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Open letter: Stanford veteran responds to ‘Zoom-bombing’ at The People’s Caucus

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Dear Zoom-bombers of The People’s Caucus,

You don’t know me, but you interfered with a peaceful gathering of people I love. You took over their screens, chanted racial slurs, brandished swastikas and pictures of assault rifles. And when you targeted people I care about, we became acquaintances.

I’m writing to tell you that you do not represent any part of the America that I’m still willing to die for. You represent fear: the abject, bestial, criminal dread that you will not find your way into the world of the future, so you retreat instead and cling to a past you imagine to be pure, but one that is tainted by centuries of inhuman crimes. You create with destruction, unify around discord, communicate with lies.

I’m also writing to tell you that I’m sorry. I’m sorry that someone in your life made you feel small, made you believe you were less than, convinced you that the only way to assert yourself is by putting others down. I may even understand where you’re coming from in my own way. The world can seem senseless and cruel, and it’s easy to feel lost and desperate to grasp at any straw of false significance.

But I will not stay silent while you vent your frustration on my fellow students. Stanford is my community and my home and the problems of my friends are also my own. I may look like you, but I am not like you. When I joined the military, it was to fight people like you, people who enforce their intolerance with violence, and I’m writing to tell you that waving your weapons at civilians doesn’t make you a warrior.

I’m writing to tell you that there is a world we are creating, and it’s beautiful. In this world everyone is welcome and valued and belongs. You can be welcome too, but there is one condition and it is non-negotiable: You will accept everyone else as having that same value. Period. If you need a friend, I’ll be your friend. But if you make yourself the enemy of my community, then I am your enemy too.

I say this at the risk of sounding like another burst of politically correct drivel, another regurgitation of “of course no one on campus condones racism or bigotry.” But I have a voice, insignificant though it may be, and today I’m using it to say that I believe. I believe we are evolving, we are progressing, we are marching toward a future in which every human being is encouraged and empowered. A future in which our planet is treasured and protected; a future in which we journey to the stars instead of battle on Earth. And if you stand in the way of that future, you have one more person to deal with.

Contact Nestor Walters at waltersx ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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Nestor was born in Bangladesh and raised mostly in Greece. When he was nineteen he moved to the United States to join the Navy, where he served for ten years. He is now a junior at Stanford University, where he is rumored to be the only person in the math department with cut-off t-shirt sleeves. He also dabbles in creative writing.
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