Politics in the Community
Just recently everyone at St. Lawrence received an email about reestablishing and revitalizing the SLU Republicans club. The reasoning behind this was that many republicans here at St. Lawrence feel alienated talking about their political beliefs at such a liberal university, especially after such a divisive presidential campaign, and, as a result, often sit quietly and listen to the pervasive democratic ideals spread both in and out of class. Personally, I think this is a very good thing since exposure to a diversity of opinions is vital to the goals of the liberal arts approach and is even more vital to being a good citizen in our modern age.
Here on the farm we’re a very self-selected group, meaning we all chose to be involved, and as such most of us have very similar political views. Now, I haven’t outright asked many people where they stand, but most seem to be very entrenched on the left and sometimes far left. In this case, I’m very much the outlier. I think of myself as very moderate with inclinations either left or right depending on the topic at hand; but, I am a registered Republican. Now, I could easily talk about the times that I’ve felt like the only one who disagreed with something said in a casual conversation or listened to a professor rail against something I felt was my right to believe in, but complaining like that is boring so I won’t. Instead, I’ll talk about by favorite part of being the political outsider: playing devil’s advocate.
One of the first nights we were together as a group during our orientation, the topic of gun control came up in conversation (I know, we weren’t shy about talking about the big issues!). Everyone involved in the conversation all agreed that no one should need a gun for anything other than maybe hunting and that only the government could have any possible need for an ‘assault rifle’. I brought up the American Revolution and how it couldn’t have possibly succeeded if the Americans had not had similar weaponry to the British. Someone offered the response that our Second Amendment was conceived when there were only muskets capable of three shots in a minute, depending on the skill of the shooter. I brought up the fact that there were early revolvers capable of firing much faster than that. Now, did I change anyone’s mind that night? No, probably not, but I did make people think about something from a different perspective.
So, as a group, I think there are some benefits to similar political ideologies, it certainly cuts down on the potential for name calling, but there are challenges too. Challenge is what allows us to grow as individuals and bond as a community, so a complete mental monoculture can be a disastrous as an agricultural one. My hope is that by playing devil’s advocate, and by nature of being a Republican in general, I can make people reflect on their own beliefs and reconcile the fact that everyone truly is different even among those with similar interests. In the end, I don’t see myself ever being the type to constantly remind you that I’m a Republican, but I won’t let you forget either. You can count on it.