A Columnist's Parting Thoughts
By Jared Crum '11, staff writer
This is the twenty-second column I’ve written for this newspaper, and the last. Over the past 19 months and 21 columns, I’ve tried to treat my section of the opinion page appropriately. Campus columnist is not a lofty position, so I’ve kept my tone more or less light. But at the same time, not everyone is given ink to spill, so I’ve made efforts at being meaningful.

I’m graduating next month and I’ve found that what Emily Dickinson said about separation remains true: “Parting is all we know of Heaven, and all we need of Hell.” The Heaven part is accomplishment, and the real world, and the excitements of a new chapter in life. The Hell part is leaving your friends and the campus you’ve come to regard as home.

Of course it’s not as bad as “Hell.” But it’s an emotionally confusing, rollercoaster time. Finally getting the chance to voice some unspoken thoughts is a salve that makes the experience more settled. I’m going to do a little voicing now. I’ve touched on a lot of topics in these columns, from Berlusconi to the Icelandic volcano to Al Gore. Here are thoughts on topics I’ve been meaning to address.

It’s time for President Obama to come out in favor of gay marriage. He’s always been against it but adds that his position on the issue is “evolving.” It should evolve into support for marriage equality at the earliest possible date. He’s falling behind the Democratic Party and nearly falling behind the country. Being ahead is a better place to be.

We’re going to have to spend more time and energy on genuine interpersonal communication in coming years. The smarter our phones get and the more tethered to our devices we become, the less we actually talk with one another. Recall the Chevy Cruze ad from February’s Super Bowl where the guy kisses his date good night and then, while driving away, receives a Facebook update right from his car’s dashboard voice. The girl’s status is “best first date ever.” It’s a charming ad, but I wish she had told him in person.

After all this time, I still can’t figure out who Lady Gaga is. She appears to be a common publicity hound, a provocateur par excellence. But I’ve always had a sneaking suspicion that there’s some internal logic to her art, some subtle lesson, and that even if it doesn’t exist, there are tropes and themes worth analyzing nonetheless. I am still at a loss as to what these might be since Lady Gaga hides her real self and because she materialized in a flash of glittery brimstone, a fully-formed package. She’s an enigma, for now.

Heath Ledger’s brilliant Joker character was another fully-formed puzzle. His terrifying mystery helped make “The Dark Knight” a film deeper than it first seems. It was about morality, the meaning of human existence, civil liberties in times of crisis, the rule of law in a city of lawlessness, the psychology of evil and the possibilities of virtue in a polity of vice. It bears re-watching annually.

A good word is in order for another personal favorite: “Independence Day.” It gives you everything you want from a movie: adventure, humor, love and a happy ending. Its window into our cultural values concerning war, honor, marriage and America’s place in the world make it enduringly relevant. President Whitmore’s Fourth of July speech remains stirring with each viewing.

I’ve also been meaning to share some thoughts on Amherst.

Our time here passes very quickly, so it’s important to wake up each morning and think for a couple of minutes about how to squeeze as much as is reasonable from your day. Try to spend as much time as you can outside in the fall and spring, and with your friends in every season. Work hard and keep busy. Keeping busy means both carving out fun time as well as embracing spontaneity.

Decorate for the holidays. Read for pleasure — it’s fun and it keeps you growing.

Real romantic relationships based on equality, openness, maturity and deep mutual respect and admiration are rare. If you’re in such a relationship, nurture and cherish it. If you’re not, I hope you find one.

“Pretentious” is a word both overused and used incorrectly. Not everyone who uses big words is putting on a pretense, so make sure you really mean it before you use it. Besides, using “pretentious” has become an excuse to be imprecise and uncreative, so finding another word entirely is better.

A parting note on the road ahead: psychologist Abraham Maslow said that each person has a “hierarchy of needs” and that at the top of the hierarchy is “self-actualization.” Self-actualization means reaching your full potential in terms of creativity, freedom and satisfaction. It’s personal harmony with your world. Helping each citizen achieve this type of self-fulfillment should be the goal of a democratic society. Realizing this society means securing more basic human needs like education, opportunity and respect. Amherst is doing its part. Now let’s enlist the whole country.

Finally, to my readers: thanks for joining me. You read the columns and talked back. I hope it was as interesting for you as it was for me. Good luck in the remainder of your days at the College, and remember that no one is poor who has something good to read.

Issue 24, Submitted 2011-04-26 23:04:05