Bryan Stevenson, author of “Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption,” recently visited Texas State to give a speech. In his presentation, he brought up four major ideas that would help create a more just society, one being the Power of Proximity. Ironically, prior to Mr. Stevenson discussing the importance of moving closer to individuals within the environment, a man chained himself to the university’s Fighting Stallions. Photos of the same mysterious individual had been posted on social media earlier that day, with jokes in the captions about his peculiar actions.
The man insisted on not leaving his post at the statue. Students continually asked him for his name and the reasoning behind his display. In response, the man said only two words: “two words.” Those words the man said could be interpreted as anything. Many began to spread rumors that he had to be sick.
Two Words’ presence continued to attract a lot of attention. Students from different backgrounds, races and ethnicities began to get close to him. While doing so, they started to learn things about him. What students found was interesting, considering the different preconceived notions going around about him and his actions.
According to Two Words, he has resided in San Marcos for 10 years and is a Texas State alumnus. He majored in history and minored in political science. Two Words does not like hats. Two Words is divorced. Two Words is a United States Navy veteran. Two Words is not a coward. Two Words is not afraid of death. Two Words once went through an identity phase and questioned his own existence. Now, Two Words knows who he is.
People could see he was chained to a piece of art that represents one of the core principles of Texas State — free speech. The chain symbolizes concepts like connection and bondage. Those two things together create a more complex meaning that goes far beyond any dialogue.
He does not hide behind Nazi propaganda, tweets or Instagram posts. Instead, he is visible to the public and open to any form of communication. He is not a threat.
Students have brought him items ranging from Snickers bars to razors. Those that had gotten close to him could see his appreciation and that he was tougher than any form of hate speech, racism or destitution. Most importantly, those that had gotten close to him felt the love that spews from his presence. All of the things learned about Two Words could never be learned without proximity.
Speaking to Two Words has opened up understanding. Students could hear about the pain inflicted upon him in his past. Students could see a man that wanted nothing more but to be appreciated and respected. When asked why he was protesting, his answer was characteristically simple — everyone.
So, instead of deeming an individual a “weirdo” or “psychopath,” get proximate. Students that got close to Two Words witnessed firsthand the power of proximity. Lessons learned from that one-on-one contact changed perspectives. Every object and human in the world serves a purpose, even if they may not appear to be conventional or significant.
The road to a more just society resides in neighborhoods, on sidewalks and at universities. The greatest tools for refining a just society lies in the hands of the people. Power and Proximity. Two words.
– Jaden Edison is an electronic media freshman