I’ve recently discovered that if you really want to garner a reaction from the public, you should rub the readership the wrong way: Talk about the weather. Mention how idyllic the campus looks bathed in the sunlight of a perfect day and suddenly it’s “wow the flat hat devolved into pure propaganda so gradually I didn’t even notice.” Or what about the Frisbee players who emerge on such sunny afternoons for a quick game amongst friends? The musicians strumming guitars on the grassy slopes of the Sunken Garden? The study groups sprawled out on picnic blankets in the shade? We all walk by them, accept them, maybe even envy their free time, but to record such a tableau in writing is an unacceptable leap of the imagination induced only by the effects of mood-enhancing drugs. “After careful reflection,” one reader observed, “I have concluded that you must have been ‘shrooming for this.”
On campus, as in the world, it’s every man for himself. You might desperately want to do only that which
makes everyone at least respect you, but the truth is you simply can’t win them all. No matter how hard you try, something you say or do will inevitably perturb someone enough that they will find it necessary to point out your shortcomings and condemn you for them. Too liberal, too conservative, left, right, boring, obnoxious, vanilla, hardcore. They deliver the death sentence by issuing the very same assault only in a more potent form: conveniently recorded on paper — inky lines of poison that you can reread and obsess over until you suffocate yourself with self-doubt.
In an ideal world, your parents would have raised you with an impenetrably thick outer shell toward off such hurtfulness like an invisible force. “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” As if asinine nursery rhymes could establish that kind of protection. We are born with a deadly arsenal of weapons designed to inflict harm on thy neighbor: We can cheat, we can steal, we can lie and we can slander the confidence out of a human being without leaving any physical evidence. And like the weapons industry’s expansion into higher and more complex technology, our attacks only continue to become more tortuous. They are even untraceable up to the very moment you realize the assailant is not some unfeeling monster who hurts you because he doesn’t understand you, but the friend you see daily and unwaveringly trust.
How exactly is “I’m rubber, you’re glue — everything you say bounces off me and sticks to you” supposed to compete with that?
We’re mistakenly led to believe that when we graduate high school we leave behind the petty smallness of our little societies. The only difference I’ve noticed in college is the change in backdrop and a bigger pool of people on whose bad sides we will unavoidably end up. It’s up to you to keep yourself sane: an army of one equipped with the same weaponry as your enemy. The moderate saints — and they’re out there, bless them — choose to forsake these inherent tools of mass destruction even under the greatest temptation.
I’m no saint, but if a pleasant day on a beautiful campus is all it takes to keep me above water, I’ll consider myself fortunate. Think of those I’ve spared by deriving my happiness from the promise of summer instead of a strategically planting a seed of wickedness where someone is most vulnerable. And we’re back to vulnerability. I truly believe those most capable of inflicting the most harm in others are those who have been hurt themselves; the vulnerable can see the vulnerability in all of us.
There’s a horrible storm tonight. Mostly lightning and rain. Don’t you just love the rain? Open up. Breathe it in.
_Zoe Speas is The Flat Hat Confusion Corner Columnist. She is rubber, you are glue. Whatever you say bounces off her and sticks to you._