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Notre Dame is weird

| Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Notre Dame is kind of a weird place. I’m not certain quite how controversial a statement this is but I think we might need a reminder every now and again, so here goes.

I’m certain many of us have had the frustration of trying to explain to friends back home that yes, seeing monks and seminarians is not an irregular thing (in O’Shag, at least) but no, we are not a monastery. Yes, people do drink here and yes, we also really do have single-sex dorms (that you can only be in certain places after certain times). We’re pretty normal though, I promise.

As for the politics of this place, even those of us here can’t agree. I regularly hear complaints that this campus is far too conservative, as well as far too liberal, though these sentiments tend to come from different people. Of course, there are some tentative answers for those that care about numbers and surveys more than I do. Regardless, we are a strange group, none more famously so than our president, liberal, who in an impressive feat of intellectual flexibility has managed to hate American heritage, perhaps Christianity itself, while simultaneously hating a woman’s right to healthcare.

In all seriousness though, it is precisely the difficulty of reducing Catholicism to any clean-cut political labels that makes this campus so interesting. It leads to discussions in the pages of this very publication that with some frequency lead to national news coverage of the school. From murals to leggings, we are taken to be a bellwether, though, of what I’m not entirely clear. This unique mix also leads to confusion and perhaps some discomfort for those of us whose political beliefs were informed by the more traditional party understandings than by church teachings, especially when one begins to see serious worldviews that mix and match the familiar and the utterly foreign.

Anyway, we’re weird. Frankly though, that’s probably for the best. Rather than allow our Catholic heritage to become a side note on some tour guide’s script, this institution has remained deeply devoted to the tradition that created it. From required theology classes to rectors in residence halls to all the quirks our friends back home can’t quite get their heads around, Notre Dame is something genuinely, consciously and intentionally different.

Of course, we do allow space for most of the trappings of American collegiate normalcy with a concession here and there gradually chipping away our otherness. There is also a genuine willingness to invite the rest of the world under the dome to share in what this school is. Yet none of this changes the fact that this is a Catholic University. There will be questions raised here, debates over issues long settled elsewhere, that will see serious discussion. There will be opposition on this campus to that which is considered common sense almost anywhere else and practices, antiquated by any other standard, that persist. Of course, change should not be opposed for the sake of opposing it any more than it should be pursued for the sake of pursuing it. On balance, though, we will stand out, we will be weird, and over the years we will hear countless times the refrain: “But other schools — ” and that is just fine.

We are not falling behind here at Notre Dame. We are following a different path. Sometimes we will be indistinguishable from others, sometimes different as night and day. For now, we retain the ability to live in one world and engage in the other, holding on to our Catholic identity while remaining open to everything else. The mixture of ideas this creates, the deep diversity of thought and perspective, makes us all the richer. But we should never forget though that we are not every other school, nor should we be. Notre Dame is weird and that’s just the way I like it.

Griffin Cannon is a senior studying political science from Burlington, Vermont. The viewpoints expressed in this column are those of the individual and not necessarily those of BridgeND as an organization.

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

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BridgeND is a bipartisan student political organization that brings together Democrats, Republicans, and all those in between to discuss public policy issues of national importance. They meet Tuesday nights (starting Sept.8) from 8-9pm in the McNeil room of LaFortune. They can be reached at [email protected] or by following them on Twitter @bridge_ND

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