I thought I was educated. I went through elementary school, middle school, high school, and here I am at college. This means I probably have a lot of knowledge stocked up in my brain like books on shelves, knowledge that I access every day. Every interaction I have, every word I say, and every opinion I have draws off of what I've learned over the last eighteen years. But here's the thing about college: most of the things you thought you knew are wrong. And honestly, I think a lot of people are thinking that right now.
College has been one of the most eye-opening experiences in my life so far. I met people that became my best friends after only two weeks, in fact, I still meet new people almost every day. Just the other day I met a girl from China while staking out a spot for class registration (four hours early, might I add). We talked for almost forty-five minutes, and I don't even remember how it all started. The hardest part about meeting new people is that you never who they are or what they are like until you've have multiple interactions with them. You won't be able to understand the way they think just by looking at them. This misconception is the origin of generalization.
It has been a very emotional few weeks. Political tensions have risen on campus, some classes were cancelled, and tears were (and continue) to be shed. I watched two of my professors struggle on the verge of crying, as they tried to explain to us what had happened to the world we thought we knew. I heard people speak up and say such heart breaking things that I had to take a minute and breathe. The part that hurts me the most is I didn't even know about it. I didn't know about all of the discrimination that goes on here on my own college campus; it goes right over my head. So hearing about these things breaks my heart, and what is even worse is I don't know what to do about it. I sat in on a small discussion after my American Government class, and I listened to people that I see every day speak up about how hurt they feel every day. One said he stayed off campus during the entire election because it was just too hard. I heard these things, and felt utterly useless. I felt ashamed that I didn't know, I felt bad that I hadn't experienced these things, and most of all I felt afraid. I'm afraid for those around me that have to cope with flaring emotions in this country right now as a reaction to the election. Today I heard about a Muslim woman who was attacked and beaten by two men, because the idea had been instilled in their minds that it was okay. It's not okay.
Perspective is a scary thing, especially when you become exposed to thousands at once. Having an open mind is very important in a time like this, because we have to be there to support each other. Partisanship and division only makes it worse. James Madison wrote that factions are the "mortal diseases" that make governments everywhere perish, so don't let America be another one of those governments. Have perspective, have empathy, and be open-minded. I end with a monologue by Aaron Sorkin from the hit "The Newsroom", because I believe it captures what America could and should be. In his words:
"We stood up for what was right. We fought for moral reason. We passed laws, struck down laws, for moral reason. We waged wars on poverty, not on poor people. We sacrificed, we cared about our neighbors, we put our money where our mouths were and we never beat our chest. We built great, big things, made ungodly technological advances, explored the universe, cured diseases and we cultivated the world’s greatest artists AND the world’s greatest economy. We reached for the stars, acted like men. We aspired to intelligence, we didn’t belittle it. It didn’t make us feel inferior. We didn’t identify ourselves by who we voted for in the last election and we didn’t scare so easy. We were able to be all these things and do all these things because we were informed… by great men, men who were revered. First step in solving any problem is recognizing there is one. America is not the greatest country in the world anymore.” ― Aaron Sorkin, The Newsroom Script Episode 1