I have a feeling in the pit of my stomach. It’s a dense, uncomfortable, dark little spot in the midst of me that I can’t quite describe, but it’s shifting, uncomfortable, and it reminds me a bit of anxiety.
It’s been growing, I think, since learning of the awful rape in Isla Vista last quarter. It grew larger with the first riot, which did not escalate or bring the same consequences, but still loomed vaguely in my peripheral vision as an incident of too much chaotic energy and drunken disrespect.
And as of Saturday night, it has cemented firmly in myself and has remained there ever since, festering, reminding me every minute of the painful and indescribably embarrassing violence that erupted in our home.
I know that many people have voiced opinions on this, and that many of you feel the same as I do. While walking home from campus today I could feel it on my skin, thick in the air throughout I.V. — a heavy, inexpressible disappointment with the actions of fellow students, friends, young adults, strangers, human beings, whoever it may be. Fortunately, there are the beginnings of dialogues surrounding transparency with the law enforcement, the role of the university in I.V., the role of students in shaping I.V. to the town we want it to be. I am grateful that these conversations are being started. I am proud that my fellow Gauchos and community members are standing up, engaging with the public, voluntarily cleaning the streets, countering the judgments and the negative generalizations that are now associated with UCSB. We know that we are better than the images and news stories and Tweets and Facebook posts that have unjustly squished I.V. into a label of drunken debauchery and violence, and we are definitely working to prove that to others.
But here I implore us all to extend this beyond our school, beyond our role as students and members of Isla Vista. The violence, anger, and negativity that leaks out from the dark streets of I.V. late at night — the same negativity that aggregated so intensely that it literally exploded with tear gas on Saturday — is a glaring reminder of the incredible influence we have as human beings on our surroundings, on the lives we shape, on the communities we live in. All of us, as conscious people part of a much larger picture of human society, have an obligation to each other, one which we have not been upholding. Beyond the labels of “local” or “student” of “out-of-towner,” we have collectively been failing at practicing the most basic principles of human kindness.
We’ve all seen and experienced these violations of humanity. We’ve experience it when we’re out at night walking home and get verbally harassed about our gender, or our outfit. We’ve experienced it watching drunken aggravated strangers kick mirrors off parked cars. We’ve experienced it when fights get started over denied access into houses, when strangers yell at and insult each other over trivial things because it’s cool to feel aggressive and masculine in front of a crowd, when bottles get smashed and couches get lit on fire and bikes get thrown into the ocean. We especially experience it when the people around us, whom we know and love, get raped, stabbed, and assaulted in countless other ways. These things are not just the consequences of “Isla Vista Lifestyle.” They are cruel, they derive from ignorance and anger and they are the direct manifestations of violating our obligations to one another.
But luckily, we’ve all seen and experienced the goodness and graciousness that I.V. can possess. We’ve all forged brilliant and wonderful connections with friends, with professors, with neighbors. We all know what it’s like to walk through I.V. on a sunny Friday afternoon, with smiling people all around us, reveling in the beauty of our young lives and at the incredible uniqueness of our little slice of raggedy-looking paradise. We see student organizations raising awareness about local issues, cleaning the streets, feeding the homeless, ensuring each other’s safety on the weekends. We gather together for incredible live music, art, outdoor adventures, campus spirit. We generate tons of positive energy with so many different activities, even if it’s just skipping over the fence to join our neighbors for a Sunday barbeque to swap stories, share music and spread the love.
We have these moments not because I.V. possesses some intrinsic quality of magical beachside awesomeness — we have these moments because the people here create them. Because the interactions we have on a daily basis fundamentally create the spaces around us. Because we choose, moment to moment, to be kind to fellow humans, to generate light instead of darkness, to cultivate love instead of hate.
It has reached the point, I think, where our space around us is in desperate need of reshaping. That feeling in my stomach is a flashing neon sign that says, “THINGS MUST CHANGE.” I know we all sense it. But before anything else begins to change, before laws or policies or strategies for safer events in later years are even considered, that reshaping must begin with us. With our love for each other and our community. With basic human connectedness. The world won’t suddenly become different while our insides remain hollow and angry and lacking in love. It goes beyond this weekend. It concerns all of us, right now and for every moment onward, in everything we say and do, in every thought and word and action we put out into the world.
And that is my Post-Deltopia 2014 rant. I know it’s one among many. But I believe it with all of my heart. To my fellow Gauchos, I love you guys; you make my sun shine over Devereux every single day.
Lillian Kingsbury is a fourth-year environmental studies and religious studies double major.