly ubiquitous element of teen life: 95% of teens now report they have a smartphone or access to one. These mobile connections are in turn fueling more-persistent online activities: 45% of teens now say they are online on a near-constant basis.
- 32% of online teens say they have been targets of a range of annoying or potentially menacing online activities. 15% of teens overall say someone has forwarded or posted a private message they’ve written, 13% say someone has spread a rumor about them online, 13% say someone has sent them a threatening or aggressive message, and 6% say someone has posted embarrassing pictures of them online.
- 38% of online girls report being bullied, compared with 26% of online boys. In particular, 41% of older girls (15-17) report being bullied—more than any other age or gender group.
- 39% of social network users have been cyber bullied in some way, compared with 22% of online teens who do not use social networks.
- Children and young people under 25 who are victims of cyberbullying are more than twice as likely to self-harm and exhibit suicidal behavior.
- “Hyper-networking” teens (those who spend more than three hours per school day on online social networks) are 110% more likely to be a victim of cyberbullying, compared to those who don’t spend as much time on social networks.
All of these are reasons why Linger is timely, important and should be seen, and I hope it makes audiences stop and think about these things -- think about whether you want to continue to have people in political office who rile up crowds and don't unequivocally denounce groups that promote hate (and yes, I know there is a First Amendment but just because our Constitution allows people to say hateful things does not mean our leaders do not have an obligation and responsibility to denounce such sentiments); think about what you can do to make sure that victims of sexual assault are not shamed into silence, and think about whether you will do more than just look the other way when you see social media used to hurt other people.
But at its essence, Linger explores how our decisions affect us an those around us. It makes us analyze whether people's motives are driven by altruism or egoism and shows us that the answer to that question may not be as clear as it seems at first glance (does a mother protect a victim for the victim's sake or for the sake of her career; is a child crushed because of what society has done or by the actions of his own father who believes he is doing his best to accept his child for who he is; do prosecutors advise against prosecution to protect victims or their win/loss records, is a father blinded do the troubles brewing with his children because of love or because he cannot face the fact that he may not be as connected with his teenage children as he believes he is or should be -- these questions just scratch the surface of what Linger leaves its audiences to grapple with). Linger is also a beautiful statement on how easily we can lose sight of what is important and how each and every day it is our responsibility to truly connect with those we love. It reminds us of how fragile our happiness can be. It reminds us of how important it is to connect with people in a personal and real way and not just through a screen. It reminds us that we have to do better to make our world one of inclusivity and love. Linger is why theatre is important.