Bringing Humility Back to Discussions on Campus

From my window, I can casually overhear (eavesdrop on) a lot of interesting and pertinent conversations and see a lot of friends (spy on strangers). People argue about just about everything. Collins or Frary? Trays or no trays? Peach Ooh-la-long Honest Tea or Nantucket Nectars Half-and-Half? Emperor Palpatine or Lord Voldemort? Do you like my silver-glitter Toms or do you love my silver-glitter Toms? Where did the trays go and why did they take them from me? Private insurance or public option? And do you love Barack Obama, or do you worship at the altar of the coolest President ever? Wait, does this mean the trays are gone?Informative though it is, my own private version of Overheard in Claremont makes me sort of sad, because even though I consider myself to be a fairly interesting person, I’ve never had an opinion in my life! I’m all for a bit of spirited discussion, but in the end, why can’t we all just agree to agree?

Maybe it’s because I see both sides of every issue that I’m rarely personally offended or moved to speak up. For example, take my vegan suitemate and I. To Nora, I’m just the average “omni” whose eating patterns endorse cruelty. Some people might be angry with such a dismissal of their turkey sandwich or meat-lovers pizza (Do you know the carbon footprint on that meal, my friend?). But not me. After all, she could be right.

Or maybe I’m a product of my upbringing. Some of us are taught from a young age that every word out of our little mouths is important and wise. We are encouraged to be entitled to share our own opinions. Others of us are told to stay quiet, or be still, or be quiet and still because we spoke out of turn at dinner; that if we don’t have anything intelligent to say, we should never say anything at all; and come to think of it, children don’t know anything anyways! I’m not hating, Mom, I’m just saying …

But lonely and isolated childhood aside, I now recognize that the demand for opinions is too great not to offer any up for public consumption/adoration. In our prime-time democracy, everyone from Fox News to Sky News wants to hear from me, or read my blog, or follow my Twitter, or watch my Youtube cover of “Bleeding Love.”

The message is that, apparently, every opinion is equal before Geraldo. We are an opinionated nation, an OpinioNation, if you will. We hold referendums and town hall meetings and protest so we can all have our say, so Michelle Malkin can talk about how people like being unemployed or so Michelle Malkin can talk about how she thinks Japanese internment was a good idea or so Michelle Malkin can sell books. I wonder—if I don’t have anything to say, am I missing out on the gratifying experience of making a moot or inane point?

Really, the closest I get to asserting myself is a tentative sigh as people cut in front of me in the omelet line at brunch. Or, maybe at Yogurtland. How I love Yogurtland, so many flavors, so many samples, so many … choices. How I hate decisions, even when they are coated in gummi bears and mochi.

I have another friend, let’s call him Scott L. or Academic Affairs Commissioner Levy. He’s got loads of opinions. He even takes sides on sandwiches. (For the record: against.) He probably has an opinion right this moment percolating in his mind, itching to come out and be heard.

But as someone not blessed with free-flowing opinions, it’s been difficult to write a 600-word editorial. I suppose if I had to arrive at some sort of conclusion, I would end with a piece of advice that is by no means to be taken as more than a gentle suggestion. Feel free to easily dismiss this or stop reading: I think we could all benefit from a little more humility around here. That’s why I’ve written this article anonymously [Editor’s Note: TSL does not publish anonymous articles.] and that’s also why I think an Opinions Section is a little counter-productive. It’s like saying you have to take a side, when sometimes there are no sides to be taken. How about, instead, a Consensus Section? Or a Lively but Respectful Discourse section? Agreements We’ve Reached? Things That Don’t Bother Me in the Slightest? I Don’t Take Issue With…? Bring Back Trays?

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