According to Dictionary.com, which is – safe to say – a pretty reliable source (some would even argue to a greater degree than Wikipedia), liberal is defined as being “open-minded or tolerant, especially free of or not bound by traditional or conventional ideas, values, etc.” For some of us, this definition is perennially tucked away in the back of our minds, alongside the mothballs, forgotten math formulas from middle school and receding memories of Christie Carlson Romano (throwing it back to the ’90s, also known as Disney Channel’s prime). For others, it may be even more lost in an abyss that I like to refer to as your brain.
Whether students are overwhelmed by the added stress of embarking on an entirely new Ephventure here at Williams or are simply drowning in chemical equations and literary prose, they tend to lose sight of the real meaning and civic implications surrounding this relatively rudimentary word. If there is one part of that definition that should be, without question, etched into our brains, then let it be the word … drumroll … “open-minded.”
What does it mean here at Williams to be open-minded? Sure, you’re being open-minded when you invite someone new to sit with you at lunch, or when you wave to an unfamiliar face on your way out of Paresky. Maybe you’re being slightly too open-minded when you decide to streak the entire campus after losing a game of Odds Are (no offense to those who enjoy partaking in such festivities – whatever makes you tick, buddy). But when you get down to the bare essence of the word (pun intended), it means so much more than that.
I’m not saying that you shouldn’t have the power to say no – I do consent that consent is very important here at Williams (which we all learned during one of those First Days nights, unless you were that noob who decided to skip). However, I am arguing that it can’t hurt to sit down with someone and have an intellectually stimulating conversation.
To those of you who identify yourselves as liberal, yet refuse to keep an open mind, try listening to what the other person has to say (it beats coming off as a hypocrite, right?). Basically, if you have a pulse and you consciously attempt not to emulate politicians, then you’ll already be two-thirds of the way there. Congrats to those of you who already satisfy the first condition – I guess this means you’re doing the whole “being alive” thing pretty well at this stage of the game.
Moving on to the nitty-gritty, the main thing to remember is to use your ears, as eerie as that may sound (pun intended). Sometimes it’s necessary to exercise your ears more than your lips. Yes, to those of you who can move your ears, now would be the time to “wiggle, wiggle, wiggle.” Having said that, listen to whatever triggers the release of those endorphins: Drake, fire alarms, the deafening silence of Sawyer, fire alarms in Sawyer (shout-out to two weeks ago), the sounds people make when they play Vegetable Orgasm – you name it. The options are limitless (unfortunately, unlike the number of meal swipes you get per day). But most importantly, listen to what other students have to say.
Essentially, willingness to dismantle that brick wall of myopia that some of you may not even know you possess is an attitude that should be ever so prevalent as the unspoken rule of not going to snack bar before midnight on the weekends (or weekdays if you’re a true rager). So by all means, walk into snack bar with an empty belly, but all I ask is that you walk out with a broadened mind … and girth, of course (but the second one is a given).
Volunteer yourself as tribute and break free of those shackles of entrenched thinking that are weighing you down. Please try and keep your clothing on, though. We don’t need a nudist colony running around at Williams. Ultimately, just remember that the road goes both ways. So if you are even remotely as passionate about something as Vladimir Putin is about riding horses while shirtless or as Obama is about taking vacations, then voice your opinion. Make people listen. Or just drive them nuts until they do. That works, too. Machiavellian tactics are perfectly acceptable in this scenario, so don’t sweat it. Moreover, now that you are sufficiently aware of the underlying significance of the word liberal, I hope you can liberate yourself from this rather liberal article and progress with your day here at Williams College.
Hayley Tartell ’18 is from Miami, Fla. She lives in Williams Hall.