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A Blue Dot In A Sea Of Red: Being Liberal At A Conservative Leaning College

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John Althouse Cohen

I’ve lived most of my life in Charlotte, North Carolina, and I consider it my home. Charlotte is a melting pot of people from diverse ethnicities, religions, cultures, and socioeconomic backgrounds which makes Charlotte a unique city from the rest of the state of North Carolina. Charlotte is also one of the fastest growing cities in the United States. While I am not going to get into specifics of my family’s issues, I have very strong personal reasons as to why I lean left, politically speaking. My immediate family has endured plenty of hardships that many families will not ever have to think about or go through, so I think I have a unique perspective. To get an idea of where I stand politically, I “Feel the Bern”.

When I used to hear the words “Conservative” or “Republican”, it made me visualize a disconnected, outdated, irrelevant political theory from the current issues that are going on in modern day America. It never occurred to me that millennials, unless they are very religious, would strongly identify as a conservative either. When speaking with friends in Charlotte about politics, most of them would make comments like; “Most Republicans are old people anyway and eventually they will die out. Republicanism will soon be a thing of the past”. I will admit that I know it is a politically incorrect statement, but I also believed its inevitability to be correct as this was what I knew to be true.

In my first semester of college, I left my progressive city of Charlotte for the picture perfect splendor of a school set in a rural area of Virginia. I was completely unprepared for the culture shock I was about to experience. I found myself surrounded by some very wealthy young women who boarded their horses at the school and wore pearl necklaces and lots of pink. I was awestruck when I was accepted with a tremendous scholarship. This was the kind of school that was way out of my family’s financial league and it made me feel special. I committed right away, without thinking it through and even when I had time to reflect and wanted to back out, I couldn’t speak up to say no to such a gift for the sake of disappointing my family.

Not only was this college completely different from my home, but it, as well as our brother school, leaned conservative, which I had not anticipated. I assumed all college campuses that didn’t have a religious affiliation or was a military school were liberal. It was the first time in my life where I wasn’t with people who had the same view of the world or life circumstances as mine. To add insult to injury, I had the unfortunate experience of attending this school during the horrible presidential election of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. I could not believe how other college campuses reacted over the election results. In comparison to my college, it was unaffected for the most part and carried on like any normal day. In fact, most students on my college campus voted for Donald Trump. This result forced me to listen to their ideas and sometimes made me question, challenge, and affirm my own political convictions. Despite only being there for one semester, I learned so much about what being a conservative was all about while learning more about myself in the process.

I transferred after my first semester and currently attend a college back in North Carolina, where most students lean far to the left and possibly even a little farther than my personal sensibilities, which is a bit of a culture shock itself. Going from one extreme to the other in a single school year, to say the least, has been eye opening. These engagements at both colleges led me to be much more forbearing, knowledgeable, and considerate of all sides and positions in the political party battleground. I can now take a step back, look at the big picture, and not just applaud for my side but criticize both parties on some of the social and economic issues they have pushed forth or maybe worse not defended with regard to its real implications on American lives.

Whether you identify as a Democrat or as a Republican, because of the polarizations in our hometowns, big cities and worst of all in Washington D.C., our ability to engage in civil conversations when discussing opposing views is crippling. All the platitudes and bickerings have made it impossible to hear one another. If we could just listen earnestly to what each is saying we surely would uncover plenty of similarities rather than differences. Instead of assuming “all liberals hate America” or “all conservatives are racist”, we as Americans need to have intellectual discussions on politics with one another while keeping an open mind and being respectful in the process. We are guilty in one way or another of wearing our team’s jersey and sticking with them whether they play fair or not. We need to start rooting for individual candidates with ideologies that advocate for everyone’s America, not the losing “block” parties. TC mark

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