Pellowski: Get Mad

by Aaron Pellowski | 4/23/13 10:00pm

Early last Saturday morning I woke up, quite legally drunk, on a couch in Berlin. I switched on my iPhone, checked Blitz, Bored at Baker and Facebook. Instantly, I was dizzied by a firefight of righteous status updates. You already know: the Dimensions protest. I sat up in my sleeping bag and watched the video in hazy disbelief.

I groaned and went back to sleep.

Ultimately, I don't want to weigh in on who gets the most points in the contest of hurt feelings, oppression and wounded pride. Parts of Dartmouth's culture are abhorrent. But so was the protest attacking them, and so were many of the extreme reactions. No one could successfully coax a right out so many viciously interlocking wrongs. Instead, I want to ask a different, bigger question: why are you only angry now?

I stand with all sides in this controversy the students whom the protests humiliated, the prospies who were frightened and possibly deterred from matriculation and everybody fearing that the cause of social justice on campus had its already sketchy reputation irreparably marred. It makes me furious that a few students thought what they were doing was "more important" than a tradition which, despite my personal misgivings, I respect as beloved to Dartmouth students. To know that my friends were crying behind the curtains as the whole thing teetered on catastrophe makes my blood hot and my own eyes water. It's just awful.

If you are untroubled by the protest though it seems like no one is fine. I am not talking to you. But if last Friday's fiasco makes you as mad as it makes me, here's the deal: unless you think that human dignity is something specially reserved for the people you happen to know and like, there is a whole lot more to be mad about.

You should be mad that some Dartmouth students are suddenly devastated by rape in their first year of college, subsequently harassed and shamed by the community, and forsaken by everyone in charge. For others, it doesn't happen all at once: they matriculate into an atmosphere of ultra-subtle, uninterrupted hatred that you may never be so privileged to experience. An atmosphere that, tragically, no one told them about as they fell under the saccharine enchantment of Dimensions and freshman trips.

Maybe the people I am talking about aren't your friends. But they are somebody's friends, and they are as beloved to someone as the Dimensions show is to anyone. This should make you mad, too.

You don't have to choose just one. If you feel the need to pick one "side" to be disgusted and furious at, you're wrong. At least this week, the "sides" are fictional. Be mad at the protest. Go ahead and hate it with all your green-bleeding heart. But also be mad at the people walking through FoCo during regular hours sporting antebellum attitudes towards race, gender, class and sexuality. Hate them, too, for the invisible misery they inflict on us.

This is much harder. Unlike Dimensions, there aren't two thousand eighteen-year-old eyes looking under the locked door of a Massachusetts Hall dorm room at 3 a.m. It doesn't instantly go up on YouTube, Facebook or The Dartmouth's website. Usually, it doesn't go anywhere. No one has to care. No one gets mad. Consequently, there are no torrents of Facebook updates, no inboxes blowing up with violently worded blitzes, no zeitgeist-topping Bored at Baker posts demanding legal crucifixion for the criminals. We go on with our doggy lives.

If everything else about the protest was wrong, its aftermath provoked in me a more global feeling of disappointed anger for which I am grateful. Disappointed, because when someone yells "rape" in your face, you get mad at the yelling alone. Rape is lucky to claim a place as an afterthought. Angry, because the highly-reduced and shameful lesson of Friday's fallout is this: our community is happy to be enraged by great rudeness, yet functionally apathetic, even tolerant, to real evil.

I pray this stagnant disaster reverses itself a little more with each departing class. I pray you have a small hand in the reversal. Next time a Dartmouth student is raped or called a faggot and you hear about it, I pray you get even half as mad as you did this weekend.