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Why Chron columns are the pits

We write best about what we know.

Perhaps we write best about what we know.

Perhaps some of us write best about what we know, maybe.

I sometimes write best about what I, individually, think I know… maybe. Ah, perfect.

PC, PG and three times hesitant. And just stellar English, really. Bold. Clear. Powerful. Am I right?

Probably not. But you are. Oh yes, you.

My writing? Outrageous. Poorly done. Uninformed. Predictable.

And myself? Stupid. Embarrassing. Naïve. Dishonorable.

My favorite comment of all time: “this reads like a high school intro lit class essay…” OK, so maybe my column on “The Great Gatsby” was a flop.

And you’re right. Sometimes my writing is s---. Sometimes I regret a phrase here, a mis-edited word there. But big f---ing deal.

Sure, The Chronicle is a student newspaper. It is published. It ought to have a certain polish and look. But y’all, this is the opinion section of what is touted to be a top institution for higher-level thinking.

Since when did higher-level thinking mean attacking the writer’s character because you don’t agree? Since when does having an unpopular opinion warrant such condemnations? Isn’t that why we’re here? If we don’t understand our enemies’ opinions, how are we expected to change them?

Just because I wouldn’t walk out on Charles Murray doesn’t mean I’m a racist or even that I buy his logic. No. It means I’m willing to entertain an idea without necessarily accepting it. It means I’m willing to separate alleged science as irrelevant to the fact that all human beings are morally equal. And I have that right. As you do to walk out. If you condemn people for their curiosity and for listening to different opinions, you are killing the tolerance you hope to one day see.

Likewise, just because my columns can be ambiguous doesn’t mean they’re devoid of substance. I don’t care to please everybody. Shout out to all my online comment h8ters, I see you!

Because I can’t. No one can. Unless you’re one of those shiny, sun-tanned, bleach-white-toothed politicians saying whatever waffling nonsense will get you reelected. And even then, they struggle too.

Maybe it’s because I’m a senior and I’m having a little bout of IDGAF syndrome. Or maybe perhaps possibly kind of sort of it’s because I’m maybe perhaps possibly kind of sort of dumb. Maybe!

But so what? The biggest critique I hear of columnists is that they write about what they don’t know. And I agree! I’ve been known to say this about columns myself. “Oh please. What does he know about Syria?”

Maybe that’s why I stick to emotional tirades and heartstring pulling anecdotes. It’s more difficult to take critiques of my feelings seriously. Because they are mine and inaccessible to anyone but me. Oh, but thoughts stated as fact, those, those are fair game for the nastiest and lowest of scathing attacks on character.

I could learn a thing or two by writing a column about the elasticity of demand, the history of miming or advanced algebra. Oh, but no. I don’t dare. Because here at Duke we are all experts, and if we are not, we are quiet and poker-faced.

Whether it be in most classrooms or here scrawled in printed ink letters to the editor or anonymous posts to the website, expertise is expected when anonymity is relinquished.

You don’t know? You do not pass GO. You do not collect $200.

I wouldn’t say trying to conquer the politics of ancient Rome as they apply to the modern-day is appropriate for an 850-word piece, but who am I to say? Let people write. Let people think and explore crazy, interesting, weird, unpopular ideas. Challenge their words and thoughts, not their character.

I would say we have all privately thought untoward some things in our lives that we would never want disclosed. Does that make us bad people? Ignorant? Uninformed? Nah.

I say it makes us inquisitive individuals. How are we ever expected to learn if we hide our knowledge gaps? How are we ever supposed to have a more tolerant society if we can’t express opinions freely and have them respectfully challenged?

I don’t know. What we’ve got going certainly doesn’t seem to be working.

So many Dukies (God/Buddha/Joseph Smith/Ganesh help you) want to go into politics. But too often Duke is a microcosm of the kind of dysfunctional, petty mudslinging that has come to define Congress these days.

You don’t believe in global warming? Can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. You think affirmative action perpetuates the problems it aims to mitigate? You’re not a minority, you’re not entitled to an opinion, you racist you. You think Common Ground is ironic? CG reject.

You don’t like Chron columns?

Good grief. Apply to write one next semester, you cynic you.

Gracie Willert is a Trinity senior. Her biweekly column runs every other Monday.


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