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Observer Editorial Board | Friday, April 12, 2013

As this week’s controversy over Carter Boyd’s column (“Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” April 9) and Mark Gianfalla’s guest column (“True Matrimonial Equality,” April 9) demonstrated, Notre Dame students have strong opinions about the issues the authors raised about the gay marriage debate. Comments on social media and in Letters to the Editor sprung up quickly to address Boyd’s and Gianfalla’s comments. The two outlets combined to create yesterday’s letter (“Spread the Love. Spread the Equality,” April 11), which Notre Dame students were asked by its creators to sign through a Facebook event.
“We cannot all write Viewpoints about why we support marriage equality,” the letter stated. “We should not have to defend and fight for equality of love.”
Hundreds of you signed this letter. But sometimes, strength in numbers isn’t enough to refute an argument. Sometimes, our signatures on a list aren’t enough to persuade someone we deserve to be heard. In such cases, writing to defend something we believe in is the only way to truly affect change.
At its core, The Observer’s Viewpoint section tries to provide Notre Dame with an open platform for that change. Viewpoint strives to lend a voice to the community and to foster constructive discussion of events both on campus and in the wider world. The fundamental goal of the section is to allow students to articulate their diverse and sometimes conflicting views by providing a venue for their expression.
First and foremost, the Viewpoint section is a mouthpiece of the student body. The columns and letters you see in the Viewpoint pages are the work of your colleagues, classmates and friends. Members of The Observer do not contribute to Letters to the Editor and columns, or allow personal opinion to dictate which submissions make it to publication. Viewpoint has and will continue to be a forum for controversial or unpopular opinions, provided a certain level of respect is maintained. While this means some groups may disagree with certain columns, these conflicts still have a silver lining. Drawing potentially upsetting opinions into the open allows others to address them in a constructive forum and promotes debate that potentially can help us all either to reconsider our views or strengthen our current convictions.  But, it’s up to you to keep that forum constructive.
Nowadays, when many students read columns they find foolish or misinformed, perhaps while enjoying a gourmet dining hall meal, they only scoff. Labels are tossed around in the column’s wake: stupid, bigot, ignorant or self-righteous, to name a few. But what is accomplished by leaving the offending paper in a puddle of spilled chocolate milk and stale dining hall pasta?
It takes far more courage to voice an opinion and publicly defend it than to mutter criticisms under our breath. If we don’t agree with an opinion, then we should take a leap and put ourselves out there as well. Write a response. We shouldn’t internalize feelings. We need to let the Notre Dame community know if we agree or disagree with an issue. We must foster a constructive dialogue by respecting that many issues are not black and white, that they are really defined in shades of gray. We should realize that all arguments have two sides, and that our Constitution protects the right for your ideological opposite to voice his thoughts just as much as it allows you to speak your mind.
It may be easier to remain detached from controversial issues. It may be easier to simply voice thoughts and concerns while protected by anonymous forums like ND Confessions or in The Observer website’s online comments. However, Viewpoint needs you. The Notre Dame community needs you. Get off your futon, fire up your laptop and start writing. If you take a risk and put yourself out there, Viewpoint, and the Notre Dame community, will embrace your contribution, not sweep it under the rug. That’s what this section is for: putting your voice in the hands of the Notre Dame community.
So, if you want to contribute, if you want to direct the argument in a constructive and effective way, here’s what you do: Go to ndsmcobserver.com and click on “Write a Letter to the Editor.” Or, better yet, send a full column to obsviewpoint@gmail.com
To paraphrase a quote often misattributed to Voltaire, The Observer’s Viewpoint section may not wholeheartedly agree with what you have to say, but it will always defend your right to say it.