Listening extends both ways

Guest Writer David Dreier responds to “Conservatives, we don’t hate you” and argues that conservatives face more than just criticism on college campus.

To start, I have a couple of items for clarification. Firstly, this op-ed is indeed in conversation with those that have appeared in the last several issues of the Newswire. Secondly, it should be noted that I am a Libertarian with some Conservative sympathies, not really a Conservative.

However, that doesn’t impair my ability to observe. I believe that as a Libertarian, I encounter many of the same situations that have been applied to Conservatives in these past articles. With this background established, I’d like to expand and re-focus this ongoing debate.

I am primarily concerned with the most recent article of the three entitled, “Conservatives, we don’t hate you.” I should start by saying that I appreciate the sentiment behind this article and its acknowledgement of at least some of the nuance behind the titular political philosophy. I also couldn’t agree more with the idea of choosing one’s friends. Each individual absolutely should have the right to be or not to be friends with someone for whatever reason, no questions asked.

However, the rest of the article delves into the expectation of sympathy from minorities. While this is an interesting concept, I believe that it misses the real issues at the heart of the broader debate, if not at the heart of the previous two articles.

When the authors of the first two articles spoke of right-wing students being afraid to speak their beliefs, they are not, as the most recent article suggests, afraid of “criticism.” Criticism is necessary to a healthy intellectual life, especially in an academic setting. While I am sure that there are Conservatives who shy away from it, this aversion has nothing to do with the fact that they are Conservative.

What Conservatives at large are afraid of is something much uglier. They are afraid of being shouted down and ridiculed. Criticism involves intelligently listening to a proposed argument and weighing its pros and cons. What Conservatives often face, on college campuses and beyond, is a widespread, if not systematic, “shutting up” of their ideas, often in what approaches violent fashion. This is followed by an alienation that is often disproportionate to the idea brought up. For example, the word “racist” gets thrown around now in response to seemingly unrelated but typically right-leaning ideas.

Furthermore, this university is one of many venues that has a bad case of what I call, “Liberal-normativity.” This idea was more or less addressed in the first article on this issue. What I mean by “Liberal-normativity” is the systematic and unconscious assumption that left-leaning ideas and policies are “correct” or “normal” by default.

For example, I remember one of the meetings for a class I attended my freshman year. It was entirely concerned with the issue of poverty, and what could be considered the “cornerstone” of the session was that the government should have sole responsibility over caring for the poor. I concede that this is a widely held belief, but the class taught it as indisputable fact, and it is certainly not. Any Libertarian or Conservative will tell you that it is more than open to debate where the balance exists between private charity and government aid.

This “Liberal-normativity” is especially scary when paired with the act of shouting down. While my class section remained calm, one of my friends said that his instructor became belligerent as soon as he challenged the established status quo.

I am well aware that Liberals don’t hate all Conservatives or Libertarians, and I am unspeakably thankful for that. As much as this campus is imperfect, I am very happy with the amount of intellectual and diverse discussion that does happen here.

Improvements can still be made. I can see why the previous author thinks that many Conservatives need to be more willing to listen to things like the struggles of minorities. At the same time, however, I would propose that many Liberals need to be more willing to listen to Conservatives and stop pretending that their ideas don’t exist or don’t matter. No one should ever be forced to agree, but a necessary component of “agreeing to disagree” is that no one should be “assumed” out of existence.

David Dreier is a junior economics major and guest writer for the Newswire from Cincinnati, Ohio.