When I was a freshman, I was called a fascist. Let me take this time to give you some context. In my first semester of freshman year, my class and I were discussing the perils of mass incarceration in the U.S. One student asked the class if they thought the death penalty should still be implemented as a form of punishment. After thinking long and hard about this question, I raised my hand and said something along the following lines:
I do not support the current practice of the death penalty as a majority of those on death row are predominantly people of color. This is because the police force and the criminal justice system have an extensive history of disenfranchising communities of color. Until that is fixed, the system should not have the power to decide who should receive capital punishment. I acknowledged that there have been a number of cases where an inmate was executed only to learn the individual was in fact innocent. However, if we were to live in a world where our criminal justice system was fair and dependable, where all the facts presented proved beyond a reasonable doubt that an individual did indeed commit the crime, and that there was no possibility that the individual could re-enter and contribute to public life, than I would support the death penalty. If all the conditions above were met, I would support the death penalty knowing that taxpayer dollars would not be wasted on keeping people who could be corrected alive.
I thought I provided a solid explanation for my reasoning, and saw many people nod their heads in agreement and acceptance. You can imagine how shocked I was when I was pulled aside after class by another student only to be told that my reasoning and rhetoric were borderline fascist and that I should be ashamed of myself.
I personally hate the term liberal snowflake, but when I think back on moments like this, sometimes I feel like Lewis & Clark is turning into a liberal blizzard. I strongly identify as a progressive (hell, I am even one of the co-presidents of LC College Democrats!) but sometimes I will agree with a more moderate view if I accept the logic. While a majority of LC students are progressive, I know that some are not, and I can only imagine how afraid they must be of being shunned for sharing a political opinion that does not lean all the way to the left, or god forbid, toward the right! Have you ever wondered why only a few people contribute in your humanities or social science classes? I have, and while this might not always be the case, my guess is that people are frightened to participate in group settings because they fear they will be subjected to hostile attacks if they say anything that falls outside of liberal rhetoric.
I also find it ironic that I feel the need to write this article at a liberal arts college, where our education is rooted in a philosophy that encourages us to interact with complex, diverse fields of thought. For the most part, I think LC students do a pretty good job at this in regards to academia. I just think this should extend to political conversation and how students encounter ideologies that challenge their own. While it might feel great to be surrounded by like-minded people, this bubble and the mildly hostile attitudes students have towards others with different opinions, is not going to fly in the real world. Are we not supposed to go to college to equip ourselves when we encounter opposing views? To become prepared for the real world that lies outside Palatine Hill? At least that is what I originally thought. I am starting to doubt whether other students think the same.
Please know that I am not saying we should invite speakers who aim to discriminate or promote dialogue that attacks minority groups. In fact, this is a current debate the college is participating in: whether certain groups who represent controversial views should be invited on campus. I am also not advocating for giving our opinions haphazardly; I always recommend to choose words with care before sharing them with others. And I will be the first to admit that I have openly bashed the current Republican party using language that could offend a Republican student. Knowing this, I, along with other LC students, must learn to politely disagree with differing views, and I think that can start by not calling each other fascists.