Saints and sinners: Hamline going forward

“We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful what we pretend to be.” -Kurt Vonnegut

Andy Stec, Columnist

This world is desperately in need of people willing to stand against societal injustices. Perhaps more than that, this world is desperately in need of people educated about societal injustices. One cannot be had without the other, and both are incredibly important if any significant change is to be delivered.

We need people willing to call out the U.S. Government in regards to its oftentimes disastrous, greedy and shortsighted foreign policy. More so, we need people educated in regards to not only the legality of these policies, but how to counter the arguments used to defend them.

We need people willing to stand up to racial injustice, but even more we need people who are aware of the long and sordid history that has placed African American society into the inescapable hole where it finds itself today.

There is a growing divide in American society that has not existed before, at the very least not in this sharp and wide of a contrast: the Left versus the Right, established, more often than not, as two incommensurable halves demonized by one another. In an institution so proudly and nobly dedicated to social justice, there is evidence of this as well. I am speaking mostly of the homogenous nature of opinion and discussion on campus—both in education and in activism.

I’ve spoken before about the tendencies of turning charity and social justice into an experience of the self rather than the other—aiding people not for their betterment, but for the betterment of your own ego. It’s an issue throughout all of Western society, and Hamline is no exception to this. There exists, especially on campuses such as ours, a deep and unsettling fetishisation of activism. This is not to say that the actions taken by students on and off campus are not worthwhile, only that there is an undeniable lust for adding the term ‘Activist’ to one’s resume.

There is no lack of great passion, but there is a lack of great education. Don’t get me wrong, passion is greatly needed in a society such as ours—if only it were a more cautious passion. Hamline exists as an echo chamber of pseudo-liberal opinion, some 2,000 students all proudly proclaiming their support of this cause, or their solidarity with this struggle. The danger lies in proclaiming that passion and letting it wither and die once it reaches the border of Snelling. It is one thing to have 2,000 students dedicated to liberal causes and confirming with other students the goodness of these causes. It is another to have 2,000 students dedicated to taking those liberal values and—the greater challenge here—applying them to the off-campus world, whether this be through open and honest dialogue with other viewpoints, or through the careful and strategic application of personal expertise to make a difference in outside communities.

Not in the hopes of adding a feather to your cap. Not in the hopes of adding an ‘Activist’ badge to your sash. Great leaders and changers did not become so by excitedly proclaiming amongst similar-minded peers “I am so right. I am such a good person,” but by choosing to act upon that passion, by acting not in the interest of the self, but in the honest interest of the whole.

They dared to have their views challenged; something that, as scary as it may be, I don’t believe many Hamline students do enough of. This is a combination of the notorious Midwestern hatred of confrontation and the terrifying notion that we might be wrong. It may be easier to sit within our microcosm of privilege here at the corner of Snelling and Englewood, patting ourselves on the back for the liberal-minded opinions we all share.

Then again, activism was never easy, was it?