Why I Love America

It is far too easy when discussing politics to get dragged into the dirt. To have your view muddied and dirtied until you see only the negatives. This is not necessarily a bad thing. How else are we to try to improve what is broken? But it is a limiting perspective. The news doesn’t help. We read of tragedies and crises, peril and hatred. This series of articles has been no different; we’ve viewed the future of America through a lens of partisan conflict and thinly disguised bigotry. But that’s not the whole story. So for this, the final article in my series, I want to leave you with something different. I want to tell you why I love America.

Because I do love America. Truly, deeply, and with all my heart. It is my home, from my birth until my death. There is no place else I would rather live; no place else I hold in higher regard. I do not hesitate to say that the United States of America is the greatest country on the face of the earth, and it is with nothing but the utmost pride that I am able to utter the words “I am an American.”

There are many things that make America as amazing as it is. Our devotion to liberty, our history as the world’s oldest and most storied democracy, and our breathtaking national parks. Today, however, I want to focus on one thing in particular, that which this whole series has been about: Diversity. America is perhaps the most diverse nation to ever exist in the history of humanity. We comprise people from around the globe. Within a matter of decades, the third-largest country on earth will be a majority-minority country. This is unprecedented in the history of humanity.

Of course, America is by no means a perfect country, nor would I ever claim it to be so. But as we’ve discussed, so many of these issues can be traced back to our diversity. It is the price we pay, but it is a trade I would take any day. One of my biggest pet peeves is liberals holding up European countries (especially Nordic countries) as examples of superior countries. “Why can’t we have healthcare like Sweden?” they ask. “Why can’t we be more like Norway?” they ask. Certainly, these countries are not bad, and their policies are indeed great, but the implementation of their policies is facilitated by their homogeny. These are not diverse countries, and they would not be the same today if they were. It’s easy not to be racist when there is no one to be racist to. It’s not uncommon in European politics to see far-right parties embrace universal healthcare, but to do so in conjunction with strict immigration policies. The message is clear: universal healthcare, but not for brown people. Do not mistake liberal policies for liberal attitudes. The European migrant crisis of the last decade has laid this all clear. The sudden appearance of millions of people from North Africa and the Middle East was met with a surge of far-right parties and the near implosion of some countries (*cough* UK *cough*). Racism is a problem of exposure to diversity, and no country has experienced as much exposure as the US. 

It can sometimes seem as if the US lags behind the rest of the world, but in reality, the opposite is true. We are pioneering the future. We are creating a truly global and accepting country in a way that no one else ever has. Yes, our policies are often less progressive than other countries, but as I have already mentioned this is due to our diversity. Healthcare, gun control, zoning policies, abortion rights; all of it is deeply mired in our struggle with diversity. 

The path is not an easy one. The election of Donald Trump should make that clear enough, but America has persisted in the past and will continue to do so today. Our history is one defined by progress in the face of hardship and bigotry. I have faith that America will emerge from this episode stronger for it; that we will continue to lead the world. I understand how hard it can be to be hopeful in these times, but I implore you to try. We are moving forward as we always have. We have no national language, no state religion. American is not an ethnicity, only a nationality. One defined by your capacity for freedom and acceptance. The Great American Experiment of our founding lives on but in a new form. No longer is it just about democracy; democracy has proven itself around the world. Instead, it’s about democracy AND diversity. It’s about learning to break down the barriers between peoples and build a nation in the image of a truly global community. 

This is a journey we take together. Not all those who express hatred or bigotry are beyond redemption. Nor should we seek to cast them out or proclaim them as nothing more than ignorant racists. They are folly to the same vices that afflict us all. Jealousy and envy, fear and anger. They are just as American as anyone else, and we should treat them as such. Don’t just lambast them for their disagreements; instead, help them to understand. We all share the same goal: To make America a better place. For all our differences as to what exactly this might mean, we all do so with the same reverence and love for the concept that is America. 

I leave you with this. While diversity might be the source of our hardship, it is also a source of our greatest national beauty. Even when times feel dark and it looks as if we are sliding backwards, I urge you to remain hopeful. The path we walk is treacherous, and we will never emerge unscathed, but I never doubt that it is the correct path. It is with unwavering faith that I can say “I love America.”

My Story: Being Trans at Olin

You have all heard in vague terms about the transphobia present at our school in the form of a list of demands, but I want my personal story to be heard. This article has no agenda and this isn’t a call to action. If you see me around campus do not thank me for writing this or tell me you didn’t realize. I just want to give people a window into how this has affected me as an individual, not me as a co-writer of the call to action, not me as a member of a group. Because this issue is important and it’s personal. First and foremost I have felt unheard, and I refuse to let those feelings consume me.

It all started when someone I considered a close friend began to manipulate me with transphobic beliefs as I was in the process of coming out. I confided in her about my dysphoria, and she shot me down in a way that was framed to be for my own safety but really just taught me that what I felt about my own body couldn’t be trusted. I began to internalize the feeling of not being worth listening to, feeling isolated by my identity because what I thought I wanted wasn’t what I should do, and I became depressed. I went to her because I saw her as someone who would believe me and would speak against the societal norms that told me I couldn’t be who I thought I was. Instead she just increased my feeling of isolation without me even realizing it. I felt a need for her approval and wanted her to like me, despite her showing generally little respect for me. I found other people to talk to about my gender with and came out more publicly, but I still have trouble accepting that my friends are going to believe and listen to me.

After many more incidents with her involving me and my friends, I realized how she had manipulated me. During an appointment with a Colony Care therapist where I attempted to discuss what happened and how I felt because of it, my therapist showed me that the adults in my life would not believe me. She told me that it was a misunderstanding without even asking for my side of the story. When I interrupted her to tell her the very serious things that had happened to me and my friends, she put words in my mouth and said I “suspected” that the harasser was transphobic. She continued on to tell me multiple times that this is the real world, and that we should have more discussions with our harasser. This left me in a state of panic. I felt so small and insignificant, as if my feelings did not matter even within the context of my personal therapy appointment. I then spent the next three months without a regular therapist while dealing with all of this.

At the same time, all summer while working on campus I felt like my voice was being heard just enough to placate me but not enough to change anything. I felt like I was being humored so that I would shut up, and I had to fight to be taken seriously. Nothing was changing no matter how hard I pushed, no matter how unsafe I felt, no matter how much it got in the way of my ability to do my work. My feelings once again did not matter.

These repeated incidents of being unimportant and small have deeply affected my self-esteem. When I am having a hard time (which is frequently), I struggle to feel worthy of help, and I struggle to feel like I can give any valid contributions to conversations. I still struggle to believe that I was harrassed “enough” to warrant feeling as bad as I do. Even as I am writing this article, part of my brain is telling me that I am making this up and that it’s my own fault I feel this way.

I feel like I am simultaneously tiny and taking up too much space. I have nightmares where I am trying to communicate with a close friend but they keep raising their voice and not hearing me, until I am screaming at them and they get upset that I am yelling. There is no balance between feeling unheard and being “too loud.”

I had to drop one of my classes and frequently miss my other three because of the emotional energy it takes to walk out the door or do my work. I sit in my room and take care of myself in the ways I know how to, and I get off campus as much as I can, but in the end I have to continue to be a student here, and I am pissed that my opportunity to learn was taken away from me. All I want to do is dig myself an appropriately deep grave in POE, hang out with my friends, and learn math, and my passion for those things is gone.

Institutionally, things are getting better. But I know that as things change here, as the school continues to listen to their students and do what is right, I will also continue to be traumatized by what has already happened, and these ideas that have become ingrained in me will take a long time to unlearn. It will be a long and hard process to make all of the changes we are hoping for in order to turn Olin into the place we know it can be. Yet even if those changes were instantaneous, I would still be here feeling the real-life effects of being ignored.

Aside from the actions we take, we need to heal as individuals and as a group. Olin is supposed to be a space where we all feel safe and accepted, and it will take work on all of our parts to get there. That comes in the form of showing support for the efforts we are making to change Olin policies and practices, as I have seen so many of you do, but it also means finding ways to allow people space and time to heal while still including them in the broader community. I’m not sure what that means or how to go about doing that, but that is for all of us to figure out.

Alma Matter and the Meaning of Community

I have the privilege of sitting in an office on the second floor of Milas Hall, looking out on the parking lot which is currently framed by beautiful trees in full foliage. As I sat at my desk looking out the window one day, I got to witness people seeing and embracing those they love and have not seen in a while. I was sharing, at a distance, special reunions that are all part of Family Weekend at Olin, something that was not recorded, was not viewed by others and that everyone gets to experience sometime

As we all know, family has many different elements, and kindness starts in the home. Well, when people are away at college, the campus is their home. 

I worked at the Holy Cross College main library for a couple of years. As a part-time employee, I was invited on a campus tour (that happened to be given by my 5th grade teacher’s son!). During the tour the campus guide, Tommy, mentioned that Alma Mater means “other mother.” I truly never knew this information. Per Google – “Your alma mater is your old school, college or university. It’s generally used as a positive term, implying reverence and loyalty for the nurturing qualities of the institution. Alma mater comes from two Latin words meaning “nourishing or bountiful mother.” 

When I walk around campus and see students I try to smile and say hello, remembering this is their home away from home. We want them to feel welcome and embraced while here—no matter their differences. 

In looking outside, seeing sweet embraces of people reconnecting, I hope that feeling at Olin, along with simple kindness, can flow back into an intimate, interesting, hopefully, welcoming community for everyone

Penny for your Thought

Welcome back to Penny for your Thought. Last month’s edition talked gently about the climate change march and had other exciting thoughts. This month’s edition was organized around two topics (with the ability to ignore the topics) that were Book/Movie Recommendations and What You Are Thankful For. 

If you are interested in submitting something for the next iteration of Penny for your Thought, December’s Topics will be: Small Reflection on This Semester and What you are looking forward to next semester. Again, topics are only suggestions and different thoughts are welcomed.
Form can be found here: https://tinyurl.com/FSPennyforyourThought

Book and Movie Recommendations:

“The documentary Avicii: True Stories is the masterpiece of the eon.” – Anonymous, Third Year Student

“The Overstory, by Richard Powers, really is magical. If you’re feeling apocalyptic about climate change and needing to gather some perspective, this is your text. The deep wonder of trees is the book’s real subject, told through a dozen characters in interrelated stories. The best books reframe the world so we see it with new eyes, and this is one of those.” – Sara Hendren, Faculty

“Jupiter Ascending may not have been a particularly intellectual movie, but it was fun and campy. I rewatched it recently on Netflix, remembering very little about it beyond the fact that it was bad, and found myself genuinely enjoying it. The pad scene and the “I love dogs; I’ve always loved dogs” will never not be funny. Plus, it was directed by the Wachowski sisters. “ – Anonymous

“Sneakers (1992 Film)” – Steve Matsumoto, Faculty

“I read Educated by Tara Westover and it was an incredible memoir of self-discovery that’s at times horrific, unbelievable, and beautiful. (TW: physical abuse, violence, hateful language, religious extremism). The author grew up in a Mormon fundamentalist family that idolized anti-government extremists and put her to work scrapping metal in a junkyard when she should’ve been (but wasn’t) in 7th grade. She endures physical abuse at the hands of her loved ones which turns more psychic when she starts to put distance between her old life and the new one she’s clawing together for herself in college, then grad school and beyond. Tara’s perseverance, even in the face of hardships that will scar her forever, is a remarkable thing to bear witness to. This was one of the most powerful books I’ve read in some time.” – Callan, Staff

“The Power, by Naomi Alderman, is a very powerful book. It made me rethink my role as a feminist and the role of revolution in society. Highly recommend.” – Emma Pan, Third Year Student

“Borne or Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer are both weird dystophians that explore technology and environments. Borne is more heavy with biotech with Annihilation being a look at climate change (in a non global warming sense). Borne and Annihilation are often under $5 as ebooks.” – Erika A. Serna, Third Year Student

What You Are Thankful For:
“I’m thankful for my friends walking through nourishing conversations with me” – David Freeman, Third Year Student

“Thankful for: Modern medicine.” – Rick Osterberg, Staff

“I’m grateful for the black comfier chairs at the tables in the library” – Anonymous, Fourth Year Student

“I’m thankful for getting feedback that actually makes me reflect on why I interact with people the way I do and what I may be able to change to be a more effective communicator” -Anonymous


“Three men check into a hotel. They each pay $10 for a total of $30. Later, the manager realizes that the room only cost $25 and gives the bellhop $5 to return to the guests. Along the way, the bellhop decides that $5 is hard to split between 3 people and pockets $2. He returns $3. Now the men paid $30 initially, with $10 each. They each got $1 back, totaling $9 each for $27. The bellhop has $2 totaling $29. Where is the remaining $1?” – Anonymous

“We’re just the stories we tell about ourselves.” – Anonymous

“you’re doing a great job :)” – Anonymous

“Strong magnets are reverse hammers.” – Zack Davenport, Fourth Year Student