The familiar feeling of being back at Geneseo for another semester has recently gotten me thinking again about something that's troubled me for most of the three years that I've been a student here. And while it might seem inane to some, the implications of it, I believe, are at least worth considering.
I'm talking about (as if you hadn't guessed it already), the phenomenon of students decking themselves out in Geneseo-emblazoned garb from head to toe. Walking around campus, anyone can see on a regular basis people who opt for a Geneseo hat, sweatshirt, sweatpants, shorts, T-shirt, or any combination of these depending on the weather.
The fairly obvious answer as to why an individual would opt for an outfit in which every article bears the school name is, of course, expression of Geneseo pride. (God knows it isn't an issue of knowing what school the person goes to, or the great deals you can get on that stuff at Under The Sun.)
In and of itself, wearing the logo of the school one attends doesn't bother me. Why shouldn't anyone own a Geneseo sweatshirt or T-shirt? The notion that I cannot escape, however, is that at the level that some individuals opt to take this to with their attire, their pride seems inextricably linked to the idea that as a Geneseo student, one feels he or she is innately better than anyone who doesn't attend this college.
This is, of course, a generalization, and I cannot make blanket statements about others without knowing them individually. I accept this, but the feeling that such displays induce in me is the same that I felt at the height of post-Sept. 11 patriotism, specifically when some decked their vehicles top to bottom with American flags, a crude display that in my opinion, degraded the flag's significance.
The skepticism I felt then is rooted in my belief in the dangerous nature of nationalism. As we know from history, it has the potential to develop into fascism, the lovely little ideology that was responsible for the deaths of millions in World War II. At the very least, strong nationalism propagates the notion that the state and its people have greater worth and significance than others.
I'm not at all suggesting that Geneseo students are going to don Stormtrooper uniforms and go invade Brockport. I believe a person's identification with a certain group or institution can be a positive, healthy thing. But the parallels I see between mindless, potentially destructive nationalism and extreme pride in one's college (as one clearly communicates by deliberately donning nothing but college-branded attire) are significant.
So if you choose to be the ultimate walking billboard for Geneseo, have at it. But I hope that you'll at least consider the idea that making that choice comes with some baggage in the message that it communicates, one that I would bet at least some of you don't really want to send.