ESSAY: A suburbanite on Sproul

By Haley “Graph” Massara

As a left-leaning teenager, I fantasized about moving far away from Granite Bay—that bourgeoisie zit of a town on the nose of suburban Roseville. And, like a zit, Granite Bay was red. Democrats like my parents were a rare species.

My dream school was UC Berkeley, famously one of the most liberal in the country. I had it all planned out: I’d spend my days staring poetically out of my window and sipping trendy tea drinks.

Only in my nightmares would I see pickup trucks plastered with yellow “Yes on 8” bumper stickers. Only on reruns of The Daily Show With John Stewart would I hear the angrily simmering voices of Fox News pundits. Finally, I could live somewhere where my demographics and opinions wouldn’t be liabilities.

When I was accepted to UC Berkeley, I decided to live in the LGBTQIA dorms for the full liberal experience. For the record, I do identify somewhere in that long abbreviation, but really, I just ached for something new. And boy, did I get what I wanted.

Naturally, I expected a bit of a culture shock. But on day one, I strutted into my new dorm room, confident of my liberal street cred. I’d been to a couple feminist rallies and voted for Barack Obama, after all. Surely, these were my people.

In the weeks that followed, I discovered that a surprising majority of the students on my floor hailed from metropolitan areas. They had never lived among the conservatives they so deeply resented. They hadn’t learned to casually tolerate hostility. The kinds of things my peers perceived as grave injustices were, for me, daily irritations that barely raised an eyebrow.

Clearly, either these outspoken social-justice warriors or I, an admittedly apathetic Democrat, was miscalibrated.

But was I right to be cynical of—or even annoyed by—the very people whose basic beliefs I support, on the grounds that what they see as oppression barely scratches the surface of human dickishness for me? Or have years of rolling my eyes when I hear that someone painted a backward swastika on the local Jewish temple—again—made me unfit for life in a more tolerant society?

I have three more years to find out.

Haley “Graph” Massara is a sophomore at UC Berkeley. She currently lives in an apartment with two of her former dormmates. Read her fiction at

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