Opinion

Global problems? First make some friends

I entered the kitchen and saw shit everywhere. Literally. My usually lovable dog Rusty had diarrhea, producing the scrumptious gift of gloopy dog excrement smeared on our recently-cleaned kitchen floor. My youngest brother promptly informed me and I quickly (albeit queasily) mopped it up before my tired-from-work parents came home.

The day before, Rusty had smelled turkey bones in the trash can, greedily knocking it over and devouring the delectable pickings. Predictably, this resulted in a tumultuous tummy-ache and a shit-smeared kitchen. Rusty didn’t know better and finds it hard to learn.

Am I as bad as Rusty? For my roommate’s sake, hopefully not. But sometimes at Mac, we (myself included) don’t always acknowledge our humanity, i.e. our capacity for learning from our mistakes. We scoff, doubt, mistrust, undermine and call each other naïve and—gasp—even ignorant. Yes, the ever-loathed, communally-rejected reality that stubbornly still unites us all: ignorance. Is there a hiccup in our master plan? Yes, we will always be ignorant to some degree. I know it’s hard: I wake up with a self-congratulatory shower-soak thinking I have learned all there is about respect, diplomacy and communication only to learn I offended three people and 10 identities before taking my first watery sip of Café Mac coffee.

I love our campus for our impassioned curiosity. What else can our passion fuel?
Perhaps compassion, patience, trust, humility and hope? These are not synonyms for normalization, oppressive privilege, naïveté, apathy and ignorance. Though the former can lead to the latter, it is not guaranteed. I trust our intelligent, empathetic community to recognize the nuance and respect it.

These are the values that build friendships on and off campus. The initial uniting factors, be they academics, student orgs or sports, lead to different relationships that span nationalities, bodies, genders, sexualities, races, faiths, socio-economic statuses, ethnicities and other identities. I take comfort knowing that in this regard—though far from perfect—we are kilometers* ahead of St. Thomas.*

We develop these friendships, graduate and go off into the world. Someday we will be in positions with responsibilities that will affect identities different than our own. Then we might pause, consider the impacts of our decisions and perhaps, in a never-before-seen, minute, teeny, tiny act of solidarity, choose to compromise for the good of both our and other identities. Why? Because we made friends at Mac and beyond who inspired us to believe that working in global solidarity, spanning countless differences is in all of our self-interests. That’s my two cents for our touted ‘global citizenship.’

Yes, I sometimes make mistakes akin to having diarrhea and leaving a shit-smeared kitchen floor. But I hope I am more than a dog. I can clean up after myself. I can learn to not do it again. To do that though, I need certain measures of support. For me, that means feeling allowed to embody compassion, patience, trust, humility and hope alongside others.

I will take responsibility for unknowingly aiding and benefiting from oppressive systems. That was wrong of me. Please give me a chance to learn and improve. Give yourself a chance too. I will make time for friendships, make time to build community, to forgive others for their ignorance because I will always have mine, to embrace compassion—hoping others reciprocate. We’re only-just college students after all. I want to trust more too.

I trust administrators who say we need higher income or fewer expenses to support our college community. I trust my friends of color who say they need more solidarity, privately and publicly, to have an equal chance of thriving in a country that was built against them and by their enslaved ancestors. I trust those who speak of what they need to feel supported in their identities, especially when they are different than mine.

I trust my friends who say they need me to try and recognize both the ups and downs in life to be able to support me. For those that are patient with me, thank you.

I have faith our community can do truly good things. We already have, are and will continue to do them. I trust the values I outlined either are already present or will make a comeback to this campus. Either way, during this season of gratitude it was our mere existence that I was grateful for. We are a diverse, curious, passionate and hard-working bunch. So thank you, Mac. It’s a privilege to be here. Thanks for befriending me and for being patient with me. I hope to prove I was worth it. I hope we all do.

*For any Tommy readers, that’s the improved 19th century unit of distance that tried-to-still-should replace the outdated Roman mile.

December 5, 2014

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