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This is my last quarter before graduation, so forgive me if a good number of my articles hereout have a nostalgic bent. As most of you wouldn’t, couldn’t or shouldn’t know, the title of my column, “Fan Mail and Shouting Matches,” goes back to my first column as a paid opinion writer for the Nexus. It refers, sarcastically, to many incidents of outraged and outrageous feedback I’ve experienced in my career as an opinion writer, going back to high school (to note, most of the feedback I’ve gotten has been well-meaning and insightful, but there has been a lot of feedback and some of it has not been). My article last week, published in the Thursday Nexus, inspired a few more such incidents.
This time, I can’t say I blame them. Last week I argued in favor of Deltopia. There was more to it than that; I pushed an individualistic angle, arguing that the student’s individual experience should have priority over the university’s group experience. I think some of that was right. An incredibly strong majority of the students I’ve met at this school are capable of navigating the Deltopia environment, enjoying themselves responsibly and creating lifelong memories in the process.
But I see now. That’s not enough to offset the Deltopia baggage. I have a feeling this will be the last Deltopia, and that, after all the violence, most of us are ready for it to end. My memories of spring celebrations beachside are not worth the safety of our police officers, the security of our property or the sanctity our university’s reputation. I don’t know how many memories are left to be made, anyway. What I saw last weekend was unrecognizable to me. Deltopia and tear gas don’t mix.
Now, the crucial question: do I regret what I wrote? In the narrow view, yes. No one likes to be proven wrong, least of all opinion writers. But in the long view? Well, in the long view I would say that regret isn’t the right word. In my time writing for this paper, I’ve written dozens of articles, usually on a schedule of one per week. Spouting off opinions at such a rate, in such a public forum, is a privilege. I never have to hide my ideas. But it also means that eventually I’ll be wrong. Publicly. And of course every good opinion article has the courage of its convictions, so chances are — when one finds himself proven wrong — he’ll also find in retrospect that he sounded like a perfect asshole.
But that’s the nature of the game, and it’s hard to regret the guarantees of one’s work.
Plus, I find that the worst opinion writing is obsessed with the right. The results are extended truisms, the usefulness of which is lost on me. I’m sure you’ve seen these kinds of headlines: “Violence on Campus Is Unacceptable” or “Five Reasons Not to Drive Drunk.” In fact, I think it’s an abuse of the writer’s privilege, a public voice, to write articles like these. Valuable opinions reside in the controversial, and so I’d much rather say something interesting and wrong than something obvious and right.
So, full circle back to Deltopia. Like many this weekend, I found my opinion utterly reversed in the aftermath. But in a way, there’s a certain satisfaction to be found in public embarrassment. It means I’ve done my job, and more importantly, it gives me some respect for the angry fan mail, which, in some cases, comes from the heart. Where some poor soul is as enamored with being right as I am with being wrong.
Ben Moss knows that only the strong can admit when they’re wrong.