Keep an Open Mind

by Austine Kuder | 11/8/04 6:00am

To the Editor:

As an employee at Topside during the peak dinner hours, I hear hundreds of conversations every day, concerning classes, drinking, sex and every topic imaginable. Lately, many of these have naturally focused on politics and the recently-decided election. The other day a male student said loudly to his friend as he handed me his card, "All the Republicans on this campus are rich, white racists." If this student had been able to experience an omniscient moment, he may have realized the absurd ignorance of his words as his Cartier-adorned hand reached out to take groceries that had been checked and bagged by a Republican. Not all conversations I hear make me want to shake people as much as this one, but blanket statements that demonize Republicans have been alarmingly common this fall. This trend is disappointing, because a political race is an opportune time for discussion and disagreement and not, hopefully, the intimidation of a minority group at a college.

As a native of Seattle, a very liberal area, I am not unaccustomed to being a political minority. I have never felt so silenced however, by professors and peers alike, as I did in the last few months. It seemed that instead of addressing the issues many members of this community chose to attack both my person and that of the candidate I supported in a near cult-like fervor.

I would like to suggest that when the next election comes around, these citizens try and expand their vocabulary from "stupid, idiot" and various expletives. You may be surprised by how many Republicans actually exist on this campus, and how many of them would interest you with their views. Of course it is a free country, and anyone has the right to write off 51 percent of the voting population as one professor did in front of her class the day after the election: "well, I guess that's the problem with a democracy -- all the stupid people get to vote too," but I think anyone who does that is doing a great disservice to all involved. Like it or not, it is clear that people actually do agree with the Republican stance on the issues, for all sorts of reasons. What happened to accepting difference of opinion and embracing diversity? At Dartmouth we are encouraged to be open-minded about religion, race, sexual preference and other areas. I would like to challenge students to be more accepting of political diversity as well, because friction is what fuels change. When students begin every political conversation with a personal attack or an ignorant generalization, they will never hear new and different ideas and may as well be talking to themselves. You never know who may be listening, where they are coming from and what lasting impression your words give them. After all, as my fellow Republican-voting DDS coworker says, "It is in your own best interest to be kind and respectful toward us, we are handling your food."

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