Jaxon Silva is a civil engineering freshman and Mustang News columnist. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of Mustang News.


I stopped midway in transit to see a wall had been erected on Dexter Lawn. Sprays of colorful sharpie filled it with words, some incarnations of popular memes, political leanings and tirades, and other expressions.

What is now officially coined the Free Speech “Gallery” by the Cal Poly College Republicans, I refer to in a merely colloquial sense as a wall. This is not to persuade or dissuade any opinions or thoughts.

As the old adage goes, “The right to shake my fist ends where your nose begins.” It feels strangely familiar and yet all too much forgotten in the current day and age. However, it is something that I’ve generally kept as a credo for my own behavior, summed up more frankly as “If you have nothing good to say, don’t say it.”

What had seemed like a cacophony of blurbs upon further inspection reminded me of the forums of the early internet. The ideas on the wall had been transmuted, edited, added to, and transformed into something symphonic in nature: a give and take of ideas and expression.

Was this what had garnered much of the chagrin of the Cal Poly community?

Simply put, what is good? What is bad?

If you are expecting a concrete answer, I’ve got bad news – subjective questions generally get subjective answers.

Now don’t misinterpret, there were statements on the wall that I wholeheartedly disagreed with and was even firmly disappointed with; however, I don’t think it is necessarily right to dismiss it as useless and unnecessary either.

I understand that some of the words on that wall were written with the intention of hate against another group. I understand.

I understand that some of the words on the wall were nonsensical memes. I understand that.

I understand that some viewpoints may seem offensive or “a bit out there.” I understand that.

But I will not say that they do not have a right to say it.

And maybe that is truly the nature of the wall, as we can look at it and find only what we disagree with. We can look at it and find only what we agree with. But unless we look at it all in it’s beautiful, horrifying, salient, unnerving totality, we will never gain a full picture of what’s out there. What our hopes, fears, and dreams are.

I think we have more in common with each other than we think, and it has been the times in my life when I have communicated with people the least that I have been most out of touch with reality.

When’s the last time you wrote your viewpoint, story, perspective, stance on the wall?

When’s the last time you tried to understand somebody you don’t agree with and why they disagree with you?

I viewed the wall later, towards the end of the day. The symphony of voices had been drowned out by larger and more flashier voices screaming, the wall itself flanked on both sides by posters reminding visitors of the “Mustang Way” that had been placed by the administration. What had looked in harmony just a few hours prior now looked dysfunctional.

As I walked back to my dorm, I couldn’t help but think of how much it reflected the current state of affairs, larger voices drowning out little ones in a sea of dysfunction.

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