I know this may sound like hyperbole, but recent efforts to unite the UR community have appeared to me (and many others) like an insidious plot by an evil candle company, bent on creating and dominating a market for their wares. It’s as though they’re sending agents in to push the right sensitivity buttons by committing vandalism and acts of intolerance in the sick hope that we might hold another vigil ? and we do.

Now you’re saying to yourself in shock, “My God, I’ve read about this. That’s Apathy, with a capital ‘A!'” But it isn’t. I’m not indifferent. I care quite a bit or I wouldn’t be writing this article. Allow me to explain.

Recently, flyers were plastered all over campus with a photo of Morey Hall 402. Someone wrote “KKK” and a swastika on the chalkboard. Underneath the photo it says that we should be “outraged at such heinous acts of intolerance. We want our community to be a place where people of all races, religions and sexual orientations can co-exist without prejudice.” I am not outraged and please, never tell me what I should or should not feel.

“Apathy again!” you say. No. This was not an act of racism or intolerance. Some people saw the swastika and it brought to mind the Holocaust, persecution of homosexuals, Jews, artists, gypsies and the disabled.

Those same people probably thought the guy ? or girl, let’s be without prejudice here ? who scrawled on the chalkboard supports such atrocious concepts and might even face Germany and perform the Nazi salute five times before hopping into bed each night.

Look closer. This was an act of stupidity, not intolerance, and I contend that there is a difference. It’s a safe bet that he didn’t like the class ? he even has poor grammar. The swastika is backwards. This is a symbol that has been used for thousands of years by many different cultures ? for that matter, as is Hitler’s swastika.

I’m not suggesting that the kid who scrawled it knew that ? quite the opposite. I’m suggesting that he’s stupid. So it’s a safe bet he’s not a Nazi and he’s not in the KKK.

Have you counted the swastikas carved into the furniture of the stacks where most of us study? There must be hundreds of them, some forwards, some backwards. Few of the people who carved them believe in Nazism ? it’s mostly mindless scribbling that is paid no heed.

I don’t know how many people saw the chalkboard in that state originally, but putting up posters of it gave a low-browed troglodyte publicity he doesn’t deserve.

He wanted to make people mad so he used keywords that would do it. Someone fell for it. Now he’s basking in infamy and giggling himself to sleep.

I’m not saying his actions are acceptable. Find him, punish him but why give him a voice? It’s like we’re looking for things to get upset about.

Keep in mind that there are worse threats to a campus community. My friend recalled living at another college where Jews had swastikas carved into their cars and beatings were not uncommon.

A middle-aged woman obliquely berated my former roommate from New Jersey at a 7-Eleven on the very morning of the World Trade Center attacks because he is of Indian descent. She had no concept of the difference between the hijackers and this premed undergrad from New Jersey who might someday save her life.

I don’t mean to downplay our troubles, but there are better ways of dealing with them and worse things than an immature drunk who overturns desks. I grant that violence against people or cats is alarming. The police must be involved and the community must be informed. But when you hold a vigil and read poems entitled “Lil Innocent Eyes,” you’re preaching to the converted.

The perpetrators won’t be there to hear your side and worse, you’re slowly diluting the potency of vigils in the first place. It begins to look like the movie PCU where insuring you don’t say something offensive becomes more important than the content of what you say.

Solidarity in opposition to the acts is valuable. But in the end effective change comes down to individuals asking themselves a simple question ? Will you grant people you meet the same opportunity to earn your respect? It doesn’t have to be a big opportunity, just the same one.

So how do we get everyone to that goal? We don’t. Mass e-mails, speeches, posters and announcements condescendingly listing the problems and telling us how to feel usually suggest no solution.

While they aim to tongue-lash the intolerant, the racist and the bigot, they end up making the rest of us feel guilty. So talk to your friends and teachers. Be willing to say your piece and tell someone when they’re over the line. Get discussions going, try to find new solutions. You won’t fix everything but it will help.

Just don’t be so cravenly politically correct that simple acts of immaturity set you off. Don’t force your opinion on others, and don’t count me as part of the problem simply because I don’t share your fear and outrage for a backwards swastika on a blackboard.

My sympathies lie with those who had to clean up the cretin’s mess.

McColgin is a junior and can be reached at dmccolgin@campustimes.org.



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