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Marginal again

Observer Viewpoint | Wednesday, February 8, 2006

The events of the last two weeks have convinced me unequivocally that I am not normal – at least what normal is here. I mean, I liked “The Vagina Monologues” when I saw them in my first year. I liked them so much I went the next year and bought a T-shirt. And even then, I joined the cast of the show last year and wrote an op-ed interviewing organizers and actresses on what the V-day movement means to them at Notre Dame. For whatever odd reason, something in the play spoke to me, each year drawing me back to see and support it. I am Catholic and so far living in the full spirit of teaching on sexuality. Yet, “Vagina Monologues” addressed an important issue in my life – violence against women, which I witnessed in my home life. Nowhere else on campus were people talking about rape and domestic violence but at “The Vagina Monologues.” So I was glad for the show.

Then the [former] Queer Film Festival. Not being gay, I was also drawn to this event. I felt I was tolerant, meaning I did not want to see or hear anything about it. Later, I came to know and befriend many gay students at Notre Dame and relate with their feelings of marginalization and alienation for who they were. I too felt similar, having a minority background, and felt that if I could learn more about the experiences of people struggling to belong to their communities through some films, it would be up my alley.

What I actually found were some intriguing, fun and engaging movies about love, relationships and finding yourself. There is nothing really different about the [former] Queer Film Festival than any other series of film showings because the challenges of the human condition – composing yourself amidst a lot of crap, finding someone to love you despite your crazy flaws and trying to be good for something in the world – do not change with sexual orientation. These events, made square-peg-like me feel a little more normal at Notre Dame because a bunch of people liked these events and wanted to have this dialogue.

I am perplexed as to how these events present the epitome of what is threatening the Catholic character and student life of this University. Where to begin? Daily, I am plagued with worry about things that are threatening our integrity and collective Catholic soul more than “The Vagina Monologues.” It keeps me up nights thinking that no worker on this campus will believe Notre Dame is Catholic because we do not pay a living wage or have a union – both rights demanded by Catholic social tradition. I am really worried Notre Dame football fans do not think the University is Catholic because military planes fly over the stadium, while Catholic teaching says we should be making peace and not participating in the death of people in war. I am concerned that prospective students will not know Notre Dame is Catholic because the weekend activities of binge drinking do not include holy wine.

Mostly I am really concerned that students do not know the fullest teaching of Nostra Aetate – the 1965 document declaring the spiritual bond between Jews and Christians of sharing a relationship with God and a justice tradition to bring about a heaven on this earth – since we had no type of events to celebrate the 40th anniversary of this document and erasure of a Catholic theology of contempt for Judaism. It was only two weeks ago I heard a Notre Dame leader even allude to the document, sadly not to elaborate on anti-Semitism found in Catholic theology, not to explain the particulars of the document nor to announce a special briefing on Vatican II teaching on Judaism before the upcoming showing of Anti-Semitic works of art including “The Merchant of Venice” and the “Passion of the Christ.” Where was University President Father John Jenkins talking about Nostra Aetate and the Jewish-ness of Jesus not displayed in the film when Jim Caviezel led students in the rosary? It made me sick hearing this teaching thrown out there so conveniently and glibly when the person saying it has not shown a commitment to furthering the teaching on campus at important junctures. Moreover, at the student address, Jenkins did not even say Nostra Aetate as he did to the faculty, but made sure to reiterate Hitler thoughts on Jewry to hammer the point home. But, I am the abnormal one, remember.

If my affection for the two naughty events, justice for workers, ending domestic violence and Nostra Aetate make me atypical, I say thank God. If you be as abnormal as I, good luck to you, because the future of expressing yourself though campus programming is looking dim.

Kamaria Porter is a senior history major who wishes like Curtis Leighton – who is tall and honorable – that we had a Jewish studies minor and believes Jews and Christians Throughout History should be a required class to graduate. She’s going to be a community organizer for the IAF. She can be contacted at kporter@nd.edu if you have no idea what that is.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.