Column: Obligatory farewell column

By David Johnson

Brace yourselves; this is my last column, so I’m bound to write something provocative. After all, I have a bit of a history of raking muck; over the last eight months as a columnist I’ve managed to land myself on the poop-lists of environmentalists, die-hard John Kerry supporters, ideologues from both ends of the abortion debate, isolationists, the Greek system, affirmative action advocates, a couple of crotchety professors, one very determined secretary, and our entire Atmospheric Sciences department. These are just the ones I know about. But enough of blood and tears. Sorry to disappoint, but I’d like to take my bow and move on gracefully, leaving my mountain of closet skeletons behind.

When applying to be a columnist, I was asked how I would respond to hate mail. Of course I assumed this meant I’d receive death threats and mail bombs, so I was pleasantly surprised when most of the feedback I received all year was incredibly cordial and thoughtful. Yet an underlying message was prevalent in much of this mail, a trend that seems to be getting worse in all political discourse in our society. More and more, we categorize those we disagree with, not merely as wrong on this issue or that, but as bad people. For example, ” hates poor people and wants to pillage for personal gain” or ” hates America and has no morals.”

I’ve been improperly labeled many things this year, such as “racist.” But what bugged me most was how many people, when disagreeing with me on certain facts, would accuse me of deliberate intent to deceive. Sure, it’s easy to impugn motives of those you disagree with; it lets you off the hook of the need to defend your positions of criticism. But it’s seriously damaging because it means we can never come to consensus, never work together to solve problems.

Just because someone believes gay marriage should be legal doesn’t mean they’re doing the devil’s work. Just because someone believes in low taxes and opposes universal state-provided health care doesn’t mean they hate poor people. Most people mean well. Sure, the road to hell is paved with good intentions, but let’s at least give credit where it’s due and just get along, shall we? Chances are, most of the people you disagree with are pretty nice people. Who knows, maybe you could teach them something, or better yet, learn from them.

Ah, learning. That’s the point of all this, after all. It’s why we’re away as undergraduates for four years (maybe six in some cases). It’s why our families and we shell out thousands of dollars. Class is part of the story, but learning is more than notes, books and tests; our degrees should signify that we’ve learned how to learn, that we’ve learned how to teach ourselves for the rest of our lives. I suppose this is debatable, but it has let me justify falling asleep in class so often.

For me, being a columnist was part of the learning experience. I hope I helped others learn something; I definitely learned a lot from the debates and research that came as part of the job. So I’d like to say thanks to everyone who read my columns and wrote me letters, and of course to the DI for dealing with my shenanigans.

This is it for me. My last college class (possibly forever) was on Wednesday, and I must say I’ve begun feeling quite sentimental. The University has been good to me. It broadened my horizons in every way, from the classes I’ve taken, to all the people I’ve met (especially those I disagree with).

My education cost about 30 grand in tuition and took four years of my life. But things like sleeping through my last class ever – a microcosm of my college experience – and writing columns for the DI, are simply priceless. Well, actually the columns are worth $10 each.

Oh, and all my friends, they’re pretty cool and invaluable too. Thanks.

So it’s sad to be leaving, but at least the poop-listers won’t be able to find me anymore.