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Gadfly in training: Mending the rift

Illustration by Holly Randall
By Susan Bonicillo
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, April 15, 2004
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Feuds are the stuff of legends. Take, for example, the warring houses of Montague and Capulet, or the Appalachian tribal wars between the Hatfields and the McCoys.

It's the unbridled fire and passion emerging from such quarrels that fuel our imagination - the raw, primal animosity that attracts us to such tales. In these blind hostilities, we are far removed from the rational, thinking world and delve headlong into the heady, reckless world of pure human emotion.

Yet despite all the great drama that feuds can provide, the toll on its participants brings devastating consequences.

On campus, we have our own feud between the factions of greek and nongreek.

Susan Bonicillo

Despite the fact that skirmishes between these two groups remain relatively harmless, in the form of whispered insults and some well and not-so-well written letters to the Daily Wildcat, it has something in common with other famous, bloody feuds: Do we really know what started all this hate?

Like any good feud, this one started on grounds that neither group really understands.

Maybe there's some sort of historical event long ago in the UA's past that caused this great divide. Perhaps sometime in the early 20th century, a greek stole a nongreek's prized hog, and in retaliation the victim of this theft married the greek's sister. One can only hypothesize.

However, even if there was a real event that generated such hostilities, it's usually just a front to justify the hate. In feuds, the hate is based on misconceptions. Because knowledge is the only way to combat such intolerance, it seems necessary to articulate what lies beneath.

In this feud, the nongreek is constantly on the offensive, attacking the decadence and moral depravity the houses exemplify. Greek row has a certain stigmatism of being home to wild, drunken parties where a veritable petri dish of exotic, newly mutated forms of venereal disease can be found.

The greek on the defensive denies such claims of drunken debauchery and sin, boasting of things like academic performance or volunteer work with three-legged, blind, orphaned puppies or something like that.

Though it would be wrong to characterize greeks as the party animals who the late, great John Belushi and the "Animal House" crew would have us believe they are, it's not without some bearing.

If you've ever been to a party thrown by the brothers or sisters of Gamma Lambda Beta Zeta-Jones or whatever house, then you know it's not exactly a nice, quiet little get-together where games of backgammon are enjoyed by thoughtful folks pondering the problems of the postmodern world.

However, to be fair, the life of the nongreek is not innocent either. Binge drinking, the random hookup and loud, raucous parties aren't just reserved for those who bear a shiny pin emblazoned with letters of an alphabet we know nothing about.

Drunks, idiots and sex fiends can be found in any group, not just in fraternities and sororities. Just look at Congress.

The battle between the self-righteous, holier-than-thou attitude of those not involved in the Hellenic circle and the greeks who bristle at the truth leads us to interesting verbal battles, but little else.

However, when we look closer, there are far more similarities than differences between the two.

In essence, aren't we all just free-spirited college students? Does not a swig of beer affect me the same way it would my comrades in the frat house? If I lose a $600 Louis Vuitton handbag (provided I buy such an overpriced, tacky thing), would I not mourn with the same aching loss that my groomed and pampered sisters of sorority life do?

Then again, even with all our similarities, I doubt this feud will end. Sometimes we just need someone to oppose, no matter how fruitless it may seem. If anything, if it proves to be a distraction, something to occupy your time to keep you from contemplating the emptiness and futility of life, then by all means, do.

To do my part, I've decided to start my own chapter, Greek letters to be announced later. Dedicated to abolishing stereotypes and bridging the gap between the greek and the normal student, all are welcome. And there are only two requirements: a closet full of black clothing and the ability to quote Nietzsche at will.

Susan Bonicillo is a sophomore majoring in English. You can send any and all personal attacks on her character to

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