4B - New Student Edition - The Michigan Daily - Wednesday, September 8, 1999
A2 is hotbed of ideas - both kneejerk and intelligent
ASHINGTON, D.C. - From the nation's capi-
tal, Ann Arbor looks quaint and quiet. In com-
parison to the rowdiness that politics engen-
ders in this city, the University's political climate looks
But looks can be deceiving.
As a hotbed for the never-dormant
affirmative action debate and numer- Jack
ous other greatly contested political SchillaCi
issues, Ann Arbor remains both a
reflection and a projection of what is
on America's mind. And the new
class of freshmen, just cut loose
from high school and ready to make
an impression, are about to find
thmselves mixed up in this never-
settled burg. Ann Arbor is a unique,
strange place where Fellini and abor- SLAM IT
tion are debated with the same vigor, To THE LEFT
where NYPD and Real Sea Food are
both considered delicacies, and
where people who spell their name Z-A-K pronounce it
"Jacques.".How is that a thing?
It's a town where Diet Coke can (and has been known
to) start a hate-mail campaign and where students party
at the president's house. A campus where you get to use
spce-age-looking computers with transparent blue
ca'ses but nothing utilitarian like built-in disk drives,
and where everyone feels the need to share with every-
one else exactly what they are thinking each and every
minute of the day.
Speaking of which, you got a cause?
Boy, we've got causes. Do you want to change the
world or just two or three small nations? Are you look-
ing to bring forth a new world order or only rewrite
While Ann Arbor is physically small in comparison to
many places, the aspirations of many on campus know
no bounds. While everything within city limits seems
fairly hunky-dory (though I'll bet I could find at least a
few of the city's homeless to disagree with that), there's
a bad, bad world out there that needs fixing. Granted,
we don't live in anything remotely resembling a perfect
world, and it's good that people on campus are doing (or
at least trying to do) something to right the wrongs.
But occasionally, and probably not often enough,
those who would change the world run into a big wall
that greets them at the edge of campus: Reality.
The sad truth is that sometimes, no matter how
wholesome and great the intent, real people get caught
in the middle between social change and the status quo.
Many of the University's would-be crusaders have a
means-to-an-end mentality that could easily do as much
damage as good.
Witness, for instance, the drive to get those accused
of rioting at the 1998 Ku Klux Klan rally cleared of the
charges against them. I applaud their desire to end the
racial ignorance the Klan promotes, but I hardly think
physical aggression is the solution. Assembly rights go
only so far, and they don't extend to violence. Life, as
Dr. Scuss said, is a Great Balancing Act.
Part of our campus's behavior in this regard can be
explained by the fact that we're all pretty much young
and stupid. Part of it has to do with the fact that acade-
mia has a weird, dulling effect on people's senses and
connection with the world around them.
The trick is, no matter how much we all try, there are
some things that may simply have to remain out of our
immediate grasp. Want to preach the Good Word and
convert the masses? Well fine, but if you get in my way
and ask me to talk about the Bible as I walk between
classes, I, like many others, will ignore you. .
Change, in Ann Arbor let alone the country or world,
does not happen in a sudden spasm. You won't find your
revolution in protest or a rally. Salvation does not come
to those who dare to stick out by making their hair
green or wearing too much jewelry. Perhaps. it gives you
personal satisfaction, but the reason everyone is looking
at you isn't because we're weird.
The New Society does not come from the bottom of a
bottle, keg or at Touchdown's; it cannot be found at
Urban Outfitters, Bebe, the Gap or Abercrombie &
Fitch; it is not achieved by becoming a surfer dude. It is
not working a part-time job for three weeks so you can
commune with the working classes, and it does not
involve buying your dorm friends beer with your new
fake ID. The Lord's Work does not involve being politi-
cally correct or using terms like "cracker." It does not
require dismantling or defending (by any means neces-
sary?) affirmative action.
Saving the world takes more than a sit-in or a catchy.
turn of phrase. You can't change anyone's mind by quot-
ing Karl Marx, Ronald Reagan or Donna Summer. It
won't suffice to blindly subscribe to the theories of
organized labor, the Christian Coalition or your first
poli sci professor. Appealing to emotions by talking, foe
example, about how much burning the flag hurts vester.
ans' feelings won't usually get you too far. And being
able to recite statistics like how many abortions were
performed in Virginia or how many people were mur-
dered by handguns in New York City last year proves
only that you are semi-literate and have a half-decent
memory, not that you are intelligent or right.
The key to making the world better is to start with
yourself and work outward. Mogt people at this
University, myself included, are works in progress.
Before trying to tackle the world, get a handle on reality
and make yourself as good as you possibly can. I don't
mean to sound like a self-help book, but many on this
campus would benefit from a self-inventory before
helping everyone else. Learn new things and new ways
of thinking. Challenge yourself and what you believe -
hold onto what washes and discard what doesn't. Learn
to back up your beliefs with more than just rhetoric and
dogma and you'll find yourself a better, more confident
And then you can take on the world.
- Jack Schillaci is afirner Editorial Page Editor Of
the Dailv, and can be reached via