One Last Gripe

by John Strayer | 5/23/96 5:00am

Much of my time on this page has been spent griping about one thing or another. Since this is my last column, I thought about writing something entirely happy and uplifting. Then, I thought about vomiting. So here goes, one last gripe, but beware, I probably won't be able to stave off sentimentality completely.

"John, help me!"

You know these people, a new and different crisis for every day of the week. Their parents hate them, their professors hate them, their friends hate them.

Each of their little crises are made that much more horrible and torturous by that giant, looming term-long crisis which resurfaces periodically to rear it's ugly head.

Sometimes these people fear that there are people out there that have yet to hear about their troubles. This problem has been solved by technology and the wonders of the "Automatic Reply."

Perfectly indiscriminate in whom it informs, the "Automatic Reply" can be sculpted into a masterpiece of self-pity disguised as useful information.

"I'm afraid I will not be able to answer your blitz. You see I am absolutely swamped with 'The Independent Study that Never Ends.' Even worse, I am living in paralyzed fear that I am about to discover my pet fish, Gomer, floating at the top of his bowl. If it is a dire emergency, please call me at ..."

Give me a break. Sorry to bother you with my petty question. I hope your fish dies tomorrow.

The most frustrating part about people of this sort is their silly little freak out sessions drive us to become cold and cynical. They lead us to forget that all around us are incredibly strong people who have overcome genuine tragedy in order to achieve at this competitive institution.

In four years, I have met many of these amazing souls, and yet I frequently overlook their strength. I think back to a '94 I especially respected. His fraternity brothers couldn't handle it when he came out and embraced his identity as a gay man.

After leaving/getting pushed out of the fraternity, this man could have wallowed in his isolation, could have dwelled in self-pity. Instead, he turned an act of cruelty into a positive as he grew to become the most constant and articulate voice for gay rights on this campus.

When I got to know him his Senior Spring, he had grown tired of the job of "Gay Man On Campus." I hope now he looks back with pride and realizes that he was a voice for so many people.

But it is one thing to speak up against the abstract blob known as the "Dartmouth Community;" it is quite another to confront an individual.

And so when I contemplate the strength of character I have witnessed among my peers, my deepest respect goes out to a '97 woman, not for what she said to the community, but for what she said to one man: "I am not going to let you get away with rape."

Not exactly the kind of thing that you put in your "Automatic Reply."

In fact, it's not the kind of thing you talk about at all. Ironically, the first element of this woman's strength was silence. Except for a small circle of friends, nobody could know.

Imagine dealing with all the academic and social pressures of this place, all the while never being able to explain to people that you were falling apart inside.

After the strength of silence came the voice. A voice that knew full well that he would tell his friends what "that whore" was doing to him. She also realized that at the hearing they would ask about her sexual past in an attempt to determine if she really was a whore.

She knew she might lose and she understood that even if she won he would get off easier than someone found with a bag of dope; she was aware that he would be allowed back on campus before she graduated and that the deans had no power at all to keep him out of Hanover.

Knowing all this, she stepped forward and she won. Her strength continues as she hears people talking about the guy who got Parkhursted.

"His life is ruined."

How that must hurt someone who knows the truth: that he ruined his own life when he did his best to ruin hers. This woman is but the best example at a college filled with many. Amidst all our little crises sometimes we forget to note the strong individuals who deal with genuine problems. Stick that in your "Automatic Reply" and smoke it.

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