Chou: Embrace your individuality


Curtis Chou, Columnist

The world is an incredibly complicated place in just about every way you can imagine: socially, economically, culturally and definitely politically. I think in order to simplify the global civilization that we interact with on a daily basis and to grasp the enormity of the world that is “not us,” we start to generalize. Perhaps part of our tendency to label things as having certain characteristics is an attempt at understanding that which is different. We grab on to what is most obvious about the “other” and impose a backstory on it. No circumstance better illustrates when this comes into play than when we judge other people.

But the problem is that everyone is somebody else. There is only one “me” and only one “you,” and as science will tell us we are all quite different. Thus the diversity of 7 billion people gives way to the greatest fault within us all, at least in my mind: We destroy our faith in the individual and shape our policies and thoughts along poorly drawn and wholly unnecessary social and demographic boundaries.

A few days ago, not long after the 2014 midterm elections in which Republicans rode a wave of President Barack Obama fatigue and poor Democratic voter turnout to a majority in both the House of Representatives and the Senate, I stumbled upon an article on Slate. Ironically I was looking for an interpretation of the midterm election results that differed from my own, but instead I read an article that resonated closely with how I felt.

In short, the article lambasted the statement proposed on the “Cut” that the elections were “bad news for women” and refuted the notion that women are a monolithic voting bloc that cared only about policies that are circumscribed as “women’s issues.”

I could not agree more. And yet, I would go further. There is so much diversity in thought and interests in the United States that it is a shame to see different groups, often demographically defined, pigeonholed into “appropriate” ideologies. Women and minorities vote liberally. White men and people with strong religious beliefs vote conservatively. Statistically of course there is some truth to those statements, but what about the people who do not follow the same script?  We must not forget about them. I staunchly believe there is no such thing as being a traitor to one’s culture, race, gender or any other group because no one group is uniform in thought. But if you are not true to your own principles, you have become a traitor to yourself. You are not defined by the color of your skin or the family you are born into. You are only defined by what you do and how you carry yourself. Everyone has that choice.

There is a lot to be said about the individual. Each of us has the capacity to better the world by thinking differently, by being allowed to break away from the chains of conformity. If we stop thinking that certain things are expected of us because we are one thing or another, we might start finding and illuminating corners of unexplored shadows.

Indeed there is culture, which shapes many of our experiences growing up. My own parents are immigrants from Asia, and I love much of what they have introduced to me as a child. I am sure you are the same. But what happens when someone wants to try something new? What if you wanted to defy the ideologies of your conservative parents and vote liberal because you now understand your own values better? What if you wanted to hold fast to your Republican values but struggled to reconcile its platform on same-sex marriage with your own feelings?

The world is a complicated place, and that is a good thing. It means there is something unique in each of us, and that is worth embracing. Look around you. We are all some gender. We have different skin tones. We come from different backgrounds. Yet according to the rules now, we belong somewhere. So let me give you one word: don’t. Don’t let what you cannot control define you. The only definition that matters is your own.

Curtis Chou is a Communication senior. He can be reached at [email protected]. If you want to respond publicly to this column, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected].