Sitting at my computer trying to figure out what to write was not easy. It’s difficult to just sit and try to think of something worth writing about. The editors tried to help, asking me if there was an issue at Stern or YU in general that I was passionate about; something about the school that bothered me that I wanted changed. I threw around ideas that ranged anywhere from the community feeling amongst the school to writing about my experience as a transfer student, but I was unsatisfied. However, taking a step back, I realized it was not dissatisfaction that I felt but fear; fear to write about anything and everything. Trying to pitch ideas that I thought would interest the student body, when, in reality, no matter what topic was chosen people would be dissatisfied, terrified me. I was afraid to write, not because I had no ideas or because writing is not easy for me, but because I’m scared of what happens after publication. The reality is that this school is scary: not the type of hanging off a cliff scary, but maybe more stuck in a cave of lions scary, with the student body playing the lion’s role.
An opinion is created from a culmination of moments and experiences that we have witnessed in our short lifetimes, and they will always be evolving and changing as we continue to live. They generate from the homes and states we grow up in, the parents that raise us, the schools we went to, and the peers we surrounded ourselves with. They come from whether or not we spent a year(s) in Israel to what major we are currently studying towards. In this light, it seems perfectly reasonable that we would express different opinions. Things would be pretty boring if we all had the same views on everything.
Why do we have to write disclaimers on articles to let people know that “these are solely my thoughts and there’s no intention to disrespect anyone else’s opinion.” Should that not be implied? It is scary to voice one’s opinion in this school because it can feel like you will be eaten alive for anything you say, whether it is voicing an interest in a small point a speaker made or sharing a Hillary event only to be bombarded with comments of “didn’t realize people were still supporting her.” Why should a person feel like they need to post in a Facebook page that election talk cannot happen there because of the amounts of people that were getting personally offended by others and their opinions? Statistics show that there are around 7.5 billion people in the world. That means there are 7.5 billion people that come from different backgrounds. Each of those individuals have different views and ideas when it comes to any topic under the sun. In fact, if we tried to create a book of each individual opinion we would never reach the editing process due to the overflow. The same can be said about our institution; with over 6,000 graduate and undergraduate students, it would only make sense that we each have our own opinions on topics from politics to the current tampon-less state of the bathrooms.
No one should ever feel like their opinion does not matter, and that they cannot share their view without feeling as though they are about to go on trial when they press “send.”
For many of us, Yeshiva University is going to be our home for the next few years. A home is where one should feel comfortable to share their views and opinions. Sure, at my house my family will make fun of me when I state my view on the Prime Minister or the current conflict in Israel. However, I feel comfortable throwing around ideas at my home because we all know that even though we may not always agree with each other, there is a respect present for each of our voices. There is a clear difference between healthy criticism and laughter vs. passive aggressive confrontation – ironically behind a computer screen. We should all feel comfortable enough to state our thoughts and ideas. No one should ever feel like their opinion does not matter, and that they cannot share their view without feeling as though they are about to go on trial when they press “send.”
We have all heard the phrase “it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.” We all have views and we are all entitled to share those views. However, when we pick up that pen, keyboard, or typewriter (whatever you prefer) we need to be more mindful of how our words come across. The words we choose and the way we string them into sentences can come across completely differently based off of the ones we use. No one should be reading an article and feel uncomfortable. And not the uncomfortable you feel from that itchy sweater you got for Chanukah, but the uncomfortable that you feel as though the writer is directing their point at you, as if to say “whatever you are doing, because you do not agree with me, you are doing something wrong.”
I was excited to write when someone approached me about the opinion section of The Commentator. However, as the idea of writing began to sink in, excitement became filled with dread. I wondered if it was even worth it to write in the first place. Being afraid to share your voice is a scary thing because there are so many people that actually cannot share their views and ideas. We take it for granted that we can say whatever we like, and have forgotten that although something is published online, whether article or Facebook comment, it is still sending a message to the human being reading it on the other side. So before I hit send … DISCLAIMER: these words are meant in all ways possible to get a constructive, respectful, and productive conversation flowing.