By Emily Kulp
A purple-robed and foam-armored figure on the sidelines of a football game. A knight-like symbol on the upper left-hand corner of a student’s hoodie. Everywhere you go on campus our mascot, the Crusader, seems to have a presence. Even this newspaper has taken its name.
I must admit, I find it ironic that a school calling its students to be “Men and Women for Others” has a mascot that, from my vague remembrance of history class, represents the persecution of freedom of religion.
But I get it. Old habits die hard. I know because my high school mascot was a little boy holding a gun standing next to a little girl holding a flower. I’m not kidding. I have seen, firsthand, well-meaning efforts to change an antiquated mascot become clouded by vague talk of tradition and the facility of keeping things the same.
Yet the upcoming talk, “The Crusades and Crusaders: History and Historiography,” to be given by Holy Cross alumnus Kevin Madigan ’82, along with the slow disappearance of the purple-armored knight from college clothing and apparel, demonstrate Holy Cross is beginning to consider making a change. The decision to switch the name of Mulledy Hall to Brooks-Mulledy because of Father Thomas Mulledy’s involvement in the slave trade has already called into our question the power of a name.
Along with Holy Cross pride and school spirit, our mascot, the Crusader, calls to mind the Crusades, which spanned from the 11th to the 13th century and consisted of Western Europeans intent upon capturing the Holy Land of Jerusalem from the Muslims. While fighting those who opposed Christianity, they often killed innocent women and children.
Obviously, the debate over whether to change our mascot does not question whether the Crusaders were benevolent people or whether their goals align with the mission statement of our College. Beyond questions of right and wrong or good and bad, the question that remains is what power words have over ourselves and our lives.
While some may argue our mascot is simply a word and picture we do not need to overthink beyond its ability to represent and unite Holy Cross’s community, the Crusader is not just an arbitrary word and image. It is one that, despite new associations with the College, is intrinsically connected to a dark moment in the history of Christianity.
As students and members of the Holy Cross community, I believe one of our greatest missions should be to inform ourselves about the past, present, and future. We are here to seek and create new knowledge. How can we do this while simultaneously ignoring the vital history of our mascot?
Despite the difficulty of trying something new and yearning to hold onto tradition, we must ask ourselves whether we wish to be informed and to open our minds to the world around us. If we do not, then perhaps we can continue to see our mascot as an arbitrary creature of unity that just so happens to be carrying a sword and shield. But, if we are to honor our College’s mission, as well as ourselves, we need to begin to question who our mascot really is.