Luka Ladan Monday, December 24, 2012 at 8:00amGuest Post by
Only when I leave the “comforts” of Vassar College do I fully comprehend how unique the bubble really is.
I actually need to step away from the crowded dining halls, the musty dormitories, and the stifling ideological uniformity (in a nutshell, Democrats are mostly good and Republicans are very, very bad) in order to understand that, in the middle of it all, Vassar sticks out like a sore thumb. Pardon the blunt simplicity, but there’s no need to beat around the bush when the institution has already made its bed, at least on the political spectrum. In many instances, Vassar represents liberalism being pushed to its very limits, very much like a mind-altering substance taken in its purest, most concentrated form.
Let’s take a quick walk around the school. Just watch your step. There may be a few leftover “Change We Can Believe In” posters lying around in some of the buildings, next to some colorful College Democrats pamphlets and excessively provocative Squirm magazines. For the outside visitor, it’s tough getting used to at first.
That may be an understatement. It’s tough getting used to, plain and simple.
But, let’s start on our tour, specifically taking notice of what won’t be seen. There are none of Mitt Romney’s “Believe In America” posters lying around, for one. There are no public displays of Republican endorsement, at a local or national level. In fact, there are very few political statements shown on a red backdrop of any kind. Blue, blue, blue. Light blue, dark blue, Obama blue. Let me take that back, actually, because you will see some hammers and sickles on first-floor dormitory bulletin boards, inevitably joined by deep Soviet red. The memorable emblem of the convergence between industrialism and agrarianism — communism as the Bolsheviks saw it — can be found at Vassar, if you know where to look, and I haven’t heard too many people voicing their objections (which they seem to do about every other objectionable issue out there.)
You would almost forget that the bitter Cold War, a decades-long struggle against the spread and forceful exertion of communist dogma, even happened.
If you’ve come to get in touch with your spirituality and witness some magnificent religious imagery, then this is definitely not the place for you. Certain commonplace objects will be extremely hard to come by. Wreaths. Christmas trees. Ornaments. Menorahs. Bibles and Qurans. The letters “G-O-D” cast in a favorable light. If you do happen to find these letters, then they must surely involve some evening lecture meant to debunk the myth of God’s existence or label belief as a devious ploy by evangelical conservatives to conjure up fear among the naive, unassuming American electorate. Even in the middle of December’s cold, the holiday season appears to be some distant, foreign phenomenon unknown to Vassar folk. The lights and warmth of Christmas escape the halls of Rockefeller, Cushing, Raymond House, 124 Raymond Avenue. There are few decorations; the holiday cheer is replaced by a grayness, monotony, and dull secularism that cannot be found in many other places during this time of year.
It’s absolutely no wonder that Vassar is considered one of the least religious institutions in the United States, situated at or near the top of numerous godlessness rankings. The Princeton Review encapsulated the lacking sense of faith as accurately as can be. Just experience the place for yourself, if you still need proof.
Even in the congested cubicles of an office building, one can easily find a bountiful wreath propped up on one of the walls, commemorating not only the birth of Christ, but its many correlates — family, celebration, togetherness, storytelling, and a new start to things. And, by no means is an office cubicle a typical breeding ground for religious fervor. The exact opposite holds true.
But, back to Vassar. Especially with the dreary backdrop of drooping, naked trees clustered in miserable groups throughout campus, Vassar during the holidays represents the antithesis of rejoice, happiness, and festiveness. Green and red are nowhere to be seen, while the colors of brown and gray can be found in absolute abundance. Each and every building is missing an added touch of decoration, calling out to be spruced up and beautified. Boring, boring, boring. Such is the state of this institution in the heart of winter and the phrase “winter wonderland,” with all of Vassar’s various trees and old-fashioned architecture, just doesn’t seem to fit. I may be wrong (and I’m probably biased by my upbringing), but there can be no “winter wonderland” without the charming comforts of Christmas and New Year’s — and celebration in general. Such a place cannot exist if a dip in temperature brings about plain, atheistic bareness, in the aesthetic sense of the word. Green, serving as the symbol of new life and a new beginning, is and always has been a signal of the holidays, but when Christmas trees, wreaths, and other manifestations of rich, lively green aren’t part of the institutional equation, how can anything be the same?
Alas, this may be the ideal liberal world, stripping away at everything else and leaving a state of godlessness. This might be liberalism in its purest form. The grouping of evangelical conservatives (and their supporters) as backward and evil, the removal of religiosity and fundamental belief, and the dismissal of any sort of group celebration of a higher being — which cannot be found in the textbooks and problem sets scattered around campus during study periods — may shine a light on the true extremes of liberalism, as well as the true perils.
A society without God shows itself as you walk along the secluded cement paths connecting one end of Vassar to the other. The godlessness can be felt suddenly and strikingly, coinciding with the absence of Christmas trees, wreaths, ornaments, decoration, and celebration. And, as the holiday cheer is stripped away, the remaining bits and pieces reveal liberal extremism for the bare ugliness that it truly is. God, gone. Hammers and sickles and hammers and sickles and some leftover “Change We Can Believe In” posters.
Troubling. Disturbing. Unappealing. Lacking. Scary.
On that note, I wish all of you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Enjoy the holidays, give thanks for their much-needed arrival, and show gratitude for their unquestionable presence in your lives come winter.