Kyle Jordan

Brendan Abrams is a liberal arts and engineering studies junior and Mustang News columnist. The views expressed in this column do not reflect the viewpoints and editorial coverage of Mustang News.

My stereotypical Jewish mother thinks I’m quite good at triathlons (races involving swimming, biking and running, for the uninitiated).

She’s wrong.

I don’t win triathlons, nor do I perform particularly well in them. It would be more accurate to say that I just … barely … make it through … to the end of the race.

I can forgive my mom for bending the truth, though. She only wants the best for me, and there’s no harm in allowing a few “alternative facts” to go unchecked. As I always say, “If it’s good enough for the White House press secretary, it’s good enough for me.”

Recent events threw a wrench in that philosophy. It turns out that alternative facts can be detrimental to the health of trust-based relationships, like the one between parent and child or the one between the president and the population of his country. If we can’t trust the facts, can we trust anything at all?

In our divided country, we need to rebuild trust and community so we don’t burn the place to the ground. So quit being so nice to me, mom.

OK, now that my mom’s alternative facts are taken care of, how do we confront the tornado of lies and hate and ideological discord that is tearing its way across the country? Tornadoes are supposed to stay in the Midwest! One option is for California to secede and become a Canadian province. As attractive as that sounds, I’d like to propose avoiding another civil war by taking a few pages out of the triathlete’s book instead.
No, triathletes don’t spend their time sitting cross-legged in speedos while singing “Imagine” by John Lennon and talking about feelings. Not most of their time, anyway. Triathletes train with purpose, day in and day out, to accomplish entirely selfish goals. Maybe they want to run more efficiently, bike faster or avoid drowning. Any goal in an endurance sport can only be achieved through lots of hard work, laser-sharp focus and minuscule improvements over time.

Likewise with the future of the United States. It’s clear by this point that whimpering, “Why can’t we all just get along?” is not going to effect any meaningful progress in areas like civil rights or environmental protection in this administration.

That’s why we need to keep fighting. And by “we,” I mean everyone. Not just my fellow liberal complainers who shut down major streets in major cities with their protests the day after the inauguration (that was awesome!) but also everyone else who has an opinion in this country. Those who make their beliefs clear are the ones who earn respect and progress.

Half-hearted, last-minute solutions don’t work. Triathletes won’t achieve personal records by training only the week before the race, and whimsical executive orders won’t achieve national security. In both politics and triathlons, exhaustive work toward selfish goals is really the only way to get things done.

“But wait, you egomaniac,” you say. “How can selfishness create a better community? That’s, like, an oxymoron!”

Firstly, you shouldn’t use the word “like” so often. This isn’t the San Fernando Valley.

Secondly, that’s where triathletes are interesting. We’re all brutally self-interested, yet love nothing more than seeing others succeed. Races are full of cheering volunteers and teammates (thanks, Cal Poly Triathlon team). Not everyone gets a trophy, but everyone gets smiles and words of encouragement. It is because of our competitive urges that the triathlon community is incredibly vibrant and supportive. Everyone respects that everyone else is working hard to achieve their goals.

Why can’t our political community be the same way? Let’s respect one another and appreciate the fact that we can have civil discourse. Competitive cooperation is exciting, fulfilling and productive.

I was pleasantly surprised by the Cal Poly community when that so called “alt-right” jerk Milo Yiannopoulos came to town.

A side note about this guy: He loves when protests force his appearances to be cancelled, because then he can go online and spew alt-facts about the horrors of the left. Stop protesting his right to speak, and his influence will fade faster than you can say “bigoted internet troll” (looking at you, Berkeley).

Anyway, Cal Poly’s response in the form of Unite Cal Poly, a socially-aware comedy show and concert, was an excellent example to set. Allow both sides to say their piece respectfully, but push onward with those selfish goals.

It might not be pretty, and it certainly won’t be easy, but if average people in our country can continue fighting for what they believe in and stop fighting over whether we should fight, maybe that horrific metaphorical tornado will die down so that we can just … barely … make it through … the next four years. It would make my mom really proud.

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