Are conservatives in the closet?


Graphic courtesy of Vox

Jay Chatterjee '23, Staff Writer

The words “Liberal” and “Conservative” are very divisive currently, as the world runs on assumptions and preconceived notions. Part of this divisiveness is the comes from the current political climate, part from ignorance, and a major part from fear. Fear can take several forms and its most common manifestation is hatred. So, when I came to the United States as a student at a predominantly progressive Liberal Arts College, I was quickly taken by the “closeted” conservatives on campus. 

 Rhodes College has a student Republican group, but what caught my attention were a group of people who felt that they had to be “liberal” to fit in. What they could not hide from a resilient observer was their unspoken disagreements to some of the viewpoints brought up, some of it pertaining to the Pro-Life Movement, Gun Control, taxes, or other issues.

Around the world, it has been acknowledged that students, the future of the globe, are key to ideological and political conversations. We are “new and fresh” with a different take on issues. For a democracy to run smoothly, diversity of opinion at the student level is not just important, it is imperative. So, after my initial observations, I decided to speak to X (name withheld at the request of the interviewee) about why he wouldn’t speak about what he believed in. He smartly quipped: “Because I’ll be called a Nazi. And I’m Jewish.” Upon further conversation, he spoke about the lack of distinction between “conservative-leaning” and a conservative. “People just don’t research, they go off on their feelings without realizing they are demonizing others. How inclusive!” says X after a long sip from his iced tea in the Refectory. When pressed about the role of the Trump Administration in how conservatives are viewed, he politely says, “If people feel that an ideology is limited to certain leaders they don’t agree with, they are fools who cannot back up their statements nor validate their arguments.”

Just to get a viewpoint from the other side of the conversation, I spoke to an outspoken liberal-leaning freshman about conservatism as an ideology and its advent on the Rhodes campus. He said: “The conversation may be respectful but it’s 2019, and we can’t help but speak out. I get it when conservatives talk about isolation. Most likely, people like me are part of it. But we are passionate, and we are outspoken. That’s us.” While his passion was contagious, he also helped validate what X said in a very decisive way. Who’s to be blamed? That’s the question.

Conversation is best when participants speak their truth. As the group of people who will one day be an integral part of this nation and the global community, it is important to not just encourage diversity of thought, but also to accept differing viewpoints with open arms and ears. Rhodes rightly prides itself for prioritizing inclusion, so we need to ensure that we disagree without demonization and allow our peers to be their true, authentic selves.