By Andrew Stella ’13
Earl Sinensis sat in his bed, reading the spiritless textbook assigned for his AP U.S. Government class. He hadn’t realized he had drifted off to sleep when suddenly he awoke with a start. Light was bursting out of the space between his closet doors, and it spread as they were opened by a figure he could not make out. As the figure stepped forward, it resolved in the of a woman, and Sinensis saw that there were two shadowed men flanking her on either side. There was a supernatural sheen to her skin, and she was surrounded by an aura of green light, wound so tightly that it appeared to be the only thing covering her body. “Get up Sinensis, for we have much to show you.” No sooner had he arisen from bed than the figure touched his hand and the room dissipated around them.
The room was replaced with a smoky basement. Through the haze Sinensis could see a few teenagers smoking. “I am the avatar of liberty,” the woman told Sinensis, as she strode towards them. Sinensis was cautious until he realized that his actions were not perceptible, as if he were invisible. The lady in green beckoned. “That is marijuana, and his friend has a cigarette. These teenagers work at a gas station near to their school, and this is how they see fit to use the money.”
Sinensis shifted his weight uncomfortably. “Aren’t those harmful?” he asked. “Drugs lead to crime, less productive citizens, and more drug use.”
The apparition responded, “Don’t you believe that people own their own bodies and can decide what should go into them?”
“I agree that they should be able to use the product of their labor in whatever way they see fit,” Sinensis explained. “But I’m just not sure about the drugs.”
One of the shadowy men stepped in from behind and covered Sinensis’s eyes. He felt a breeze. Then the man released him.
They were alone on the sidewalk in front of an inner city church. “I am the avatar of liberals,” the man said as they ascended the steps and walked through the doors made of aluminum and glass to the foyer. Sinensis instinctively hesitated before entering—there was a wedding taking place, and he was still in his pajamas — but he remembered that he was undetectable and followed the avatar down the main aisle. He noticed that the couple being married was two men, and just as he turned in question, the avatar spoke out: “These two have finally saved enough for a marriage. They live off of welfare since one is disabled and the other was discharged from the army a few years ago because of his sexual orientation.”
“I wish welfare money could be donated directly, rather than having to go through so much bureaucracy,” said Sinensis.
The apparition turned to Sinensis, inquiring, “Their marriage will finally be recognized by the state. What do you think about that?”
“I guess I’m just really unsure about these social issues. I need some time to think. I know what I believe in when it comes to economics, but—.” A member of the congregation quite close by stood up and Sinensis recognized him as the third figure from the bedroom. As the man stood up, he waved his hand with a scrubbing motion, and bit by bit the scene vanished along with the second avatar.
The third figure introduced himself as the avatar of conservatism just as a point on the white horizon started growing larger and larger. It seemed as though they were falling towards it sideways until a night desert ground and sky finally snapped into place as their surroundings. An artillery shell exploded directly above them, causing Sinensis to flinch and lighting up the entire landscape. It was a battlefield. The avatar gestured and swept his hand across the horizon. “We are trying to help the local people here,” he told Sinensis, “by bringing them our free market ideals.”
“That sounds like a good thing to do,” Sinensis told the avatar. “Whom are you fighting, though?”
“The people who live here believe in a religion that promotes promiscuity, and the government doesn’t have a clear stance on abortion,” the spirit explained.
At this point, Sinensis was frustrated. “I’m not sure we’d agree on what positions these people should take. If only someone would focus on property rights and capitalism.”
The avatar turned white, shrunk, and transformed into a cup which Sinensis found himself holding in his bed, his bedroom restored about him. “Careful, don’t spill. Drink it while it’s hot. It’ll help with the fever.” It was his mother. “I have some news that may excite you, dear.” Still reeling from the shock, Sinensis distractedly asked to hear what his mother had to say. “You got into Princeton!” The thought filled his mind like a balloon, pushing all other thoughts out.
Over the next few months, Sinensis had more than a few decisions with which to flex his discernment. He discovered that there indeed was a group of people who put social issues aside to focus on the role that government plays in the marketplace. They called themselves the Tea Party, and according to a USA Today poll, about 28 percent of Americans supported the movement. With this statistic in mind, Sinensis figured he would find a group of like-minded students when he visited for Princeton Preview. When he came to the activities fair during his visit, he scoured the tables, pacing up and then back down again. He did see clubs that the avatars had represented, but he could find no one representing the Tea Party.
After questioning a few students, he came to a conclusion about why this was. “Princeton students,” he thought, “are largely separated into those who are apathetic towards politics (a majority) and those who care a significant amount. Of these two groups, only those in the latter could have possibly started a Tea Party group. The Tea Party focuses on activism (e.g. protests), while the groups here tend to focus on the philosophy or reasons behind the activism. By the time most of these students reach Princeton, they have some strong philosophical or religious basis for their political beliefs. As a consequence, they are passionately willing and able to take sides on social issues and foreign policy and thus align themselves with one of the three groups represented by the avatars. It seems to me that the political groups on campus each cater to a relatively wide spectrum of political beliefs, and thus everyone is accounted for. It is not bad that there isn’t a typical appetite for activism at Princeton, it is just different; a focus on the intellectual side of politics.”
Andrew Stella is a sophomore majoring in chemical engineering from Falls Church, VA. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.