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Use your words

First of all, there’s no need for anyone to spend all their time reading the sad and scary parts of the news. That’s probably why you’re in the entertainment section, but most of the opinions this week are anything but festive or fun. I’m writing a few iterations of my opinion, and this is the broadest version for the widest and most uncertain audience. 

We ended up with a best-case scenario on our hands, and people want to write about it. So far, the reports in the press have not matched my experience, and I’m getting submissions to Opinions that are heavy to read and impossible to fact-check. My version of the story is that I was way too close to the non-student shooter at a campus party where no one was hurt but everyone was traumatized. I know only how scared I was, and I reached out to my friends accordingly, not because I knew what they needed, but because I needed a sense of camaraderie. 

There will always be room for that on these pages. All we can do is tell our stories, tell the truth, and live our relative best until it gets better. People have gotten through worse, but that’s not to minimize what every individual may be going through, and there’s no way of knowing just what that is. This is why, if I had the time or bandwidth of a full-time journalist, I’d be sure to chase down the people with the facts. Here, instead of telling one version of a story that affected many, I’m just making space for everyone to share their own experiences.

I’m aware that my words don’t always make a difference, like when I say what everyone else is already saying or make a point that no one feels moved to add to. Words affect us on a spectrum between landing and missing the mark. The reason for every miscommunication is so that we can get it right sometimes. A quote from an article in The New Yorker by Elizabeth Hardwick: “The great difficulty is making a point, making a difference — with words.” 

Her words speak to me as a writer because it’s hard to communicate in the best of times. When challenges come up, it’s especially hard to take all the thoughts that live in your head and translate them to another person. When you add in crowds and chaos, alcohol and apathy, any and all of those things, then even the best communicators among us might react unkindly. What if students had all received an instant notification urging us to shelter in place just in case we weren’t safe? To backtrack more, what if the altercation between non-students in our campus residence hall had involved yelling instead of fighting? 

After the violent turn of events, I’m as worried, upset, and outraged as anyone else. We should be confident walking around our campus without the concern of a concealed weapon carried by someone we don’t know, with unknown intentions. I remember school-wide walkouts in solidarity with tragic incidents of gun violence at other high schools four years ago, and I’ve been keeping up with recent news of shootings, an unfortunately constant concern across our country. People have been saying these brutal stories enabled us to know what to do in the heat of the horrifying moment, and I think it’s also why we don’t know how comfortable we should be in our environment now. It is surprising to me that Mayflower Hill could so suddenly feel drastically less safe. 

If you were there, it is okay if you jump when someone drops a spoon in the dining hall. If you weren’t there, your feelings about what happened are as valid as anyone’s — it is what it is, and trauma does not compete. Acknowledge that everyone brings something different to the experience. Appreciate the rebuilding of trust across the community, maybe by just being here and seeing it become more and more okay. 

To me, this text I got in response to the highly criticized emergency response contains the bottom line: “Kindness is not political.” We can all speak kindly, no matter how we experienced this past weekend, and those words will make a difference.


~ Molly George `23

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