By Ulrich Faircloth
I was a liberal my freshman year. I believed that every human being should have an inherent right to happiness, access to adequate health care, food, and support systems. I believed that government was the cure to solving the human condition. I was supportive of social revolutions, affirmative action, and limitations on hate speech. I was an idealist who thought I could change the world.
But things have changed; now I am a moderate. I consider myself socially liberal and economically conservative. There are many liberal ideas that I still believe, but there are also things that I feel differently towards. I feel that a woman has a right to an abortion, as men have no right to tell a woman what to do with her own body; that gays should have the right to marry, for they are just as human as anyone else; and that welfare is a vital safety net for the poor, not a crutch. On the other hand, I believe that affirmative action is ineffective and discriminatory, as it is better to focus on economic disadvantage rather than racial advantage, that illegal immigration is detrimental to the nation, though corporate enterprises would disagree, and that government bureaucracy can be both helpful and inefficient. But these are simply opinions, not “truth.” In that very same fashion, this brings us to political correctness.
After contemplating the Madison protests, I began to think about the political atmosphere on the Beloit College campus. I thought: “Why is there so little political diversity here?” Is it because everyone here is a self-proclaimed liberal, or may the situation be in part due to the intolerance that people have towards opposing views? I have seen or heard very few conservative, libertarian, or moderate viewpoints on campus. I have concluded from my observations that those with alternative views are either too afraid or discouraged from expressing their thoughts on issues that are not compliant with the political majority, lest they be harassed, alienated, or jeered at from afar. I found that this was particularly evident during the 2008 presidential election. One student’s door was vandalized because he had a poster of Ron Paul on display. He later left Beloit because of the incident. Is that really how we treat our peers here?
Just because someone disagrees with you does not make that person wrong; they simply see the world from a different perspective. The whole point of going to college is to be exposed to varying perspectives, ideologies, and frameworks (sorry all you party people). The college campus is supposed to be a public forum for the free exchange of intellectual ideas (even Beloit College’s Guiding Principles attest to this) and the pursuit of knowledge, with the goal of becoming a well-rounded citizen in society. In effect, that is the entire meaning of the word liberal. A liberal is someone who is open to the views of others, no matter how controversial, provocative, or hurtful such views may be. I think the problem with most people our age is that we think that just because we are young and rebellious, that we are out to “change the world,” we can force other people to change their views and convert to our way of seeing things. That is just flat out wrong.
I wholeheartedly believe that one can believe what they want, so long as they provide a rational argument for it. It is said that those who scream the loudest win the argument, but I disagree. A debate is no longer a debate when screaming is involved. Then it just becomes ranting. And people tend to be very good at that. One thing that one of my professors—Carey Pieratt-Seeley in the sociology department—has stated in class time and time again was the need for civil discourse. That means that if you want to argue something, don’t resort to name-calling. Ad hominem attacks are childish and they make you look like one. As young adults, can we not give up our tantrums? Just because politicians do it doesn’t mean we have to. Let’s set an example for ourselves and for the greater society by doing things differently.