Picture this: it’s 2 a.m. on a Saturday and you’re chest-deep in the rabbit hole of Modern Love. You’re a little upset because, yes, it’s cuffing season, and no, you’re not cuffed. So you’re living vicariously through the stories of other people… but sometimes it hurts to be reading these beautiful love fragments and knowing that they cannot and will not and do not apply to you. And then you stumble upon another tidbit of romantic news: an engagement! Between a woman named Katie Waldman and none other than Stephen Miller.
I’ll admit it—this may have been my Saturday night. The phone nearly gave me a black eye after I dropped it on my face upon seeing the news. I may have broken down over my fourth triple-shot espresso of the evening. The article just… couldn’t be true.
Stephen Miller is the punchline of my family dinners. My sister will tease: Tired of blaming Duke for all of your problems, Lily? Blame Stephen Miller. Or my mom might say, Oh, you’re scared of the devil? Try coming face-to-face with that man. Satan wouldn’t stand a chance. Or, Jews don’t believe in Hell but Hell believes in Stephen Miller.
The idea that Stephen Miller had found love tore me through a quick pattern of quasi-grief: denial, anger, sadness. I wanted to sprint out of my dorm and run halfway to Swift Avenue in the 32-degree wind-chill weather and scream “Stephen F***ing Miller found love, and I can’t?” from the bridge across the underlit highway. But I couldn’t.
I wanted to find closure, but I couldn’t.
So I had to move onto the fourth stage: acceptance. Maybe I did not even need to write another opinion article criticizing this University, because the fact that Duke seemingly taught this monster to disguise himself as personable in order to find a potential partner is criticism enough. (It makes sense now why the Blue Devil is white. Duke was doing its due diligence; Stephen Miller was behind the mask all along.)
Acceptance, to me, also meant setting a few facts straight. You, Stephen Miller are a white nationalist, yes. And, by my decree as a Jewish Duke undergrad, you are expelled from our community. The Jews don’t want you. We never did. Your bubbe would be flipping around in her grave if she knew you hated people now who would have been your family less than a century ago. You backed “immigration policies Hitler once praised.” You’re a schmuck, she’d say. (Well, she’d say more than that.)
Lastly, acceptance, to me, (as a single person specifically) meant understanding the situation a bit better. Directly before popping my daily dose of 2.5 mg melatonin (following my fourth latte of the night), I did some research on Katie Waldman. It makes sense that I, and the entire country, would pity her by default. Who would voluntarily go on dates with the Haman of our Torah stories; the less attractive Despicable-Me-looking villain of our country’s narrative? Perhaps she was hallucinating. Perhaps she was brainwashed by New York Times journalism (like all of our worst nightmares, duh), believing that Modern Love applied to her life too.
But Katie Waldman is Mike Pence’s press secretary, at the center of a few scandals herself, and has used overly racist rhetoric to describe migrants in the past. She may be dating Miller for political reasons (I mean, c’mon: no one would ever swipe right), but she knows exactly what she’s doing.
So where does all of this leave me—an uncuffed, messy, over-caffeinated college girl navigating Duke, as Stephen Miller once did? (He could have sat at this exact table in Vondy, where I’m writing this article now. I’d vomit over my tenth shot of espresso.) I’m not sure. I do know a few things, though.
I know that whatever Stephen Miller has cannot be equated to finding love. Love is deep, selfless, and all-encompassing; Miller lacks the ability to see an inch beyond his inflated yet deeply insecure ego. Love is trust, passion, and empathy; Miller possesses none.
Miller has harmed tens of thousands of people in immeasurable ways. He has dehumanized, displaced, and oppressed. Love will never, ever be a word in his dictionary.
And even if I haven’t found my Modern Love-r, my true Tinder match or my college romance; even if I have made mistakes and messed up, I have humanized and given and advocated and fought. I have loved.
At 2 a.m. on that Saturday, I told myself to put my phone down. I told myself to throw away the half-empty latte and pull up the covers. The most evil, despicable people in our country are really just people, too. They are defeatable.
And we can find love.
Lily Levin is a Trinity first-year. Her column, “overcaffeinated convictions,” runs on alternate Fridays.
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