I saw an old friend on TV the other day, and all I could do was cry.
I wish I could say they were tears of joy and nostalgia, but all I felt was pain and sadness. She was speaking some horribly painful truth about my alma mater, Michigan State University. I’d long known about the culture of silencing survivors of sexual assault there. After all, it’s pervasive in the culture at large, but it still hurt to hear about how people I’ve long admired contributed to it.
I keep hesitating to write out these names because it all hurts so much. My friend’s name is Lauren Allswede, and I’ve been struggling to tell her how proud I am of her.
Recently I reread the Henrik Ibsen play, “Enemy of the People”. The play ends with the protagonist learning a great truth “… that the strongest man in the world is he who stands most alone”. Dr. Thomas Stockmann had spoken uncomfortable truth and was made a pariah.
Some people in my hometown are mad at Lauren for the comments she’s made. I understand their pain, but I wish they could redirect their anger at the the truth behind it all. We can’t get better until we all take ownership of what we’ve created and fostered. We must all hold ourselves accountable for our failings, and that is especially important for the people who have held the greatest power.
Lauren Allswede is an enemy but not of the people. She is an enemy to silencing and enabling. I’m proud to call her my friend. I hope the next time I get to see her face it’s for a happier reason.