Relationships should trump politics

When I first decided to write an opinion piece for the Review, I assumed some wave of inspiration would immediately hit me, and I would have an excellent topic to write about. Naturally, this did not happen.

For a length of time, I seriously considered writing about my preference of ice cream cake over regular cake and pie. Dairy Queen ice cream cake, none of that Safeway frozen pie nonsense.

However, in line at Dillin Hall Monday night, I witnessed an event that sparked something in me that has been simmering on the backburner for
some time.

I was waiting in line and only remotely paying attention to the conversation two people in front of me were having. It was something Obama/McCain related, and I wasn’t really interested in the punch line, although it seemed the cook was.

My attention was refocused when the cook asked a male student if he really believed in all “this Republicanism.” The student replied yes, and he said he was a Republican. The cook stopped what he was doing and began pacing behind the counter. He eventually came back to his job and, through gritted teeth, said to the student, “Because I love my job I am going to keep my mouth shut, but I live close to campus, and it is likely that we will see each other again. At that time, be prepared to have a conversation with me about this.”

The particulars of his residence were more specific, but I won’t go into detail. The student laughed and made a joke about his food being safe and high-tailed it out of there.

After he left, the cook said, “How can someone so young be so cynical?”

I couldn’t believe what I had seen. Not only was this a completely inappropriate place to have that type of confrontation, but the idea that such a discussion could even happen was mind-boggling.

I have been dwelling over this for a while. Why is it that a young Republican should be more hesitant to share his or her political beliefs than a young Democrat? I tracked down the student who was the center of the scene and asked him what he thought. He said he would never deny he was a Republican, but he also doesn’t go around blurting it out to people. He knows if he did he would get into more debates and might even lose friends.

Is this what it has come to? That people’s friendships are contentious based on whom they are voting for in this election?

You may wonder why I even care. Honestly, I do not know. Maybe it’s because I have felt this struggle myself, and I have never been quite sure how to approach it. During the years I have gotten quite good at keeping my mouth shut, but why should I feel obligated to?

Some of my closest friends are on the Review staff with me, and if you have been reading the opinions and editorials throughout the semester, you will know the majority of the staff will be voting for Obama. While I think that is great, and I am glad my friends are so politically involved, I was afraid if I rose my hand and said, “You know guys, I’m a Republican,” I would lose some of those friendships.

I realize now this is not the case, and if it was, I was not really meant to have those friends to begin with. The fact that I was concerned about it says a lot about the times we live in.

As I contemplated, I realized I was afraid someone would associate me with negative stereotypes of Republicans (which I really don’t feel fit who I am). But at the same time I was stereotyping them in the sense that they wouldn’t like me if I thought differently.

I decided, in order to get the guts to publish this, I needed to speak with someone whom I consider a good friend but who possesses different political views. However, he didn’t know that we don’t see eye to eye on all issues, and I needed to be sure that once they did, things wouldn’t be any different.

I guess you could say it was a way to see if what I had been all fired up about was accurate. Do Democrats indeed have it easier expressing their views without feeling intimidated versus Republicans on campus? He agreed. I felt much better.

Isn’t the time we spend in college a time to explore and speak up for what we think, or what we think we think, and learn for ourselves what we want, compared to just going along with whatever happens to be popular? The election time is now. I may be a Republican, but that doesn’t mean I am like every other Republican you have ever heard of or met. You may be a Democrat, but I know you may not be like every other Democrat I have ever heard of or met.

Know what you’re talking about, and I will respect whatever you think, and I expect the same in return.

Don’t be afraid to speak up, but I also recommend knowing when to keep your mouth shut. Especially in line at Dillin.

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