|Today's column channels me circa 1982|
When I was a student at Northwestern University, I kept a fraternity paddle in my dorm window.
Emblazoned upon it, rather than Greek letters, were the initials “GDI” — God Damn Independent — and a knight holding his thumb to his nose and blowing a raspberry.
I displayed it because fraternities are such a big deal at NU and, being among the self-excluded, I felt a certain public pride was in order.
It boggled me, I explained at the time, how anyone, finally freed from parental authority, would run directly into the arms of organizations set on constraining and abusing them. ”I didn’t come to NU to crawl across the Quad at midnight, my hands tied behind my back, rolling an egg with my nose,” I used to say.
Agreed, the Greek system is large, and many, perhaps most, fraternities and sororities indeed focus on good works, fellowship and the joy of learning. But we all have biases and, to me, that’s a smokescreen, a fig leaf to cover their true purpose: extreme partying, sneering contempt for anybody outside of the charmed circle, and exactly the kind of insular bigotry that got Sigma Alpha Epsilon’s University of Oklahoma chapter in such trouble after a video surfaced of members singing a racist song, celebrating the unwelcome black students face at SAE.
What’s surprising is they seem to think their problem is an exception that can be banished by apology and programs, and not a flaw intrinsic to elite, self-glorifying groups.
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Photo atop blog by Jackie Kalmes. The New Image Restaurant, May 1982.