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Of cowboys and communes

Mia Lillis | Thursday, September 13, 2012

Picture this.

You are a teenager in an American household. You follow baseball stats religiously, love playing football, know where to find the best hamburgers in town, your Toby Keith CD has never been ejected from your car’s stereo system and, if it were up to you, you’d never remove your bootcut jeans.

But there is a catch. You were born into a family of (to put it simply) extremely liberal hippies.

Your mother spends most of her time tending her huge community garden. Whatever free time she has following her garden work is usually devoted to reading up on the latest post-modern literature, listening to Enya and sipping her home-grown tea. Your father has devoted himself to organizing protests at the capital every week. He also helps organize communes across the state.

Suffice it to say, you feel like you have very little in common with the rest of your family. While your mother and sister discuss the plausibility of a Derridean interpretation of Blue Velvet at the dinner table and your father excitedly passes you his vegan quinoa stew, you sigh inside, wishing that you had someone to discuss the latest UPenn drama with.

One day, your Uncle Pete comes over for dinner. Despite being a diehard Redskins fan, you light up when you see Uncle Pete’s Cowboys shirt. You spend most of dinner talking your uncle’s ear off about football stats and season outcome predictions. He takes it all in stride, and, at the end of the dinner, invites you to come to his place to watch the next Redskins game with some other family members who also enjoy sports.

You enthusiastically ask your parents for permission, which they grant, and that’s how you finally find yourself in a house full of football fans, something you never thought would happen. You all excitedly follow the game, and during commercial breaks find out that you also have more in common, such as similar taste in music or a religious devotion to french fries. And so, you find yourself hanging out with Uncle Pete and the rest of the crew on a pretty regular basis.

Does your choice to hang out with Uncle Pete and the rest of the “non-liberal outcasts” mean you are no longer a part of your family? Certainly not. You still love your parents and your relatives to pieces, and you know that this love is mutual. Just because you, Uncle Pete and the others do not happen to share the same interests as the rest of your family, and as such have developed a “minority culture,” does not mean that you are no longer members of the family. Families have always been and will always be diverse. And, if your mom drops by sometime to watch a football game because she wishes to understand a little more about your passions, then she is by all means welcome. But if none of your more liberally-inclined family members are interested in playing some ball with you, Uncle Pete and the gang, that’s perfectly fine too. Individuals with unique interests and cultures make up a family. Besides, you know you’re all going to get together for the family triathlon competition, and you’ll all enjoy a good baked potato at the end of the day.
. . .

This is the minority experience at Notre Dame. Just to clarify, the term “minority” is not limited to ethnicity. Minority can also refer to those of us who do not share in the Catholic faith, are queer or would rather spend those four hours on Saturday playing League of Legends while the rest of the campus is at the Stadium. We are not looking to exclude. We are simply excited to have found a group of people who share our common interests or culture. If you have been a football-goer all your life, but are interested in exploring League of Legends one afternoon, we welcome you. But if you would rather continue going to the Basilica every Sunday and do not feel the calling to explore other religions, we are perfectly okay with that as well. After all, we are unique individuals, and it is the inherent diversity in families that make them the coolest structures in society. Much like we refrain from asking the “majority” Notre Dame students to become carbon copies of us minorities, we appreciate when this is mutual. We’re still all going to participate in the same Appalachia seminars, or spend late nights in the LaFun basement. We have a variety of cultures and a variety of interests, but we are still all one family, one Notre Dame.

Mia Lillis is a junior majoring in political science and philosophy. She can be reached at mlillis@nd.edu

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