Sarah Lawrence College is a bubble. It’s no secret that, as a student body, we are an eclectic group of similar people. We are characterized by our fervent willingness to argue about Ibsen’s heroines, Rousseau’s manic depression, and Kaufmann’s translations of Nietzsche. But bring up politics and you’ll get mostly the same rationale. Sometimes I think that I could have done a better job at voicing my political opinion throughout my almost four years here, but I’ve never felt the need to because, while I am passionate about my political values, I generally regard them as private matters. They fuel my decisions and mine alone. I’ve come to learn that I define myself most strongly by my hard work and my writing. Those are the reasons that I decided to attend Sarah Lawrence. The fact that I am a Republican has just been a quirky additive.
I’ve sat through many classes and conferences and heard professors and classmates take countless shots at Republicans, Tea Partiers, President Bush, and capitalism. Not all jokes were unfounded and most were expectedly quite brilliant. I was never angry that the jokes were made, but more disheartened by the attitude with which they were delivered and accepted, as if never to be questioned. It is, of course, not crazy for a professor to assume that he or she will be performing for a fully appreciative and like-minded audience. I’ve heard more than one person quip that a Republican would be crazy to attend Sarah Lawrence because he’d be the odd man out. But why, I ask, should that be a reason not to attend an institution of higher education, especially one that boasts out-of-the-box thinking?
Our unofficial motto, “You are different, so are we,” takes on a completely new meaning when, in terms of politics, you are the different one among the already different crowd. Being politically “different” has made my experience here that much richer. As a freshman, one of the first communal events that I shared with this campus was watching the 2008 election results projected under the tent on the South Lawn. (My professor brought celebratory chocolates into class the next morning.) Enveloped in the insulated heat of that tent, I witnessed my friends rally in blissful anticipation of a brighter future and I understood what a revolutionary moment that was for my country. Still, having surrounded myself with students who have differing ideals has only served to expand my knowledge and solidify my partisan standing.
I’m not looking to argue or preach, but after almost four years of mostly quiet observation and some hefty experience in journalism, I would like to address one point: I don’t understand the issue that everyone has with FOX News. The media is inundated with liberal reporters, anchors, and journalists (Slate, The Huffington Post, The New York Times). FOX is the only major network that airs a news show with a conservative bent. The conservative POV in the media has to be sought out. The liberal one is spoon-fed to us, aided by funny and easy-to-digest (not to mention Emmy-winning) programming like The Colbert Report, The Daily Show, and Saturday Night Live. Those are fun to watch, but as college students about to shape the future of our nation, we should be making the effort to seek out a well-rounded collection of news stories.
Not all Republicans are God-fearing, homo-hating folk. They are often targeted as such by the media, serving to polarize the two major parties even more dramatically than they already are. But the obvious truth is that there are more important matters at stake here for the survival of our country — more important than gay rights and abortion. As a collective body of well-educated American citizens, it is crucial not to get caught up on the “hot button” issues that are pushed in our faces. Those issues are widely covered because they are easy to side with and sensationalize, but they don’t dictate the political identities of many Americans and shouldn’t be the main conditions under which we elect our political leaders. No matter which party or belief you side with, let’s study up and make our own standards. That’s what we Sarah Lawrence students are known for.
Liberal arts don’t have to assume liberal politics. If there’s anything that Sarah Lawrence has taught me, it is to embrace that which makes me think differently, follow its path, be inquisitive, and explore such unique attributes for all that they’re worth. I have had the immense privilege of attending what is, in my opinion, one of the finest colleges in the world and one that is certainly a perfect fit for me. With graduation on the horizon and this gift of an education to bring with me, I could not be more excited to work my ass off building a life for myself and a future family, with hopefully half the success and support that my parents have shared with me.