March 10, 2015

How Do You Solve a Problem Like Horrible People?

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EDIT: I accidently published this with the working title. It’s since been updated.

The video that’s gone around the world of the OU SAE frat guys is what I’m talking about. I just want to cover 3 points and then be done with it.

Introduction: Y’all know I’m Sooner born and Sooner bred, and when I die I’ll be Sooner dead. My dad is an alumnus. The best part of fall is Saturday. Even though I was never involved in Greek culture, this is still a story that I feel invested in. This is my community and I’m just as disgusted, embarrassed, and upset as everyone else. I’m no fan of David Boren, but I appreciated the fervor of his response. They shut down the house and suspended the offenders (and perhaps others). My issue is, should they also have been expelled?

First: I like SE Cupp’s take that a better “punishment” is to let them stay in school and be forced (should they have the guts to continue at OU) to come face to face with the community they have insulted and embarrassed. Also, at least to my knowledge, being a douchebag (sorry, mom) isn’t technically against the rules of any university. If universities made it a habit to expel douchebags just for being douchebags, well, imagine how high tuition would have to be to compensate. If they want to say they were expelled for breaking a policy of “tolerance and diversity,” well, that’s one of those really broad statements that can mean whatever someone wants it to mean, depending on who’s using it.

Second: As we’ve already discussed, the internet is forever and if it doesn’t like you, it will destroy you. And here we have some horrible people getting destroyed. And as much as retribution feels good, it also feels kinda bad. Right now, we’re the ones determining who the “horrible” people are. That may not always be the case. One day, we could be the “horrible” people. History has shown that cultures can change en masse, and not always for the better. Sure, maybe people aren’t literally burned at the stake for being “witches” anymore, but we’ve got our own versions of it. Decline to participate in a same-sex marriage, your life gets destroyed. (I’ve talked about this before. No one has the right to hold a gun to your head as a baker or florist or photographer and force you to participate in a ceremony against your will. Until they do.) So before we set out on completely destroying horrible people, consider the precedent set. Or, put another way, “never hand someone a loaded gun unless you’re sure where they will point it.”

Lastly: Consider the story of John Newton. Someone who literally went from a slave trader to an abolitionist. He had a profound influence on William Wilberforce, credited with bringing about the end of slavery in England. And of course, he wrote “Amazing Grace,” the autobiographical hymn that is now one of if not the most well-known hymn in the English language. Some horrible people chanting on a bus, quite frankly, pale in comparison to a person who – by his own admission – beat and raped human beings before selling them to others to be beaten and raped some more. When his life changed, it changed completely, and affected such change in others that changed the world. I’m not saying any of these guys is some kind of modern-day John Newton. But, lots of people are douchebags in college. They can outgrow it and change and influence others for the good, if given the opportunity. If they get crushed beyond the point of recovery, there can be no reconciliation. There can be no healing. There can only be a continued cycle of hatred.

I'll end with this: this is the president of the Black Student Association at OU. He had a pretty powerful statement of his own in response to the goings on this week. It’s a brief interview but well worth your time.

 

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