Opinion columns are bound to be controversial, but personal attacks aren’t valid arguments
There’s an old saying by American writer and philosopher Elbert Hubbard, frequently misattributed to Aristotle: To avoid criticism, say nothing, do nothing, be nothing. In the case of this semester’s first Trinitonian issue, I chose to say something.
I’m no stranger to having unpopular opinions or experiencing name-calling and attempted character assassinations for holding a belief that is not universal. In middle school, I was called “liberal baby-killing bitch” for supporting women’s right to choose. In high school, I was called “n-word lover” for supporting Barack Obama in the 2008 and 2012 elections, and refusing to buy into the racist birther conspiracy that our regrettable current president was so keen on. These sorts of insult-fueled critiques of me as a person didn’t speak to the merits of my argument, or present legitimate counter-argument. They did, however, reveal the hate and prejudice held in the hearts of those so hopelessly slinging mud.
In the same way, an untrue rumor got back to me via a concerned Trinity alumni this past week that I was planning some sort of arson, in which I would “destroy” and “deface” property of a certain Greek organization on campus, as a result of my article in the Trinitonian a few weeks ago which argued that the benefits of social Greek life can also be found by other means on Trinity’s campus. This is not to say that being accused of planning to burn items related to Greek life is on par with being on the receiving end of name-calling involving anti-black racial slurs. It is not. The comparison is that in both cases the personal attack fails to address the actual topic or argument at hand, and resorts to personal critique rather than engaging in discourse. In both situations, I did not toe the line a specific group of peers expected me to. All of this is to say: bring on the arsonist gossip! It’s not the worst thing I’ve been called, and it’s less cruel in a number of ways than previous things that have been thrown around as a result of me espousing a non-universal stance. Although I don’t appreciate it, I’m used to criticism that doesn’t actively engage the real topic at stake. This type of criticism did not surprise me, even if it was disappointing.
I was surprised, however, by the support I received. I didn’t expect the argument that the benefits social Greek life offers are not unique to recieve the positive reaction it did. I thought it was an unpopular opinion. I was surprised that even individuals within social Greek life expressed their support to me and enjoyment of the article. This is what makes Trinity great. And thus, I have a thank you note to write.
To the kind girl who stopped me after religion class to tell me she enjoyed what I had written: thank you. To the other Greek life members who took a moment to chat with me by the Magic Stones, and express that they had come to feel similarly over their years of involvement: thank you. To those who sent me supportive messages, thanking me for saying what they were thinking and letting me know they “needed that” during a tough week: thank you. To our colorful dean who sent me a supportive, reaffirming email when I had reached out to him after being struck by the negative backlash from alumni who didn’t even read what I had written: thank you. To the lovely angel on the Trinity Debate team who reassured and comforted me when I felt my attempt at diplomacy had fallen on deaf ears: thank you. And to the always cheerful math major who introduced me to Kurt Vonnegut’s word “granfalloon” and its relevance to social Greek life: thank you.
While criticism of an individual dispelling a dissenting opinion is to be expected, I didn’t genuinely expect this multi-layered support from a host of people ranging across all different aspects of Trinity’s campus life. I do not for one moment take the support of kind strangers and peers for granted. And as always, I remain open and interested in a defense of social Greek life that responds to my argument of non-uniqueness. The Trinitonian is a phenomenal way to spark lively discourse on campus, even if sometimes instead it sparks silly rumors about its opinion columnists.