Conway ’18: Writing off 59 million opinions

Op-Ed Contributor
Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Sitting in class Wednesday, I was surrounded by students and professors alike making the assumption that everyone in the room opposed President-Elect Donald Trump and that anyone who supported him was uneducated, backwards or hateful toward human rights.

I genuinely appreciate the protests, the sit-ins and the arguments this past week. Through our differences, you are providing me an education of great value. You are presenting numerous perspectives I would not have considered in my singular mind. I came to Brown for this reason: I wanted to see why it is that people support different candidates than I do. And everyday, I am fortunate to learn about such logic. I never regret my opportunity to be in this environment.

But I am an anomaly. I grew up learning about the logic and merits of Republican beliefs. I now go to Brown, where I learn about the logic and merits of Democratic beliefs. But the majority of students do not benefit from having their preconceived ideas challenged, as are mine.

This is not an op-ed in any way condoning Trump. This is not an op-ed in any way suggesting political protests, free speech and personal fears are invalid. Hell, I participated in the anti-Trump protest that marched through the streets of Providence Wednesday night. This is an op-ed suggesting that the quality of the education we all receive as well as the propensity we have to understand and enact change is severely threatened by our inability to value and consider views that differ from our own.

Rather than trying to grasp any of the reasons for which half of America voted for Trump, we have defaulted to the idea that half of America is personally and morally flawed. We have projected vast generalizations upon this group. We have stereotyped this group. We have indiscriminately labeled them all as racist, homophobic, xenophobic, sexist and politically illiterate. Especially at Brown, where we learn to internalize complexities, making such blanket statements is antithetical to our shared principles. I had to sit in class as a professor called the president-elect a “bastard.” (Hardly politically correct, if we’re counting.)

The voters we criticize for not being progressive enough are that way for a multitude of reasons. Rather than default to labeling them as politically illiterate or morally unsound, why don’t we try to surround ourselves with some of them? Rather than ridicule them, why don’t we attempt to listen to them? But our ability to listen to them is hampered by the reputation we have made for Brown as an inhospitable environment for those we deem not progressive enough. Even our own Brown student veterans had to watch their fellow students tear down the flags they fought to protect.

Trump’s words have been offensive. His words have offended me personally, and everyday I see the emotional strain his words have put on students at this university. I am lucky to be in a place where I can witness these frustrations first hand and understand where they are rooted.

But we have stifled our intellectual development by creating an environment where anyone who does not agree with the left-leaning student body is wrong (not to mention a whole host of offensive labels). It is close minded to write off 59 million American citizens as bad just because you didn’t vote for the same candidate as they did. As we sit in class and attack the personal values of people with whom we do not even interact, the rest of the country views us as unable to ride our high horses off of College Hill. We have legitimate concerns about our president-elect, but until we refrain from casting personal insults and projecting generalizations on half of our country — whom we presume to lack any logic or reasoning — we will continue to be shocked by a silent majority on Election Day.

Kelly Conway ’18 can be reached at kelly_conway@brown.edu. Please send responses to this opinion to letters@browndailyherald.com and other op-eds to opinions@browndailyherald.com.