Monday, March 23, 2015

But "never happen again" sounds so bold!

     As a college student, I despised frats, everything they represented, and most of the people in them. As I got older, I met people who were actually decent human beings,
Today's column channels me circa 1982
despite membership in the Greek system, and I softened my attitude toward them, or tried to. But when the SAE incident of a racist chant caught on video came to light, my former self and my current self wrestled over how to view the situation. My former self won. 

 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. 


  1. You were wise to stay out of those fraternities and agree with your points made.

  2. You have to wonder what went on, undetected, in the pre-cellphone days,

  3. Close Notre Dame -- it has no Greek system because it's one big fraternity

  4. At the risk of disturbing one (or more) of the anonymice by nit-picking, this column presents as good an opportunity as any to raise this inane question. Good to see that your fascination with the colorful, or profane, descriptor that you used to title the blog has such a long reach, and was being employed effectively back in your dorm room in 1982. Evidently, based on the column, you expressed it as two words back then. In the blog title, however, you chose to condense it to one word. Thus, the nitpick. When you abbreviate the title in tweets, etc., you go with "EGDD". I find this peculiar, as it's 4 initials to represent the 3-word blog title. Why not just "EGD"?

    BTW, evocative photos, as is often the case, though not taken by you this time. But, alas, they engender another nitpick. What's with the ring on your second finger? : )

    1. Hmm, interesting questions. I suppose EGD would be more proper. I can't say I thought about it before. I guess I was just trying to be clear. The ring in the photo is a silver ring with turquoise my mother bought me in Estes Park, Colorado. I think I wore it on my middle finger because I had lost weight, and it was loose. I still have the ring, but I don't wear it.

    2. Hey Jakash, (Happy (snowy) Monday) -- It looks to me like the ring is on the middle finger.

    3. Neil,

      Thanks for the reply. Lost weight in college? Good for you! I don't believe that I had that problem. All-you-could-drink pop and all-you-could-eat bacon sandwiches, among other delicacies in the dining hall that everybody else loathed, were fine by me...


      Hi! Swell nitpick! Upon further review, I suppose you're right. "Middle finger" would have been the way to go. It depends on what the definition of "finger" is, which is not QUITE like debating what the definition of "is" is. ; ) I thought that the thumb got its own independent identity, but it appears, officially, that that is not the case...

    4. No biggie -- I actually Googled it, and middle finger is actually also known as "third finger" OR "second finger", depending on which source you choose to read :)

    5. Jakash, don't you have better things to worry about?

    6. Sure, Anon, how about you? I'm gonna guess that everybody reading EGD has more significant things to worry about than following a blog, too, yet here we all are! : )

  5. Who is taking the picture, Mr S. and for what reason? the school paper perhaps?

  6. One Jackie Kalmes—it says so on the back of the photo. I tried to track her down -- not to strenuously, but I figured I would ask permission and see what she is up to. No luck. I wrote the senior message in the Parents Quarterly, and they sent a photographer to tail me for a day, so I have this variety of cool shots of me producing my radio show, and running a magazine meeting, and such.


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