I grew up in a small, conservative, religious town in Appalachia, where it felt like my voice was always lost in the majority. It took a long time–and finally leaving home–to find my own voice and feel unafraid to use it.
Now I attend a women’s Liberal Arts college in the South where I finally feel like my voice is being heard. Finally, I can now speak up and agree with professors and fellow students who hold similar viewpoints as I do, and I feel empowered enough to use my voice against what I don’t believe in. As a liberal, democrat, and a feminist, I’m finally a majority on my women’s liberal arts campus.
Now I know what it feels like to be a white man in Silicon Valley, and there’s such a sense of empowerment and freedom you experience from having the same mindset as the majority. I was free with my opinion, some may say even a bit reckless, and I spoke up in lectures and around campus assuming everyone wholeheartedly shared the same beliefs I do. My campaign poster for class president that I posted in all the residence halls simply had my name and the slogan “I wouldn’t be the worst president” over a picture of Donald Trump.
I thought we were all on the same page, but when I took a feminist literature course I was a bit floored to find out that four members of our class didn’t identify themselves as feminists. It took me a little while to adjust to their frame of mind, but mostly I just chalked it up to having been put in a class with the only four women on this campus who didn’t hold the same viewpoints as I did.
And then the election happened, or more specifically, the results.
That following Wednesday there was a certain low fog hanging over campus. Many students were visibly upset and largely disillusioned by the America they found themselves to be in when they woke up the next morning. We looked to one another for support and comfort–we were all facing a hard time–but we didn’t expect that not all of the campus would be in mourning.
As we tend to do nowadays, we took to social media to post about our grief. Some of us took to social media to post about their joy. Naturally, what tends to happen on Facebook when politics is involved happened: a lot of nasty discourse.
As it turned out, there were a fair amount of Trump supporters on campus. A friend told me that in her politics class she found a lot of her peers had voted for Trump but were too ashamed to admit to it given the campus’s political climate.
Safe spaces and nonpartisan discussion panels were set up by college faculty so everyone could share their voice in how they’re processing the election results. Some students still didn’t feel heard.
Everyone has their right to an opinion, and as someone who is surrounded by so many women whom I admire that share my own viewpoints, sometimes I forget that. Usually we remind ourselves that everyone has the right to their own opinion (that’s now the adult equivalent to that kid in 4th grade sneering “It’s a free country!”) when we need to justify our own viewpoints or saying it almost to dismiss someone else.
I’ve learned a lot since the election results. We all have our own reasoning and our own opinions. I’ve also learned to be grateful to those who I face with differing opinions because it’s always put me on my guard. When you get too comfortable among like-minded peers you forget to brush up on your facts and your own answers. I didn’t have to worry about disagreeing with my friends over dinner, so instead of brushing up on our discourse skills to talk about the election we looked at Bernie Memes.
It’s important to always stay sharp, to always have your reasons. When I return home for the holidays I’ll have to be prepared to face a completely opposite view from the one I’ve been submerged in during the semester. I will likely accidentally stumble into someone that didn’t hold my similar political sway, and I wouldn’t know how to respond to some of their own claims because I was only familiar with my own. For a while, Trump supporters in my community were like a kind of rare bird, where you caught brief glimpses but you never actually met one. Up until election day I kept holding onto the idea that Trump was still an internet joke that went too far.
Discrediting Trump supporters or treating them like jokes was wrong. No matter how completely different they view things, they’re still peers, community members, and relatives. Not listening to what they have to say only adds to the polarizing, heated discourse we find ourselves in with no clear sight out.
So Trump supporters, thank you for having a different opinion than me. No really, I mean it.
I could go into some rhetoric about the right to civil discourse. Or I could regurgitate some rhetoric about how the key to improving society is an open arena of civil political discourse where we argue about a conclusion till we reach a one better. But I won’t–mostly because we would never get past the “civil discourse” part.
I don’t agree with pretty much 99% of what you have to say, I’ll hear you out and in turn hope you will finally listen to others opinions — and reason.
Please do not contact her with unsolicited facts about space.
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