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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

One Tall Voice: Retirement from controversy

Published: February 29, 2008
Section: Opinions

Last year, my friend and mentor Kevin Montgomery wrote an article announcing his retirement as a columnist. He claimed that Brandeis was too apt to commit character assassination, and his skin was no longer thick enough to handle this attack. Montgomery also talked about the insults he received, and the numerous consequences this assault had on his life. At the time, I discouraged Kevin from retiring. I had too felt the sting of popular discontent. Even after my first article about being a Conservative at Brandeis, I had experienced the irritation of being called ignorant and homophobic. Nevertheless, I knew that this displeasure was a sacrifice that must be had to benefit the community. Kevin and my articles were at least presenting a different perspective, spurring debate, and providing other positive benefits to Brandeis at large. One year later and wiser, however, I now see the validity of Kevin’s actions. Like him, I can no longer take the negative consequences of being “controversial.” Like my colleague, my mind is no longer strong enough to take the negative effects of going against the grain. I therefore announce my retirement from writing any more controversial articles, loudly voicing any contrary opinions, and doing anything that may be perceived as popularly offensive.

I have come to realize that these various instances of character assassination and attack are part of a greater social phenomenon. After writing about my conservative values, I was branded “homo-phobic,” after discussing race, I was labeled a “racist.” In our world, it has become abundantly clear to me, that no one who takes positions against the status quo can appease everyone. Our society seems to favor the people who don’t go against the grain, individuals who attempt to befriend everyone without making any firm conviction known. I have seen this phenomenon even at Brandeis itself. It is amazing how rewarded these social chameleons are as they integrate themselves into any social group. It is unfathomable how beneficial it us to stay the comfortable course, go along with the crowd and appease everyone.

This is an absolutely horrific situation. People like Kevin and I, and anyone who wishes to raise their voice to the crowd should deserve appraisement. We are the people adding to the community, we are the voices that are sparking debate. All people, who dare to speak things that may make some uncomfortable are the ones going outside the safety of anonymity and adding to our community all the while. Without these people, the world would continue on its course, unmoved by any other forces. People who raise their voice against the status quo are the ones who lend progress to society. Without these opinions, a unique flavor of our world would be eliminated.

My experiences also illustrate another characteristic of the Brandeis community and, in fact, the world at large. People just simply loved to voice opposition. Whether it is at a local town meeting or in a letter to the editor in a school newspaper, many have this insatiable desire to be annoyed or take offense over something. This is especially prevalent at Brandeis. With such a homogenous community that shares many of the same beliefs, people are just craving at the chance to jump on anyone who thinks in the contrary. With all the liberal propaganda and no other point of view, people have been indoctrinated to believe that certain ideologies are just ignorant, offensive and close-minded. My fellow columnists and I have fallen victim to this characteristic of our community and I can take it no longer.

I never meant to offend anyone; I never meant to cause harm. I just want people to see me for the happy, goofy kid that I am. Yet, taking certain positions has opened me up to attack and allowed people to assail my character along with my beliefs. I can no longer take this attack. And so, I promise that from now until I graduate, I shall not write another column that I think will offend. I also vow not to discuss politics in public when I think it will put me in a pitched battle against people who believe me to be close-minded and dumb. I will tread this middle ground; I shall no longer place myself vulnerable to attack. I now know how Kevin Montgomery must have felt after all of his articles, and like him, I must announce my retirement from this type of expression.