For the past few months, I haven’t been quite sure how to utilize the voice I have been given as a columnist. I’ve been at a loss for a subject about which I was passionate enough to write on a few pages and which would make a decent column, until I heard something rather alarming on NPR (shame on you if you think that’s lame) during my morning drive to school. I switched on my radio just in time to catch a story about a recent crock of you-know-what at Yale University.
After an email went out to the Yale student body cautioning them to take care to avoid “culturally unaware” Halloween costumes, all heck broke loose when one lecturer voiced an alternate opinion. Lecturer Erika Christakis, who lives on campus with her husband Nicholas, the Sol Goldman Family Professor of Social and Natural Science, made the grave error of suggesting to Yale students that they use their big ol’ Ivy League brains and look at these costumes through a more intellectual lens, instead of jumping at the opportunity to shut down anything that might hurt somebody’s feelings. In other words, she suggested that folks toughen up a bit: “If you don’t like a costume someone is wearing, look away, or tell them you are offended. Talk to each other. Free speech and the ability to tolerate offense are the hallmarks of a free and open society.”
I refer to her action as a grave error because in response to her message, some students have actually threatened her, while others take the high road and just shout insults at Christakis’s husband. Overall, there has been a demand to remove the couple from their residence on campus, Silliman College. Great.
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you hypocrisy at its finest: how is one faction, while begging for equality and for having its beliefs heard, justified in not only silencing, but actually threatening another who simply attempts to voice her own opinion? I am not only frustrated; I’m concerned as well. I am worried sick about the future of our country because of the way our generation has begun to operate. Millennials are now the largest, most diverse generation in the U.S. We have the loudest voice, and the widest range of voices in the country, a power that we unfortunately do not always wield for good. Politics have become reactionary and impetuous, while under the guise of being “progressive.” I skim the headlines, and all I see is a serious want for prudence and thought. When will people realize that the only way to achieve true equality is to ease up a bit and stop driving wedges between parties? In leaping toward reaction and revolution, we factionalize and alienate our peers, the very same people whom we want to see our side of things.
Think about it this way: when you did something wrong as a child, wasn’t it easier to understand your mistake when your parents spoke to you calmly and logically about the error of your ways, as opposed to screaming at you? If you experienced something like this in your childhood, I hope you’ll agree that shouting doesn’t go far with little kids. The same can be said for the general public: nothing makes people cover their ears and run for the hills quicker than the sound of an angry demonstration in the streets. Any teacher will tell you this: if you want something to be understood in a crystal clear manner, you have to explain it like you’re talking to a five-year-old, and if you can’t communicate the gist of your cause that easily, you probably don’t know what you’re talking about.
I look at instances of protest such as the Halloween debacle at Yale and the hunger strike at the University of Missouri, and while of course I empathize with those who feel oppressed, I can’t help but wonder if the wrongs done to these folks could have been righted more effectively.
There is a major tendency among our generation to get defensive and take things far too personally. And this makes sense; studies have shown that millennials tend to obsess over what they think other people think of them. There was an article about this in Time, which showed fun statistics about millennial parents versus Gen X and baby boomer parents. Here’s an example: 30 percent of millennial parents “are somewhat, very or extremely concerned about other parents’ judging the food their children eat,” while only 17 percent of Gen X and 11 percent of baby-boomers felt the same. I just can’t help but feel that the world would be a much more peaceful place if people were more confident in their decisions and less worried about who might disapprove.
It seems to me that assuming the worst in people is suddenly in vogue, and the general public has forgotten that sometimes people make mistakes. I don’t think there is a single being on this earth that has never unintentionally wronged someone else (except for my sweet orange tabby, Mr. Cat—he’s perfect). What are we if we can’t forgive? Few things grind my gears more than the tendency of people to get all tied up in knots over someone else’s good intentions gone sour, too stubborn to see that whoever wronged them never meant to do so, thereby making a mountain out of a molehill. Furthermore, if someone clearly did mean to offend you, why does the offense have to become a national headline? Instead of perpetuating a 300-comment Facebook war, can’t the conflict be confined to a chat between the original parties involved? Like Christakis said in her original email, “Talk to each other.”
Sweet people, next time you ask someone for a ride home and he or she forgets you, and as you feel the fire of fury begin to rage within you, remind yourself to pick your battles. Ask yourself, when someone makes a backhanded comment about how your haircut “looks sooo much better than before,” is this insult, or the person who said it, worth the energy required to get worked up over it? What I’m really asking for is your help here, friends: don’t let World War III start because Brad from Sigma Chi wanted to dress as sexy Squanto.