Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Greeks Had A Word For It, Part 2

Since I quoted Ellen Willis yesterday as an example of what I consider good satire, I figured I should put my own efforts up too. Today I'm posting my piece on the Greek system, which ran in the Indiana Daily Student sometime in the mid-1990s.

A few historical notes: the quotations from the BEER Party, which actually ran a slate of candidates for student government that year, are genuine. (Reality often outruns satire.) The BEER Party spokesman quoted was also a writer for the IDS who'd published diatribes against the campus gay organization's 'radical' tactics such as chalking slogans on sidewalks. Woody Burton is a representative in the state legislature who had tried to block the establishment of a University office to support GLB (and later T) students, by threatening to cut state funding for IU. Right-wing students enlisted his help in their own crusade against the office, which was established anyway and is still flourishing. Burton had used some of the arguments I borrowed here, such as that gays aren't a real minority because we're not visible nor congenital, unlike blacks and Jews. And now, without further ado...
I'm well known as a fiery proponent of Political Correctness, second to none in my eagerness to force everyone to be more diverse. I want the curriculum to be saturated with ethnic writers instead of universal ones like Mark Twain, and I dream of the day when The Color Purple will be taught in more English classes than Shakespeare. I will not be content until every student is 51% female, 12% black, and 10% gay, lesbian, and bisexual. Even I believe, however, that the BEER party went too far when it let in the greeks.
Please don't suppose I'm a prejudiced person. I know that greeks have run for office in past IUSA elections, and some have been elected. Most of them have done their best to serve the student body without flaunting their lifestyle, which is as it should be. Being greek is a private thing, and if it's kept private, most students figure it's nobody's business but your own.
But the BEER party took greek involvement a step further, to disturbing extremes. In a letter circulated to campus greek leadership, BEER's greek campaign coordinator announced that greeks "are already working on an all-greek ticket for next year. We need this election to get our foot in the door." The agenda: to get "IUSA in the hands of greeks."
I like to think of myself as a moderate, tolerant person, but I don't accept this special interest group trying to ram its deviant lifestyle down my throat. Nor, in my opinion, will most people at IU. The BEER greek coordinator, an admitted greek, told the IDS: "Anytime anything positive is said about greeks it has to be shot down. People have a natural aversion to it. ... People are always going to have something against greeks." Even he had to admit that it's natural for most people to find the greek lifestyle unacceptable.
And not without reason. Many students are alienated by the way greeks separate themselves from the mainstream of the student body, living in segregated housing which is open only to greeks. Many are turned off by their radical, "in your face" recruiting tactics: marching around campus chanting silly slogans, chalking sidewalks, painting railroad bridges with bizarre, possibly occult symbols. Murky stories of wild, debauched parties from which outsiders are prudently excluded offend the sensibilities of people who have grown up with decent traditional values. And now they want to take over IUSA and get their hands on the students' money, giving special privileges to greek activities, using IUSA as a platform to promote their lifestyle? I don't think so.
Greeks are not a legitimate minority like African-Americans or Jews. The greek lifestyle is freely chosen, not a culture you are born into. There is no reason why greeks should have special rights at IU. Nor is it possible to believe that greeks are discriminated against, given the affluent-looking housing they occupy on Third Street and North Jordan.
Now that greeks have their foot in the door of IUSA, they will want more. We can expect the development of a Hellenic Curriculum to begin recruiting below the college level, featuring root beer bong parties, instruction in the Greek alphabet beginning in first grade, and even special children's books like Heather has a Big Brother and Wendell Worships the Porcelain God, all intended to make the greek lifestyle appear normal to young children.
There is still hope, however, if concerned members of the IU community recognize this as a wakeup call. As Dan Quayle warned the 1992 Republican convention, we are being told "that every so-called lifestyle alternative is morally acceptable. That is wrong."
Multiculturalism and diversity should not go beyond the bounds of reason. It may be time to call in State Representative Woody Burton once again.