A clarification

Sean Lundergan | Staff Writer

I’ve made some people angry. Last week I wrote an article, which argued that we shouldn’t feel obligated to embrace certain ideas on campus, that has since been circulated through alumni networks, right-wing media outlets and the parts of the internet people are referring to when they say “the internet” derisively. Much of the criticism consisted of disingenuous false equivalences. I got what I guess you could call a death request (as opposed to a threat) from a random middle-aged Ohioan—being a good Midwesterner, he asked me to “Please die,” which I thought was polite of him.

But while I still disagree with them, some of the critiques were leveled in good faith, so I’m going to try to give some more context to what I said. I would never suggest that certain voices should be silenced—as I said in the original piece, we must allow conservatives to discuss their beliefs. I think part of the uproar is a result of the brevity of the piece—700 words isn’t enough space to give context to every reader.

I guess I should start by clarifying terminology: By “conservative” I’m referring to the American conservative movement of the last 40 years or so. No one should fault you for lauding Edmund Burke—personally, I love a good Trinity College Dublin graduate. But “American conservative movement over the last 40 years or so” is pretty clunky, so I (wrongly) thought the shorthand would suffice. I’d also like to be more explicit about the fact that I’m referring to conservative ideas, rather than conservative people; I really do have conservative friends and family whom I love and respect, and there’s nothing to be gained from attacking people personally.

In the same vein, I want to make clearer that I don’t want it to be so that people can’t have conservative viewpoints; I was merely suggesting that we as a general student body—across the spectrum—shouldn’t feel a need to prop up any given position. We don’t need to give careful consideration to an idea just because it’s an idea—we’re not having a productive discussion if we’re debating whether or not we should worry about climate change, for example.

Basically, I was responding to the students in the WU: In Focus piece who seemed to want to avoid the consequences of holding certain beliefs. Freedom of speech is not freedom from criticism, as I think folks say.

Some people have tried to ascribe motivations to me. To be clear: I did not write this out of “triggered frustration,” or a “fascistic” impulse to silence people I disagree with. Like anyone, I’m informed by my own experience.

I have jaw problems. Over the last few years I’ve been treated for a screwed-up bite and a broken mandible. In total, I’ve undergone procedures that have racked up over $150,000 in medical bills, the vast majority of which has been covered by my insurance.

Not everyone is as lucky as I am. I’m lucky because I was born white, in a safe, middle-class suburb, to parents whose teaching jobs are valued by our state and protected by unions. I’m lucky because my family has been able to cover the out-of-pocket costs for the aspects of my healthcare our insurance doesn’t cover. I’m lucky because I’ve been able to choose to work hard, rather than having no alternative.

Two summers ago, I drove a few of my friends to a sporting event. One of them brought a bottle of beer, and he took a swig from it as we pulled into a parking space next to a state trooper. The officer gave me a stern talking-to and told me he could arrest me for having a minor in my car with an open container, but he let me off with a warning. That is the only remotely tense interaction I’ve ever had with a police officer, and it had no ramifications, and I don’t expect to ever have one again.

I believe it’s wrong that my first 22 years have gone like that, when others’ have gone very differently. Kids across the country, kids right up the street in St. Louis, have grown up under the stresses of poverty, racism and countless other forms of oppression. Regardless of what individual conservatives feel in their hearts, the implications of that ideology seem unconcerned about those kids.

Since at least the Nixon administration, right-wing politics has relied in part on exploiting racism to gain power—a tactic that’s alive and well today. I understand that individual conservatives may abhor the Southern Strategy and its legacy, but the fact remains that the movement has leaned on it time and time again.

When I say ideas don’t inherently deserve equal treatment, it’s because some ideas imply that certain humans don’t deserve equal treatment. You’re welcome to think those ideas have merit, but there are consequences to embracing them. There are consequences because politics is consequential.

Check our this response to the original article from our editor-in-chief.

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