I hereby reaffirm

David Rubin

My early attempts at writing this essay – and they were many – didn’t amount to much. I wanted to write about something I love – music, the friends I’ve made here, something like that – but the words never lived up to the feeling behind it all. It’s not easy, it turns out, to describe what a performance feels like, or why I care for the people I care about.
So I was feeling doubtful about this entire project – or at the very least, my contribution to it – and I was ready to give up, thereby surrendering “Variety” to Evan’s advice column and Erik’s incomprehensible witticisms. But then, a prompt fell from the sky!
Like Newton’s apocryphal apple. except this gift drove by at 40 m.p.h., spewing hate speech. “Keep walking, faggot!” the driver yelled at me, his car hurtling down College Avenue as my friend Laura and I walked to Harmony Café one January evening.
In the past, I would have gotten angry. I would have embarked on an old-fashioned cathartic rant, filled with political invective and sprinkled with all sorts of goodies that I can’t print here.
But this time, I didn’t have much to say. “Well, at least we’re across the street from Harmony.” That’s all I could manage.
It was in trying to figure out why I reacted the way I did that I realized just what I wanted these 500 words to be about.
You see, a healthy dose of righteous anger might have made me feel stronger for a few minutes, but it would have done nothing to make the world any better.
I believe that the only way to fight ignorance – and this particular brand of hate, this fear of anyone “other,” is something that we as a species seem to be pretty damn good at – is through simple, stubborn, honesty.
I believe that it is actually quite easy to do something terrible, so long as you aren’t acquainted with the victim of your actions. “Banal evil,” that’s what we call it in Freshman Studies, right? Duly noted, Hannah Arendt.
We’re all capable of being downright awful, and our indignation at being wronged is just an easy way of avoiding the uncomfortable fact that it could have been us. When it comes down to it, that driver and I aren’t particularly different.
Because we’re all capable of being horrible to a nameless, faceless someone. It’s much harder, however, to be cruel to someone you know. Very few of us have this talent. Which leads me to think, “wherefore and hence, therefore and ergo,” – thank you Leonard Bernstein, thank you “Candide” – that the only way to stop being so terrible to each other is to make sure that we’re all better acquainted.
So here it is, a tidy, five-word summary. A proper opening sentence, if I hadn’t needed just-under 500 words to work up the courage.
I believe in coming out.
Not necessarily of the “Mom, Dad, I’m gay” sort. No, I believe that coming out is something that we all have to do. Coming out is telling your story, figuring it out, deciding what’s worthwhile and finding your place. It is being honest. It is introducing yourself to your neighbors. It is the work of a lifetime.
I think if we all engage in this work, we will slowly build a better, truer world; a place in which evil is less, well, “banal.”Editor’s note: “I hereby reaffirm,” a new corner of the The Lawrentian, aims to foster a campus-wide dialogue about personal belief. What do you believe? Think about it, write it down, and send it to lawrentian@lawrence.edu

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