By Francesca DeAnda
Last week’s rhetorically charged opinion article, “Clear the Haze: a Call for a Smoke Free Campus” by Emily Pizza, informs the K community of one thing we already know: smoking is unhealthy and may bother non-smokers. Yet this message is practically lost and any resolution without the alienation to a portion of our community rendered impossible due to sensationalist examples and us-versus-them rhetoric.
First let me state that as a nonsmoker, I agree with several parts of Pizza’s argument. Namely that smoking and second-hand smoke is unhealthy, and reducing second-hand smoke exposure is preferable. However, I do not agree with Pizza’s proposed “solution” or with her use of colorful examples that will more likely antagonize and provoke rather than foster a solution acceptable to all.
To demonstrate how Pizza’s language serves to sensationalize and divide, let us consider the following example: “It seems like wherever we turn, a puff of smoke makes our eyes water and throat burn. While I don’t have the power to get smokers to stop, the administration has the ability to help.” First let us disregard whether or not Pizza is being entirely forthcoming with her stated goal of preserving non-smokers’ lungs or whether to provoke the administration to play big-brother and decide for our well-informed students what is best for them—not to mention the slippery slope this sort of call-to-action invites to limit the countless other daily habits that could be seen as negatively affecting others. Regarding the divisive language, Pizza’s “we”, who are seemingly hounded by ‘inconsiderate’ smokers, represents our College community in its entirety and diminishes smokers to voiceless Outsiders who would then be severely inconvenienced and forced to quit doing something that they have every right to choose to do.
It is precisely this sort of charged rhetoric that provokes intense emotions, divisiveness, and adds credence to Kalamazoo College’s stereotype of narrow mindedness and progressive elitism. While Pizza’s dream for a utopic smoke-free Kalamazoo College is commendable, the problem with it is that it alienates a good majority of our campus population by attacking smokers in the most sensationalist way possible and excluding them from the conversation. Pitting a portion of the campus against one another is not a revolutionary solution.
What would truly be “revolutionary” then, for those with opinions like Pizza’s, would be to engage with—instead of ostracize—a significant percentage of our campus population. Inviting discussion and attempting compromise instead resorting to demagogy is both more effective and in the spirit of K. I believe compromise is not only possible, but would be welcomed by many—as smokers could light up without judging glances and non-smokers could avoid the smoke if they so choose.