This piece reflects the views of the author, Kevin Stevens, and not those of Emerald Media Group. It has been edited by the Emerald for grammar and style. Send your columns or submissions about our content or campus issues to [email protected].
Dear Hillary Clinton supporters,
I am not ideologically conservative, but my peers often label me as a conservative.
For context: I oppose abortion and the funding for abortion, I sincerely believe in the First Amendment guarantee for the free exercise of religion and I am opposed to euthanasia. I believe that Supreme Court Nominee Neil Gorsuch is well-qualified to serve as a Supreme Court Justice.
However, I say that I am not ideologically conservative because I also support government funding for women’s reproductive health and crisis pregnancy centers, I sincerely believe in the First Amendment guarantee against an establishment of religion, and I am opposed to capital punishment. I have described my stance on a few issues not because I wish to sway your own stance; I merely want to introduce myself.
I suppose, based upon the views that I listed above, some would label me a moderate conservative. I would not assign that label to myself, but, hey — it’s a free country. In fact, let’s take a moment to talk about labels. Labels can be quite useful when trying to categorize something, such as shoes (high-top basketball sneakers versus wingtip Oxfords). Labels are a fantastic tool for placing like things with other like things.
But labels can be damaging if used inappropriately. Another label some would apply to me (one that I happily accept) is Catholic. Now, I could end this letter without saying another word, and a multitude of assumptions would be made about me simply because I announced that I am a Catholic. I say this not to mean that we should not use labels at all but simply to advise caution when using labels. As nuanced as shoes can be, people are infinitely more nuanced. While a person may be given a label, we should try to understand a person and their views in the context of their lives.
I oppose abortion because I am truly anti-abortion: I believe in the sanctity of life from beginning to end. I believe life is infinitely valuable, and that a dear price was paid for us to keep ours. My belief in the value of life is why I oppose euthanasia and capital punishment and why I support funding for women’s health issues, especially unwanted pregnancies.
I believe in the free exercise of religion because I want all people of faith (not just those who practice Abrahamic religions) to be free to live according to the dictates of their consciences. By the same token, I believe in the prohibition of the establishment of religion so that America may truly be a secular society and not a theocracy.
Lastly, I believe that Supreme Court Nominee Gorsuch would serve well as a justice due to his track record of following precedent, his textual approach to statutory interpretation and his advocacy of judicial constraint.
For the record, I did not vote for Donald Trump, so one would not be able to label me a Trump supporter. By using the label “Trump supporter,” however, certain connotations come to mind (fairly or not) — some connotations which may come to mind include “misogynistic, sexist, racist, xenophobic and Islamophobic.”
I do not believe it to be necessarily true that most, or even a majority, of people who voted for President Trump are appropriately characterized by those traits, regardless of what one thinks of Trump himself. How many times have you heard the term “Trump supporter” or heard someone say “I voted for Trump,” and made assumptions about the person, their views and their character without inquiring further?
Perhaps the person is a Trump supporter because they believe in his promise to increase the number of manufacturing jobs for semi-skilled American workers. Perhaps the person voted for Trump because the person thinks of the size of the federal government as unconstitutional. Or maybe the person is, in fact, simply a racist bigot who believes that paid maternity leave is frivolous and should be abolished. My point is, a person does not know why another person supports President Trump (or any politician or cause) until one engages in a dialogue with another and tries to listen and understand the person’s perspective.
Labels are misused and abused by people across the political spectrum. Sadly, such misuse and abuse do not serve to unite our country. Rather, our nation simply becomes ever more polarized, divided and splintered due to the baseless assumptions that are made. I am asking you — nay, I am pleading with you: the next time you meet a “conservative” or a “Republican” or even (gasp!) a “Trump supporter,” instead of assuming the person’s views, why not just talk with them? Not just waiting your turn to speak, but truly listening to the person and responding to their thoughts. I promise, engaging with someone with different views won’t hurt.