I was raised in a religious household in a family emphasizing personal discipline, tolerance and empathy. My mom, no matter what continent we lived on, preached: control that which you can and let go of that which you cannot. My father, on the other hand, led by example: a strong, proud man that had been wronged deeply and personally, but never wasted time with anger and resentment.
I strive for a harmony between my religion and my faith. My commitment to both is strong, but they are not the same—I identify as Sikh but my relationship with God doesn’t exist within the bounds of a structured faith. My father is politically conservative but my choices were always my own, and I ended up a young man of strong faith and center (albeit center-left) political views.
Then I came to Tufts where my views are not necessarily aligned with the majority (or at least vocal majority).
And that is okay, because I think it's a beautiful thing that no matter where you stand on any spectrum of orientation or color or belief, this campus will protect you. I was and am deeply moved by how aggressively large portions of the Tufts community moved to show their support for certain issues or groups.
Yet I grew to find aspects of this student body's reactions to political incorrectness troubling. I'm alarmed at how fast and how intensely actions of others are condemned: how quick we are to dismiss the other side with thoughts like how can people think like this? Do I believe hurtful speech should be permitted and nothing should be said? No. But I have seen a certain edge to responses to that kind of offense. This issue, while I am intimately familiar with it at Tufts, is literally everywhere.
I think the struggle needs to evolve. A lot of this anger and frustration is merely the sparks that fly when fundamental worldviews collide. When I see words like “enraged” and “ashamed” and op-eds in the Tufts Daily saying things like “this cannot be tolerated,” I think to myself one simple thing: you will make it worse.
I am not preaching acceptance and universal forgiveness. There are many, many wrongs yet to be corrected, many causes that deserve their day. If you see something that offends you, use the public forum. Make your voice heard. But before you do, there is one step you should take first.
Take a breath.
Just one: a deep breath where you close your eyes and do your best to clear your heart. Where you acknowledge the summer storm clouds, flickering with lightning and heavy with rain on the horizon, but take a moment to stand in a sunlit valley.
To all the ardent feminists justifiably fighting to gain true equality for women; to all the ethnic minorities trying to make sure their ideological ancestors’ sacrifices were not made in vain; to all the individuals of whatever gender fighting for acceptance across all orientations and identification: breathe. I am not casting your causes in a lesser light.
I am not telling you to stop fighting—don’t ever stop fighting. But when something like the recent resolution to allow religious departures from the exclusion policy rises, when tempers flare, breathe. We should think for a moment about the person across from us. Put ourselves in their position, their decades of life learning and believing the same ideas we now confront. We should understand that it is possible for those who disagree with us to see reason in their own arguments. I am aware of how difficult it is. It is always difficult to take the high road.
Tufts’ motto is Pax et Lux, Latin for Peace and Light. We may all have different interpretations of what that means, but to me it has always meant that internal peace sheds external light.
It is a noble fight, and one that should never be abandoned. But in this new age, this multitude of information and phenomenally diverse public spaces, there will be places for people to unload their stress and frustration at feeling censored. As long as that frustration and anger exists, as long as it’s fanned by rhetoric like “this cannot be tolerated,” it will never die.
“We can never obtain peace in the outer world until we make peace with ourselves.” (Dalai Lama XIV)
For a heartbeat, please just breathe.