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You don’t know better.
Yeah, you heard me. Do you think you are better than everyone else? Do you think your college education gives you a leg over every other American? Were you somehow gifted with the power of sight? That lack of humility is tearing America’s core apart.
Ever since Donald Trump was elected, many of us on college campuses have been furious with the new administration’s policies. Some 55 percent of 18-29 year olds voted for Trump’s opponent, Hillary Clinton. We have been asking ourselves “What did we do to deserve this?” and “How did we get America so wrong?” I think the answers lie in the way we treat one other.
As a liberal-leaning college student, I think my “side” has been cruel: we have misrepresented America. We are so quick to characterize those whose views do not perfectly align with ours that we have alienated conservatives and ourselves. Where were these conservatives before the election? Were they hiding? Too afraid of the aggressive media and liberal bias?
Perhaps the liberal inability to recognize conservatism as a legitimate reality for a large slice of the American population is due to isolation. Truth be told, the few conservatives that I know are family members and family friends on Facebook. Not many are friends from college, which somewhat lines up with the national trend. A study done by the Higher Education Research Institute found that only 21.6 percent of the entering 2015 college freshman identify as conservative or far right. On my own Facebook, I would see the most politically active conservatives posting articles and comments about Obama’s supposedly weak foreign policy legacy and disastrous domestic agenda. I ignored their opinions, thinking my college education had given me the tools to look at the facts in the right light.
Notice how I said “right light” instead of “different light.” This is why many of us “do not know any conservatives.” We probably do know some conservatives, but have been so overtly aggressive in our fight to be right that we have ignored the fact that other perspectives exist. I did not think conservatives could have a real effect on the election because I invalidated their views in favor of my own “educated liberal views.”
I will admit that I was a bit emotional on election day. It was because I knew that I had gotten something fundamentally wrong about the diversity of this nation. The election was a reminder that diversity spans far beyond variations of race, gender, religion and sexual orientation, but into the mindsets of every individual.
Days after the election, I read numerous articles telling liberals to “get out of their bubble” and to open their eyes to the conservative viewpoint. To me, maybe not to everyone, following this advice meant looking up the top ten conservative newspapers on Google. I “liked” these sources on Facebook, Twitter and even my Apple News App to begin receiving everything from opinions to world events. A combination of my favorite publications, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal and the Hill, with conservative Fox News, TownHall and the Drudge Report showed me a very interesting view of what is going on. Exposing myself to these other views is a start, but not a solution.
As the Trump presidency begins to take root, and as more liberally-minded citizens grow more enraged by the administration, I suggest we come up to the surface, breathe and get a better view of what is going on. We do not understand why others think immigrants are taking their jobs, and we fail to sympathize with people who think climate change is not real because “we do not know anyone like that.”
After seeing the facts (and omission of facts) on both sides, I knew something was wrong with the way I was treating people. I gave liberals the benefit of the doubt and gave conservatives zero leg room. My liberal political identity told me that conservatives were most likely to be racist, sexist, xenophobic and anything else bad. If you supported Donald Trump, I believed you were all of these things.
This is a cruel generalization that does not describe the majority of Americans. These are people who live and work just as hard as the rest of us. Some may not be elite, or down-to-earth or even nice, but many Americans bring real worries and concerns to the table. Whether that be illegal immigration, high government spending or too many restrictions on American businesses, they should be heard and treated fairly. If you truly want to make change, participate in the discussion. You should go see that controversial speaker, engage with a different political club or set up more debates between our diverse-minded students. Stop yelling, screaming and name calling — we can do so much better than that.
Contact CUI Opinion Columnist Conner Kingsley at email@example.com.