In the four years before I became a student at Wesleyan University, I, like many others, was a student in high school. During those years, I did many things, but I mostly played the saxophone. By my senior year, I was a member of my high school’s Wind Ensemble, Jazz Band, Jazz Combo, a Saxophone Quartet, and an extracurricular honors concert band that met at the University of Hartford. Band was my home, the sax was my tool for communication and connection during the tumultuous high school years. But this is not about me. Well, it is, quite a bit, but it’s not just about me.
I write all of this because, as a senior, in some of those bands, I became acquainted with a talented freshman musician. He sat next to me, and we would often quietly joke and share parts. I would tell him the elements of music that I had discovered. By the end of the year, seeing his enthusiasm toward jazz improvisation, I spent a few sessions with him in the practice rooms, passing on what little information I knew about the forms and techniques of that storied presence. It was good. I didn’t know him all that well outside of our times playing music, but I enjoyed and appreciated his company, and had high hopes for what he would do musically when he left. Until a few weeks ago, I hadn’t seen or thought about him in any form.
It’s abundantly clear from my other pieces for this section that I am confident and vocal in my convictions against President-elect Trump. He is a monstrous con man who cannot handle the job he procured for himself, one he achieved with the assistance of a dangerous cocktail of praying on fear, bullying, pathologically lying, and ultimately, legitimizing hate groups. My opposition to him and everything that he stands for is fairly extreme, and I’ve always thought it important to acknowledge that not only did millions of people vote him into office, but also that I know some of them. But that doesn’t change the fact that, when I next saw my old band mate, the shock I felt was total and complete.
In the days after the election, two Babson College students drove through Wellesley College in a pickup truck adorned with a Trump flag. During their time at Wellesley, they spit at and shouted obscenities at students of color, committing a textbook piece of harassment at Hillary Clinton’s alma mater. One of those two students was the same curious freshman who sat next to me in band.
People have written much about why people voted for Trump. But I will never, never, never comprehend this kind of harassment. Particularly when it comes so close to my home.
Of course, it hurts and shocks me that anyone I know was capable of the lack of empathy, surplus of anger, and privilege to ever think an action like this is acceptable in any form. To millions of marginalized people, America, which was already unsafe, has become far less so. That feeling of fear is real, and legitimate; there have been hundreds and hundreds of hate crimes since Trump’s election. Celebrating the victory of your candidate is acceptable, but using that celebration to actively hurt someone who is already hurt is harassment. That this came from someone raised in my state, in my town, in my band class, still has me reeling.
But I don’t want to spend the entirety of this piece condemning this person, nor do I want to tell the millions of marginalized people more hurt than I could ever be, to forgive him, as hurt as I am by this act. If I was going to do either of those things, I would mention him, or my high school, or the instrument he played, by name. This anger and shock and sadness exists in tandem with memories of teaching him what rhythm changes are, or saying hi to him every day, or standing with him in miserable solidarity during the brief periods of time that our ensemble became a marching band. These are good memories, and while they feel like they are from another life, they still exist. Memory is complex, and so are people, and in my horror, I often have to remind myself that small moments of good, and curiosity, and kindness, can exist in the same bodies that harass, and lack empathy.
In the weeks since this act happened, a lengthy apology has been written, and while I believe some parts of it, I genuinely don’t know what I will do or say if I see him again. I’d like to believe I’d say something like this: I hope you understand. I hope you understand that, regardless of your convictions, what you did was wrong and horrifying. I hope you understand why I hope you think about who you are and your role in this. I hope you understand and continue to try and better yourself. I hope you understand and you listen to the voices of the people you hurt, you really hear them, and you have enough remorse to stand in their shoes. I hope that this is the first step to you changing, to you understanding that there are consequences and harm brought on by your actions. I can’t make you listen to me, but I hope you understand.
Bachman is a member of the class of 2017.