Saying it’s safe to go to Chilitos is like saying it’s safe for the Trojans to let in that wooden horse. Any health expert will tell you that it’s objectively a bad decision, and there’s little room for debate. Yet, Chilitos has also exposed another problem that nobody is talking about: the disconnect in Kenyon’s community between those who just want to live a little, and those who just want to live.
“Dear Kenyon Students,” began an all-student email sent out by a Kenyon student, “you might not care about getting sick and causing an outbreak, but the rest of us sure do … No one else wants to deal with your bs.” At the time, I assumed the antagonistic way the message was conveyed was more of an exception than the norm. But after a little investigation, I’m not so sure.
I asked some of my peers what they thought of the people who frequented Chilitos. Though a few described them as normal students, most said that those who went to Chilitos were irresponsible, reckless or even animals. However, when I asked them if they’d ever had a conversation with anyone about why they went to the restaurant, the answer was almost always a resounding “no.” Herein lies the problem.
Last weekend, I went to Chilitos for the first and last time this semester. Inside, I was greeted with lively conversation and smiling faces. For the first time in a while, things felt normal.
“You went to Chilitos!” my friend said later over the phone. “Dude, that’s so sus.” His tone suggested there was no room for discussion about the fact that I had gone. Instead, there was a period of awkward silence before he hung up. In hindsight, I realize that I deserved some level of judgement, and I probably shouldn’t have gone.
If I’d had a chance on the phone, I would have told my friend that I felt that it was safe to go to Chilitos because there were zero COVID-19 cases on campus at the time. Perhaps I could have heard why he was concerned, and we would’ve understood each other. This conversation, if anything, made me want to drag my mattress into the restaurant and live there forever.
On the other hand, another friend told me, “I know it’s fun, but when you go to Chilitos it makes me feel unsafe, and I would feel a lot more relaxed if you wouldn’t go anymore. I do really want to hang out with you.” It was conversations like these that reminded me that my actions have a ripple effect in the larger community that is Kenyon, convincing me not to go back.
COVID-19 is an infectious disease. My concern is not for myself, but for those around me who might be more at risk. The inconvenient truth is that everyone is connected. But it’s impossible to feel that connection when there is such a divide in our community. Everyone wants to criticize, but nobody is willing to listen.
The campus is now in another lockdown. The easiest thing to do would be to get angry and point fingers. Yet in the era of calling people out, what is necessary is to call people in. If we really want our peers to change their actions, we have to be willing to start a conversation. On the flip side, everyone needs to be open to feedback and assess whether their actions may be causing harm. If we truly want our community to be healthy, we must first facilitate honest communication.