Credit: Solena Aguilar | Mustang News

Soham Patel is an architecture junior. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of Mustang News.

The Cal Poly community rarely surprises me anymore. 

The first day I set foot here was Open House 2018, where students demanded action from administration in regards to Kyler Watkins (who now goes by Jonathan Watkins) in blackface. Students in my classes freshman year tried justifying his actions to me and we even saw President Armstrong defend Kyler’s actions as free speech. 

We’ve had Confederate Flags hung up in university housing and anti-immigrant flyers put up on campus. These, along with many other occurrences in San Luis Obispo, could be argued to not reflect the kind of community Cal Poly wants to create. But they do. 

Regardless of listening sessions and surveys, this community does not do nearly a good enough job to make it clear that their cheesy “Love, Empathy, Respect” motto is the way they want to live and are the values they stand for. 

This is why when I saw the opinion piece “Can Your Beliefs Cause You Pain? Yes by Declan Molony published in Mustang News, I let out another one of those,“Can you believe this shit?” sighs that marginalized students let out on what feels like a daily basis at this school. 

When will people understand that caring about others is not a sign of weakness and something that is worth doing?  

Declan speaks of his two renamed peers — Henry and Samantha — and their concerns over violence following the results of the presidential election and their choice to not date Republicans, respectively. 

“’But surely there’s a chance that people won’t be killed. So this uncertain event, months in the future, is causing you stress. What should you do to feel less stressed about it? Do you know anybody that might instigate violence over the election outcome?’ [Declan] asked.”

If Henry doesn’t know anyone who is willing to instigate violence over the presidential elections, why should he worry? If you don’t know anyone who is a bad driver, why drive wearing a seatbelt? I wish I could use a better metaphor, one that uses a practice that we engage in not just for the benefit of ourselves, but also others. I was thinking about using how we get our flu shots and vaccines, but it seems that there are already many people who have proven we’re not interested in keeping our community safe. 

“’There are millions of people in this country that identify as Republican, and you do not personally know a single one. Is it possible that if you were to allow yourself to get to know some Republicans, that you could better understand them and possibly befriend one?’ [Declan] asked. ‘Why would I want to do that? All Republicans are stupid,’ [Samantha] said.”

Maybe Samantha has a specific taste in guys — maybe she’s not even into guys! Let’s stop speculating about Samantha and her relationship to conservatives and let’s use me instead. I am a queer South Asian-American (aka “person-o-colah” as my English professor once said). Would I want to date a Republican? No. Why? I don’t think anyone should be interested in having a significant other whose political ideology does not recognize the historic struggles that marginalized folks have had in this country; whose policy platforms do not support the right of choice of a woman’s body. While I don’t wish I could say I could date a conservative, I do wish people were better at listening to understand rather than listening to respond. 

Yes, Samantha’s point of “all Republicans are stupid” isnt stated in the most eloquent way. But frankly, I’m not interested in explaining, listening to, or getting to know someone whose arguing to elect a Vice President who supports conversion therapy and wouldn’t hesitate to line me up next. There is a danger in treating these opinions to a debate, as it allows them to be seen as valid stances to begin with. Could we talk about tax rates or local propositions? Maybe, but how sure are we that the logic and opinion that justifies supporting a party that wants to remove my right to marriage isn’t also present in our conversation about tax rates. 

You also shouldn’t have to be marginalized to have this stance. I’d hope that my close friends and family members would not want to bring someone into their life who does not affirm my right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. I hope that they care about someone other than themselves. 

I recognize that for many people, concern over issues outside of their control does not warrant the need for action. I also recognize that actions taken in the interest of others can be seen as unnecessary and as a sign of weakness. This is why we are where we are with anti-maskers. They cannot fathom taking steps to keep those they do not know or care about safe. They cannot compromise in their own lives at the risk of putting out the flame of their prided American independence. It is easy for these folk to put on blinders to block out those at-risk from a respiratory illness as it is the countless uninsured, undocumented, low-income communities across the nation that have been harmed and will continued to be harmed under our administration. 

Now, I do not mean to draw explicit correlation between those who question a global pandemic and those who don’t recognize the impact of politics on real people’s lives. But, I would not be surprised if the venn diagram of these two groups is a circle.

I am not asking for everyone to start caring about every single issue in the world. That would be a bad faith interpretation of my point. I am asking for people to start caring about others, inside and outside of their community. If not this, at least recognize that all of us have issues that we care about. In this current time, after the current set of issues pass and new ones come to replace them, we need to be looking out for each other. 

Yes, stress can be harmful to our health. But opposing injustice, advocating for communities you are not a part of, and choosing to avoid people who do not back your right to a quality life are necessary steps to take to recognize there is a problem. Hopefully, leading to change to fix it with those who feel the same way.

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