Columns / Discourse / January 31, 2018

Forgive me if I don’t shed my tears for conservatives

In response to “Knox Conservatives talk political suppression:”

The overemphasis of respectability in politics prevents us from honestly addressing the problems we hope to resolve. Of course, it would be ideal to respectfully disagree about any issue, but politics does not always allow for that. One of the insidious themes in this article is the suggestion that disrespecting the idea is equivalent to disrespecting the person. With this, conservatives are able to hide their harmful ideas behind the guise of merely wanting proper discourse. To be sure, I have sympathy for those who were assaulted after the election and for those who felt their privacy was violated for political gain. These methods of intimidation are counterproductive and unacceptable. However, it is worth pointing out that many conservative positions cause direct harm to the most disenfranchised members of our society and we should never surrender that point.

For example, I believe that healthcare is a fundamental right, while a conservative may believe that healthcare is a business that the market alone should regulate. I cannot respect this—in fact—I find it atrocious. Similarly, how am I supposed to respect the conservative view that climate change is not an existential threat that requires immediate action, especially given the vast majority of experts who say that it is?

Fear of judgement is presented as a justification for self-silencing among conservative students. It seems, however, from the article, that criticism of ideas is misrepresented as judgement of character. I have enough faith to assume conservatives don’t wake up in the morning and say, “I hate poor people.” Many of the policies they support, however, pretty much do. If I criticize the policies that you support, I am only criticizing your ideas—not your character.

The desire for “respectful” dialogue, which here seems to mean judgement-free, directly contradicts the concern for lack of “bipartisan” dialogue. A non-critical space, a safe space, cannot apply to political ideas. And let’s say, for argument’s sake, that it did—this scenario certainly does not encourage political dialogue. It equates political judgement to personal judgement. But in reality, one’s political ideas are not innate to oneself and can develop. Political ideas can change, identites do not, which is why safe spaces cannot apply to politics. Second, it reduces political conflict to a mere “agree to disagree.” One’s political beliefs are based on their view of justice and what they determine to be the moral basis of society, therefore two opposing positions cannot simply disagree. If two parties from different viewpoints have a political discussion, in which both parties have agreed to listen but offer no criticism, what have they really accomplished? The fear that one can be “pushed into a corner” because of one’s beliefs is misplaced. If an idea can silence you, then your belief was not supported by sufficient reason. Judgement and criticism are necessary to a dialogue that leads to some solution.

In regard to the concern that conservative voters are conflated with Trump supporters: the only thing that sets Donald Trump apart from the Republican party is that he is open and vocal in his vulgarity; his policy goals are exactly in line with what conservative Republicans have been aiming to do since at least the 1980s.

My aim is not to reduce Knox Conservative club members to a label of classist, racist, sexist or homophobic. However, by affiliating themselves with such a group, they are openly supporting a set of political ideas that have classist, racist, sexist and homophobic implications. Still, I do not believe that conservative students should be physically assaulted for their beliefs. If the true goal of the Knox Conservatives is to establish a dialogue, I would hope they commit to expressing their views and understand when others rightfully point out the harmful implications of those views.


Eden Sarkisian, Discourse Editor
Eden Sarkisian is a femme of color from Los Angeles. Eden is majoring in economics with a double minor in gender and women's studies and Middle-Eastern studies. Aside from their position as discourse editor, Eden contributes to TKS through their feminist column, "The F-Word," and their comic strips, "Apple Strip."

Tags:  conservatives Knox Conservatives respectability politics

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