Charity and toxicity: campus culture

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Photo by Patrick Goodman

As a psychology major, I often observe the actions of others and try to interpret their social behavior, which has been especially vitriolic at the University of Dallas over the past few weeks. 

During my nearly three years here, I have been absolutely stunned by the incredible quality and sincerity of the UD student body. Compared with my typical encounter of the public, the people here go out of their way to be helpful, flexible and thoughtful in their deeds and words. However, every so often we as a community fail one another, and by extension ourselves. We sometimes emphasize our intellectual superiority over a genuine striving for charity.

In the Feb. 5 edition of The University News, Amelia Brown published a commentary article entitled “A Texas Girl’s Take on Toxic Masculinity,” that, probably, single handedly caused the racks to empty within a few days. Within the article, Brown posited that modern men have failed women by lacking initiative, and questioned whether the idea of toxic masculinity was so toxic after all. 

Personally, I disagree with Brown’s points for a variety of reasons. In fact, given the vast array of gifts with which God has blessed men and women, I am concerned that Brown’s viewpoint expresses unhealthy and unrealistic standards that oversimplify gender norms and expectations. 

However, I laud her for voicing her opinion in a public forum. For centuries, newspapers, and specifically the commentary section, have served as a platform for public dialogue and debate. Without a public forum in which to voice our differing beliefs, we would all merely dwell within an echo chamber.

Frankly, I’m more disappointed in the community’s reactions to the article than in its content. Brown voiced her opinion at a university that claims to be composed of independent thinkers. In response, she received what I would consider a disproportionate amount of mockery and personal criticism. 

The general attitude seemed to be: “how could anyone possibly believe this?”

In my interactions with and observations of the reactions to this controversial article, I found plenty of hive-minded, cheap attacks on Brown’s intelligence and character, and precious few constructive, thoughtful responses. As members of a pluralistic society, sometimes we need to dismount our respective high horses and recognize that some people have different—and sometimes extreme—opinions. 

Unfortunately, I’ve found only a scarce presence of charity in the UD community regarding this incident. I list myself as no exception to those who often lack in charity but I also believe that we can improve as individuals and as a community. That doesn’t mean being sedated, spineless or—God forbid—“tolerant” people. 

No, charity demands far more than that. 

Charity, at its root, is a recognition of humanity in each person we encounter, regardless of our personal likes and dislikes. Charity is not just throwing money in the plate and serving food at the soup kitchen. Charity is going above and beyond what a self-serving society expects of us. Charity is love.

Perhaps the reason so many students with nontraditional sexuality and gender identities remain partially or entirely closeted here is not out of shame or a lack of confidence, but through the fear of reactionary backlash. 

Perhaps the next time a strongly worded and personally displeasing opinion comes our way—via the newspaper, social media or otherwise—we can stop and think before toxically responding to its writer.

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