I used to be Liberal, then I came to Mac

By Scott Macdonell

In passing conversation I have heard this sentiment echoed by a few other seniors: I was definitely less liberal than the average Macalester student when I arrived here. How did such a liberal environment have the effect of pushing me away from the left?I like to consider myself a thoughtful person. Iƒ?TMve spent a great deal of time thinking about why I hold the political beliefs that I do. As such, when people make a case for some policy they often mention arguments I have already considered. Therefore, even when I hear a good argument, I tend to be swayed very little. However, when I hear a bad argument I notice, and end up associating their conclusion with that bad argument.

At Macalester people rarely seem to question liberal arguments. This leads to studentsƒ?TM carelessness when supporting positions on the left. It seems that as long as one touches on the general idea, people will understand the true points, and an effective argument will be made. However, this only works with likeminded people who are willing to give the arguer the benefit of the doubt (granted, this may be most of the Macalester community). If this is your mind set it seems just as useful to say something like ƒ?oeYay generic liberal idea!ƒ?? and be done with it. This would affirm your support for the liberal idea and be just as useful in influencing others. In fact it might be more useful as you donƒ?TMt run the risk of saying something offensive or just plain dumb that others would then associate with your position.

For example, last semester some were offended when in a piece entitled, ƒ?oeDavid Jonas Insults you and your Major,ƒ?? Jonas made a suicide joke about creative writing majors. Someone responded in a Mac Weekly editorial and noted a statistic relating the creative writing major to suicide among college students and stated that Jonasƒ?TMs comment somehow implied that all these incidents were committed by creative writing majors. First of all, you canƒ?TMt reason with a joke. Second of all, even if you could, the reasoning is blatantly flawed. All creative writing majors try and commit suicide does not imply that all people who try and commit suicide are creative writing majors. I canƒ?TMt believe I just had to write that; it was wrong on so many levels.

In the Feb. 10 edition of the Mac Weekly, Brendan Duke (ƒ?oeThe Rightƒ?TMs rights are the wrong rightsƒ??) responded to a Feb. 3 opinion piece by Joseph Schultz (ƒ?oeSo what are rights, anyway?ƒ??). Schultz initially argued that we need to preserve more of our negative rights, or (to simplify) rights which allow us to do as we please provided we donƒ?TMt interfere with others rights. Implicit in his argument was that we would give up some of our positive rights, which he calls ƒ?oeentitlements.ƒ?? His conclusion included, ƒ?oeOf course it is not practical to have only negative rights in a society.ƒ??

Duke, in his response, demonstrates how dumb it would be to have a society without police protection, and asks if perhaps ƒ?oethose who reject positive rights might just be calling positive rights they donƒ?TMt like unjust and not others.ƒ??

While he hints at an interesting question, the way he gets there is at best careless and at worst misleading. Iƒ?TMve never heard anyone flat out reject all positive rights. He argues an obvious point that had even been explicitly conceded in the piece to which he was responding. To anyone who didnƒ?TMt read or remember Schultzƒ?TMs wording, this made Shultzƒ?TMs argument look very dumb. We call it unfair when Fox News responds to a ƒ?oeWar on Christmasƒ?? that liberals never waged. Why do we not hold ourselves to the same standard?

Furthermore, making bad liberal arguments makes it even harder for good ones to get through. In an editorial in the Feb. 17 edition of the Mac Weekly, David Boehnke (ƒ?oeStereotypes, whiteness and a grain of saltƒ??) claimed that stereotypes are a ƒ?oeway of explaining the world, or enforcing and justifying privilege and discrimination.ƒ?? Due to my previous encounters with similar statements, I assumed Boehnke meant that we consciously create stereotypes for this purpose, a statement I personally find offensive. After talking with Boehnke and rereading the piece, itƒ?TMs clear that he says no such thing. He was merely noting that stereotypes cause that result. The poor arguments of others nearly caused me to discount a piece which made some valid points.

Many liberal Macalester students put a lot of thought and effort into some of their arguments. Those who donƒ?TMt unfortunately seem to be especially loud and opinionated. If you want to support your cause and arenƒ?TMt willing to put a little bit of care into your argument, perhaps you should just not say anything at all.