Breaking Through the Silence

berlin wall

(Ethan Corey)– Since this is my first post writing for ACVoice, I decided it would be a good opportunity to explore why we even bother to write in the first place. Writing is an inherently risky act. One needs only to peruse the comment section of any website to see firsthand that writers often face vicious and unrelenting criticism for the words they publish. Writing brings thoughts and feelings out from the safe confines of the head, exposing privately-held ideas and beliefs to the scrutiny of the generally unsympathetic public eye. So, again, why bother?

Although it might be the most hackneyed of clichés, the pen (or the keyboard) is far mightier than the sword. Words have immense power. They lift people up and tear people down; They rouse them to their feet and lull them into slumber and complacency; they destroy empires and build new nations. When people put a pen to paper, or click ‘publish’ on WordPress, they unleash a power that they rarely control. Case in point, Dana Bolger’s post on ACVoice and Angie Epifano’s article in The Student. Just by raising their voices, they forced the College to confront the grim realities of sexism and sexual assault at what is supposed to be an elite institution of higher learning. Their writing roused a campus out of apathy and has energized a movement for meaningful change in the College’s approach to sexual respect and misconduct.

Writing is a radical act, and we all have radical ideas. Whether it’s the fact that the College spends more energy stopping beer pong than it spends preventing sexual assault or that we have a social scene premised on drinking enough to forget how bad the social scene really is, everyone (I hope) has something they would like to change about our College, our country, and everything else. Yet, far too often, people don’t say anything. This, to me, is unconscionable. The status quo, broken and ossified that it is, is protected by a wall of silence. Silence creates the illusion of satisfaction and tacit approval and has been used by oppressors around the world to justify their acts. It’s little wonder that the most common defense of accused rapists is “she didn’t say no.” Silence doesn’t excuse injustice, but it certainly promotes it.

Vaclav Havel, the famous dissident and first president of the Czech Republic, saw writing as ‘the power of the powerless.’ To Havel, words are ‘mightier than ten military divisions,’ the only weapon powerful enough to break the chains of complacency that alienate us from true freedom. I have no choice but to agree. We all have a duty to write, to speak out, to tell the world that we exist and are fed up with things the way they are. Only words can change the world, and god damn it the world needs changing!

Despite what the previous paragraph may suggest, I don’t have (too many) delusions of grandeur. Perhaps few people will read what I write, and even fewer might truly listen. But I have no choice but to say it. Hopefully, each post will be a tiny crack in the wall of silence. And when enough people speak out, we can all watch that wall crumble.