Last week, members
of the Claremont community spoke up in response to the (United States
of) America-themed Pub hosted by Kappa Delta (KD). Opinions were shared. Views were expressed. Certain ideas—and
the people behind them—were shunned. I’m writing this not to take a side, but rather to talk about
language and how we treat others. Even though political
correctness is founded upon the same progressive principles I align myself
with, it can become reactionary in a way that’s just as damaging as its targets.
In the ’50s and early ’60s, the comedian Lenny Bruce pioneered a linguistic
revolution that challenged the repressive, conformist Cold War atmosphere of the time. He found loyal audiences among beatniks and students at
forward-thinking colleges, which became bastions of the
language liberalization movement. The linguistic revolution opened the door for
empathy between all different kinds of people, whose lives and stories were
made accessible to new audiences.
Now, these same
institutions are centers for the restriction of freedom of expression. It’s
ironic that political correctness here at Pomona College, which stems from the same progressive values that spurred ’60s and ’70s activists, has turned into a regressive attitude toward free
“Open the airwaves. Knowledge is power.” Seinfeld‘s Newman understood this when he mischievously said, “When you control the mail, you control … information.” Let’s try not to control other people’s thoughts or their right to
express them. Instead we should listen, take note, and make informed decisions
based on one another’s experiences. We should form fair and balanced narratives from which kernels of truth can be
extracted. By attempting to declare everything that America is, KD implicitly brought to
mind everything that America is not. We should welcome the discourse that has
We shouldn’t pretend that we always know the right answer. We shouldn’t
tell our fellow students to be silent, or force them to fit the narrative with which we happen to be comfortable. Discomfort is a part of life. If you disagree with the
members of KD, use the First Amendment and speak up. Don’t retool it with the
Second and shoot them down.
I believe that I have a firm personal ideology.
I’m no Leonard Zelig—and to the Woody Allen
skeptics out there, yes, I can separate the art from the artist. But I admit that I’m still relatively impressionable. And I think we’re all impressionable. Maybe
I’m more open about it because I enjoy getting laughs and like to imagine I made rounds on the Borscht Belt in another life, but whatever the case, we’re humans
and we’re young. Maybe “impressionable” is the wrong word. We’re learning. We’re
changing. Tying ourselves—and others—to a fixed attitude is not
the way to grow as a people, college, or society.
One way to let go of some of those stubborn attitudes is to take a
step out of the fray for a while. Take notes from Gza the Genius. Referencing
Malcolm X, he rapped, “Time is a terrible thing to waste, so the mind must
think at a peaceful pace.” Pomona may be rated the most wired campus in the United States, but don’t
worry—it won’t lose its status if you take the time to look out the window and
let your thoughts wander, or think about nothing at all. Temporarily relinquishing
your 24/7 connectivity can be scary. You’ll feel alone. Let that sink in, because it should make our community and each individual in it more valuable to
It’s upsetting to hear people say they can’t express themselves on
campus. Sometimes these people decide to transfer for this reason
alone. We’re doing ourselves a disservice by creating an ideologically
homogeneous environment. It’s time we pop this part of the Claremont Bubble. If you’re still reading, you’re doing just that. We can’t let our campus become a prison of political
Let’s stop stifling language and stigmatizing those with whom we
disagree. We should remember the
words of Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five MC’s. Melle Mel wasn’t
discussing any old message: He was preaching “The Message” when he gasped, “So don’t push me cause I’m close to
the edge / I’m trying not to lose my head!” Let’s move forward from last week.
After all, this is brainy Claremont, Calif., not Sleepy Hollow.
Harry Manin PO ’16 is an American studies major and environmental analysis minor from New York City.