I thought I knew who I was before I came to university.
I thought, for instance, that I wasn't a racist. But when I told two girls tabling against Israel that the State had a right to exist, they cleared that up for me. Which was lucky, because after a year of educating my Jewish youth group on the dangers of Islamophobia, I might have gone my whole life not knowing how much I hated people different from me.
I also thought that I was a big lefty; I was going to be an activist for all kinds of social justice causes. This was corrected quickly. A year of carefully observing university-level protestors taught me that I couldn't be involved with leftist politics without hating capitalism, anybody with a smidgeon of authority, and, of course, Israel. They pointed me to my people: the neo-cons, which surprised nearly everyone with whom I'd ever had a political discussion.
And since Israel seemed to come up in every political interaction I had, I thought that I was pretty liberal when it came to Israeli politics – for example, opposing the settlements and the war in Lebanon. One of my best friends is from Ramallah, and he thought I was moderate. But the enlightened Torontonians informed me that my devotion to the two-state solution placed me squarely in the extremist camp, something reiterated in letters to the editors of both the Tribune and the Daily.
I'm not happy that I found out all these things about myself. Ignorance was bliss.
But my right-wing relatives must be thrilled. The activist left has done what no conservative could ever have accomplished – they pushed me to the centre.
It started with the protests. The ones where demonstrators donned black masks and shouted. Intimidated. Emanated pure negativity. What kind of dream did they have? They were straight out of a nightmare.
Then there was the writing. The people who thought they were radical and critical, but who really just recited the tropes of the sixties leftist movement. Who thought you were crazy for entertaining new ideas after 40 years of stagnation.
There was the anti. Anti-racism. Anti-oppression. Anti-capitalist. What were they for? All they talked about was destruction.
And, worst of all, there was the narcissism. The self-righteousness, entitlement, and lack of appreciation for history. As if they were marching with King or Ghandi or Mandela. As if law enforcement was equivalent to police brutality. As if calling something injustice made it so, forgetting that oppressors have also invoked the cause of liberty and justice; that segregationists and slaveowners also fought for their "rights."
It's not good enough to only say we have a right to something. We're smart university students – we can dig deeper, ask "why," and make a more convincing case than that.
I have no interest in the activist right, but the unethical behaviour of the activist left – who I agree with on many issues – isn't any better. And if I'm guilty of the type of labelling that pushed me to the centre, if I've made attributions that were insincere or untrue, then I apologize. Because it needs to stop. It's time that we who believe in social justice practice what we preach.
So I guess I know myself better than before I came to McGill. But I wonder what people who spend more time yelling than learning have picked up along the way. They can call me a racist and a neo-con all they want. I'm over it. But one day they're going to run into an actual racist. One day they'll meet a real right-winger. And they won't know what hit them.
Mookie has, however, enjoyed being a Tribune columnist during his time at McGill. The Tribune is looking for students to write a bi-weekly column during the 2010-11 fall and winter semesters. Applicants should send a cover letter and three writing samples to [email protected]