On Tuesday, Aug. 29, I was walking back from class with a friend when I saw something quite strange on Middle Path. A conservative preacher stood, with picket signs in hand and his young son by his side, spreading a message of hate and homophobia.
I turned to my friend and immediately began to brainstorm how to confront this person with whom I so vehemently disagree. Then I looked down Middle Path again, and this time I noticed something different. Surrounding the homophobic preacher were several students. These students seemed to come from many different backgrounds and hold many different beliefs. They sat calmly by the edges of Middle Path, holding rainbow flags to make their disagreements known. Their demeanor caused me to pause and think about my own confrontational feelings.
Like many here at Kenyon, I grew up infatuated with the Harry Potter novels. They were incredibly influential in my own life and helped to shape the values of an entire generation.
In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Professor Albus Dumbledore says, “Do not pity the dead, Harry. Pity the living, and, above all, those who live without love.” It’s a beautiful line and an even more beautiful sentiment.
Unfortunately, in the important moments, it’s often hard to remember. Righteous indignation is too easy an emotion to feel. It is harder and far more admirable to combat hate with love and to combat anger with kindness.
Later that day, the Kenyon community received an email from Canterbury Kenyon, the Episcopal student ministry, and Chaplain Rachel Kessler. The email was thoughtful and well-written. I think the final lines were the most meaningful: “We want to affirm — you are loved.” In a moment where it may have been simpler to stay silent, the Kenyon religious community chose to take a moment to reach out and make a show of solidarity with the student body.
To the Kenyon community: I am grateful for your kindness. I am grateful that you made me check my confrontational instincts. I am grateful that you choose to combat anger and hate with a calm showing of love and support.
The Kenyon community showed immense character in their response to a force seeking to divide and hurt. Because of the actions of a few members of the student body, I reexamined my pull to confront others in anger. I believe that those students reacted the way we should all strive to react.
On that day, I was proud to be a Kenyon student because I see in our community the same attitude that J.K Rowling’s novels inspired in me. I hope that in the future, we can follow the example set by those students and have the courage to stand up to hate with kindness.
David Carstens ’21 is an undeclared major from Dallas, Texas. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.