by SAMANTHA ENGLAND - An open letter to everyone, including myself, because it’s the wake-up call we need in this day and age.
Dear Westfield High School Community,
We have a problem. Don’t get me wrong: it’s not just us, and it could be a lot worse. We’re lucky to be at this school, living in the culture we live in. But we still have a problem, and if we don’t fix it, our luck could run out. I’m talking about jokes. Yes, you read that right, jokes.
Buzzkill alert, right? You’re probably wondering what I’m going to complain about. Probably wondering why society is “triggered” about everything. All the time. For any reason. And maybe you have a point if you mention that PETA was going a little overboard if they were serious when deeming “two birds with one stone” offensive. The same applies if you think the presidential alert memes were funny, and people didn’t have to get upset, as if it was blatantly denouncing the government. But this letter isn’t about Twitter, it’s about Westfield High School. Birds and memes are not our most serious problems.
I’m talking about the increasingly violent, harmful, disrespectful and dangerous comments that pass for jokes. You might have ignored those adjectives because you think they’re an exaggeration. But at least think about to this word: Increasingly. Because today it’s funny, maybe a tad “iffy.” Tomorrow, it’s going to hurt someone.
We love pushing the line further and further for what qualifies as a joke. Not just Westfield, not just teens--everybody. Because why not? How else are we going to grab the attention we so desperately need? To be honest, I don’t know. A random act of kindness will never be noticed as much as a head-turning “joke.” I truly understand this temptation; it’s the easiest way to get those heads turning. But I’ve seen a whole lot of things happen, especially in the past month that only instill one emotion in me, and many of my peers. Westfield, I’m scared.
I’m scared because I know that one day, your so-called joke won’t be funny. In a split second, it could turn into the biggest mistake of your life. From the quickly scribbled threat that wasn’t supposed to be taken seriously to the twitter-viral bullying video at a neighboring school that the world wasn’t supposed to see, it’s clear that incidents like this are too close for comfort. It’s easy to claim that nothing bad will ever happen to you because it’s unlikely. That you don’t need to be a positive go-getter, because someone else has that role covered. But I assure you, peers and friends, that you’re not safe if you just play the numbers game--but you don’t have to. You don’t have to hope it will happen to someone else. You can make sure it doesn't happen to anyone.
So before your life comes crashing down because of something completely preventable, I’d like to present a solution. It doesn’t take one person or a handful of people, rather all of us. It requires us to change our attitudes and actions. We need a culture of positivity.
It’s so easy to make fun of the “Westfield Way” and the attempts administration makes to nurture this positivity, and some may think it is misguided, but maybe our perception is flawed too. Maybe deep down we wish that it would work, but we just don’t believe it ever will or we know how to achieve it. The wise Mr. Ewing once said, “If you believe it, you will achieve it.” But instead, we spend our days talking about how we’re going to fail this math test and lose this game. So why wouldn’t that attitude carry over to positivity? Why would we believe we can be kind if we don’t believe we can do anything else? Yet again, we choose the easy way out and convince ourselves that it won’t matter or that it won’t work or that it’ll make us pariahs among normal students. The easy way means we don’t have to think about the consequences of our “jokes.” But Westfield, I would encourage you to consider whether or not the easy way is right. I would encourage you to indeed, think about the consequences of your jokes. Because there’s a chance they’re not as funny as you think they are.
Someone Wishing for Change