Alternative Title: Adventures of a Conservative in a Liberal School pt. 1
I woke up this morning to an email from my Informed Citizens Discussion group moderator. The first article spoke of Germany’s chancellor’s reign being in question because of his immigration policy. The next of the paralympics and challenged us to think on the ethical/nationalistic implications on it vs. the olympics. Another of the- sigh – elections. The final sentence though gave me warning to what was coming up ahead. It mentioned that another possible discussion issue would be that of pro-life/pro-choice because of the protesting on campus.
As a freshman, I had yet to experience the protesting on this issue much. I have witnessed those protesting SQ 777. The Clinton campaigners have been on campus. One time a guy held a sign that had to do with abortion on the corner of the street, but nothing too extreme. I knew from friends though that occasionally it can get ugly. It always seems to when large groups of people who believe passionately in opposite directions meet. Unfortunately, in our society many have lost the ability to respectfully disagree. We have lost the ability to recognize that another person’s opinions are not our own and that we can still love those who don’t agree with us. Few know how to debate without getting personal. Our society has come to a point where many believe, “You must agree with me or we can not associate.”
Yesterday, I was at a retreat for Freshmen Class Council. We were playing an ice breaker game where you stood on a side of the room indicating your preference between two things. Most were innocent and silly: night owl or morning bird, the one who plans or the one who goes with the flow, pepsi or coke, etc. Then, a more “controversial” one was asked. “If you’re more liberal step to the right, if you’re more conservative step to the left.” (The irony was not lost on me, promise.) People all started laughing and making comments about this being a bad idea. Some people hesitated. After a few moments there was a clear line though. The liberal side was the majority. There were five people standing on the conservative side. Then, a brazen gentleman stepped forward and declared, “Let me take in all your faces. I need to remember you all.”
Another bold personality in the group said, “Yeah because we need to talk.” There was a lot of laughter.
The first one to speak shook his head, “I was more thinking so I can remember who not to speak to.”
My stomach churned. Not that it matters one way or the other, I was on that side. I’m more moderate than anything, but when you get to smaller details I fall more right than I do left. I come from a conservative town,though, where many times my liberal friends fell on the side of the room where there were so few of them that someone wanted, “to remember who not to speak to.”
This morning, as I left my Spanish class and made my way to work, I saw the protesters. There was a table with a large sign that read “Is poverty an excuse for abortion”. There were large yes or no signs and I’m assuming a place to sign. A gentleman in his late thirties was speaking to a college girl about this. He spoke so that as I ventured past I caught portions of what he was saying, “… if it’s okay to kill this person, but not this one..” I didn’t stop to listen. At the free speech board someone had scrawled, “Why do entitled white men get to decide what women do with their bodies?” I looked around at the protestors. Yes, there were white men. Among them, and the majority, were actually women. There were young women and older women. There were people from all ethnicities male and female standing up for what they believed was right. Yet this board argued it was only white men.
Later on in my day, I went to my ICDG. I sat at the table and before we had even really got started the moderator was telling a story and said, “He is one of the only two Republicans in the Honors college.” She laughed, clearly joking. “There are also a lot more conservative and Republican people showing up to our discussion groups. It’s kind of surprising.”
A girl I’ve gotten to know well from a camping trip I took this summer before school started (you can read more about it here), looked up from her phone to ask, “Now that they’re here, can we change them over to the correct side?” I felt my shoulders fall. Even in an informed group- the standard was still there.
The person who made the comment at Class Council, please don’t mistake me, is a great guy. He was- for the most part- joking. The person who wrote the note on the free speech board meant well. The girl from my ICDG wanted to add to the laughs about the lack of conservatives. They bring up a broader issue in our country and in our world though.
There are two toxic ideas plaguing society. The first is that everyone must agree with you or they are wrong. This is on every spectrum. If you are a democrat and the other person is a republican, they are wrong. If you are a Christian and the other person is a Muslim, they are wrong. For every issue with two sides we have decided to draw our own lines of right and wrong and have forgotten that many of these issues deal with the matter of perspective. I can see it one way and you can see it another. We may disagree, yes, but neither of us is necessarily wrong. That’s the thing that makes this world so incredible, the diversity of ideas and opinions.
The second is that of stereotypes. The girl on the board assumed that all those in the pro-life movement were white males, I’m betting if she elaborated further she would have also assumed they were old. As I mentioned, when I observed the people there standing in the Oklahoma heat standing up for what they believed in against the majority’s opinion they fell in many different categories. They were young and old, male and female, of many nationalities. Not everyone fighting against abortion is a white older man. Not everyone fighting for the pro-choice side doesn’t believe in God or is female. Not all Republicans are rich white people and not all democrats are poor minorities. Not all liberals are hippies and not all conservatives are cowboys. They go on in stereotypes we hold in religion, regional ideas, politics, and social roles.
These stereotypes kill us. They are things we hold consciously and unconsciously. They are the basis for the snap judgements we make about people that make us draw lines in who we want to get to know and who we’re “better off without”. There are people who suck. Absolutely I’ll agree with that. There are also people from other sides of the world and other sides of political beliefs who could be some of our best friends if we’d only manage to stop making these judgements and generalizations.
Let me leave you with a challenge, like usual. What stereotypes are you holding? Which generalizations do you tend to lean towards? Don’t say “none” that’s a cop out and it isn’t true. Once you’ve recognized them, work to drop them. The world needs you.
This post has been cross posted from my Global Engagement blog. To see it there, click here.