Written by Brennan K. Peel
We are critical thinkers. Each of us, regardless of identifiable variables, surely considers ourselves as logical, rational beings fully capable of similar thought processes. We are an elite group of college students, faculty, family and community members. Yet many of us fall victim to a foe of our own antithesis, one that entangles smart folks like us frequently: the bandwagon.The bandwagon, as we all know, is where all of those whose fidelity to others and critical faculties for examination are blindly discarded. Joiners are welcomed with open arms. Bandwagoners are swayed by rhetoric and, after hopping on, spout the same rhetorical rubbish as their brethren.
Jumping on the bandwagon is lazy. To join, one must not be fully aware of the costs, risks or consequences of doing so, and one needn’t endure the time and effort to research such effects. Bandwagoners are lazy because, by joining the bandwagon, they don’t have to put any exertion into researching the validity of anything. They can just go along with the crowd, deafly agreeing to the rhetoric and defending that rhetoric against non-members and critical examiners.
Jumping on the bandwagon shows a lack of personality. To have no fidelity for a cause, person or event evinces a lack of developed opinion. Personality requires individuals to make judgment calls between different things: meat or vegetables, red or blue, Republican or Democrat. These choices – some small, others indelibly large and important – serve as staple points in defining our personality. Wish-washy, topsy-turvy and otherwise ambivalent persons show a lack of personality when jumping on a bandwagon because they don’t show what they truly feel. They do what seems cool, popular and fun.
Jumping on the bandwagon shows a lack of maturity. With no developed opinions and the inability to decidedly stand for what believes is right or worthy, one not only shows a lack of personality, but more so, displays a complete lack of adult responsibility. As learned, educated adults we have a responsibility to stand firmly behind those things in which we believe. In doing so, we can lead social revolutions and feel passionately about them. We can cheer our favorite team on to victory and feel like a genuine part of the sporting community. Maturity infers responsibility, and responsibility requires a need of people to solidly support their opinions and decisions. Abandoning these ideals in favor of the bandwagon is immature.
The bandwagon is not a negative only in the abstract. For example, during the campaign of the recently elected President Obama, people gluttoned themselves on the rhetoric of his campaign, infatuated with new ideas of vague concepts. While hope and change are indeed ideals to be sought and revered, they must have substance. Some Obama supporters did their homework and learned exactly how an Obama administration would work to enact such concepts into tangible policy. These people are not Bandwagoners. Rather, they are true supporters, standing firmly in their beliefs, practicing their social responsibilities and holding fast to their true colors. Others, however, gorged themselves on this rhetoric, spouting about how this country needs change and hope and love without providing any evidence of how those things can be effectively done or by whom. These are the Bandwagoners. Hopefully, President Obama was elected because of a well-informed, educated, responsible electorate, not a blind and deaf mob lacking any sense of fidelity, personality or responsibility. Hopefully, President Obama was elected by critical thinkers and not by Bandwagoners.
Closer to home, our campus has experienced a much more personable and delicate bandwagon effect. The death of a student is a tragic blow for a college community and should not, by anyone, be taken lightly. But some, as with any bandwagon situation, have taken advantage of the situation and used it to their own benefits. Anyone who knew Rob should have the time, space and opportunity to mourn, commemorate and grieve for his loss. They are right to do so. For those who knew him and felt the effects of his death twinge within their hearts, there is no bandwagon. There are only the processes of healing, and within them, the honorable and ethical elements of reason, personality and maturity. But some campus community members have milked the system to their advantage, twistedly hopping on the bandwagon of a student’s death in attempts to miss class because of psychological trauma. It needs to be said: not every student was a close friend of Rob. Not every student has been or will be affected by his death in the same ways. For those students who were and are not true friends with him, get off the bandwagon. Your jumping on it discounts the loss his real friends and family are undergoing. Your bandwagoning cheapens the effect the loss of a student has on a campus because you advantageously manipulate the system in order to skip classes, postpone assignments and insert yourself into a community in which you were not previously a member. Death can bring a community together. But it must be on the right and proper terms.
The bandwagon is not the answer, in theory, in politics and most assuredly not in the black and whites of death. For those who truly mourn Rob’s death, take your time and find your peace. For those who are using it as an excuse for your own purposes, get off the wagon and grow up.