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The current Washington news cycle and most primetime news shows will lead you to believe that our country is at a point of irreversible and ultimate divide. While this point is true in some ways, it can lead us to forget that in other ways, we are all more or less the same. We all struggle, feel, and experience life in the same way.
Last week, the Spanish police arrested 14 Catalan officials in Barcelona. The conflict between the Catalan and Spanish governments has escalated in recent weeks, ahead of a referendum scheduled for October 1, in which Catalans want to decide whether to remain in Spain or to become independent. Friends and colleagues have been asking, with equal bewilderment: “Why is Spain so adamant in preventing you [Catalans] from voting in the self-determination referendum? Didn’t Scotland vote on independence recently?” But also, “Why is Catalonia so stubborn about holding this referendum? There must be some alternative.”
You’re sitting in class, trying to take notes, but the only thing on your mind is the fact that your family group chat is quiet. Reports then come out with the body count, news articles pop up detailing the damage, and images of a home you once knew cover your feed.
Dear Vice President Calhoun, Dean Crittenden, and Dean Dolan,
“The time has come,” the Walrus said,
When I walked onto the Princeton campus eight years ago, I wasn't sure what to expect. It didn’t feel right to step inside the perfect Gothic architecture in my flip flops and shorts. On my application, I promised to major in molecular biology, but after sitting behind a microscope for year years in high school, cells and molecules were the last thing on my mind. I knew I wanted to empower others in some way and decided that I could figure it out over the next four years.
I applaud the Princeton students who engage in political discourse, those who hold and advocate for their convictions. Yet, when I attended the Political Activities Fair on Sept. 11, an apparent atmosphere of discordance struck me. The students at each table jockeyed for my name and email address. To me, they seemed to embody rigid attitudes towards politics — uncompromising positions not amenable to dialogue. Each table was disparate, seemingly incompatible with its neighbors. A peer remarked to me how the pro-life and pro-choice tables were situated on opposite sides of the room.
During orientation week, Princeton administrators emphasized the importance of a balanced lifestyle. They pressed the Class of 2021 to sleep seven hours a night, participate in extracurriculars, and seek out resources to manage stress. Many Princeton students struggle to balance the different facets of their lives, so this advice seemed well-meaning.
When I first got to Chengdu, China, ready to begin a summer internship where I was meant “learn about a new culture” and “gain perspective,” it became obvious to me how arrogant I had been. I’d shown up to a country that I had very little prior knowledge of, where I knew no one, and where I couldn’t speak a word of the language.
I had just finished a packed summer working in the Frick Chemistry Lab at Princeton and was therefore so relieved and excited to see my parents. I had not seen them in over eight months, the longest I have ever gone without seeing them. Stepping off the plane and walking into the airport lobby, I was warmly greeted by my parents and two shots of flavored Cruzan Rum, a true reminder that I was home and a taste that I missed. We spent the next couple of weeks getting back to our old family life, living life how it was before I went to college.
It seems that, nowadays, cries for “free speech” ring from campus to campus. The term has become quite famous and quite popular. Perhaps it owes its popularity to how vague it is. It generally comes from conservatives in response to some sort of censoring of ideas. In its own way, "free speech" has become conservatives' rhetorical weapon of choice, defended by right-leaning groups and thinkers both on and off campus. Recently, Professor John Londregan and some of his fellows wrote a letter calling for an end to the “shared and pervasive reality of growing hostility to free expression on college campuses across the country and around the world.” But what exactly is free expression, or “free speech?”
President Eisgruber recently penned a letter to the chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary, urging the Committee to “refrain from interrogating nominees about the religious or spiritual foundations of their jurisprudential views.” The issue arose at the confirmation hearing of Amy Barrett, a Catholic law professor and nominee for a judicial appointment. In the hearing, Barrett was told that “dogma lives loudly within you,” implying that she would not perform her judicial duties fairly on matters where her faith informs her views, from abortion to the death penalty.
Last week, I had a conversation that exemplified the University’s cultural hierarchy of majors. It occurred by Wilson, where I came across a first-year who was struggling to move an orange cart full of packages to Forbes. I stopped to help him, and we soon started chatting. Inevitably, talk turned to our studies, and I told him that I was a junior in the music department.
The Harvard administration set off a firestorm when it rejected a formerly incarcerated woman who had already been recommended by the Department of History. Numerous media outlets have covered the case of Michelle Jones, who is now pursuing a Ph.D. in history at New York University. While incarcerated, she completed an undergraduate degree and then became a published scholar in American studies with her paper “Magdalene Laundries: The First Prisons for Women in the United States.” She also wrote a play to be performed in a theater in Indianapolis.
More than anything, it was my interactions with the watermelon sellers that taught me about myself. Every day, I would hear them come around our neighborhood and yell at the top of their lungs that the watermelons were fresh, that they were the best, and that they only cost four somoni (about 50 cents). I was often tempted to buy one for my host parents, but I never did. Every once in awhile, we would pass each other on the street, and as any proper Tajik girl should, I looked down. But they still asked my 12-year-old host cousin for my number. My host sister told me to never give it to them.
The United States is currently experiencing an opiate epidemic, with the number of overdoses increasing every year. In 2015, 33,000 people in the United States died of overdoses. The total number of people who overdosed is much higher.
I’ve been thinking about Arthur Brooks' overly simplistic article in the New York Times. He takes a safe contrarian stance, offering a diluted and soft-ball criticism of modern liberal exceptionalism. Independent of where we stand in the tug-of-war between liberals and conservatives on campus, I wager most rational people would agree with him point-for-point that ideological inclusivity trumps conformity when it comes to fostering productive intellectual discourse.