Staff Editorial: Where are all the submissions?

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As misinformation swirled and lawmakers bickered over specifics, President Obama finally stepped up September 9 to outline his most detailed plan yet for a health care overhaul and urge Congress not to waste time in reaching a bipartisan agreement. The president criticized those lawmakers who have circulating false rumors about health care reform, but invited Republican aid in expanding coverage. After stating that the health plan would cost no more than $900 billion in ten years, Obama reiterated his support for a state insurance plan that would compete with private insurers. Much of his speech dealt with the moral imperative of extending coverage to the millions of Americans who are uninsurable or cannot afford insurance, and assuring these citizens that the new plan would indeed be in their favor.

Regardless of what Obama’s healthcare speech meant to the Macalester students who span the political spectrum, the address raised a powerful question: when is it finally time to speak?

Every week students use this section of The Mac Weekly to voice their opinions, but submissions are usually scant and even the most well-crafted arguments rarely seem to spark the debates that we’d expect from a smart, engaged student body.

What gives? Walking to class, overhearing all those smart, engaging conversations, I wonder why so few of these people ever submit. Where are the people who care about good journalism and support independent media, who work to provide space for difference, who applied to Macalester because it’s a place where you can be yourself and have a sense of community?

Hell, where are those people who won’t shut up in class?

The Mac Weekly is independent and student-run; everyone’s welcome to participate. The paper reflects the interests and opinions of our community and when students don’t use this space to voice their thoughts, their silence ends up speaking for them.

We think one of the explanations for the lack of submissions may be the campus size. Our small size doesn’t mean there should be fewer people interested in submitting, but it does create a culture where we get our information by word of mouth, and familiarity with other students makes us feel like being opinionated is always stepping on someone’s toes.

But if we assume that we already know everything and everyone (and so does everyone else), we also assume a general sense of agreement that just isn’t true.

At an overwhelmingly liberal school, this assumption may be reflective of a larger phenomenon of the Left: the desire to avoid internal debate and present a united front against opposition.

An assumption of rightness is implicit in this desire, and sometimes we’re willing to settle just as long as we can still feel like we were right all along.

Watching the debate over public healthcare slowly and then rapidly slip out of Democrats’ hands, it was painfully apparent that they were content to hang out on the moral high ground. Hopefully Obama’s speech was a reminder that good things take time, not that the time to speak up was too little, too late.

But until then, there’s no time like the present.

When you publish your opinion in The Mac Weekly, you’ve taken the time to develop your opinion, you’ve found a style for your thoughts, and even more importantly, you’ve opened yourself to the honest opinions of strangers.

You may be worried about looking like a blowhard, but politicizing the personal can also be a humble act of good faith, a respectful invitation to others to do the same.

Speaking up about an opinion can feel like a big risk, but it’s worth it.

How do we know? We don’t, it’s an opinion.