Get Off the Liberal High Horse

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By Louis Rodriguez, Contributing Writer

At NYU, many of us are passionate about fighting for social justice and an open, inclusive environment. Yet this frequently comes in the form of gloating obscured by fake humility. Young progressives who preach compassionate politics must also make an effort to understand viewpoints intensely different from their own.

Protests against hard-right speakers at universities are salient examples of how dangerously easy it is for the fight for equality to teeter toward the restriction of free speech. The social justice warrior brand of college liberals may or may not abuse divergent opinions, but searching for reasons to be offended makes all of us more pretentious. It is way too easy — and cheap — to dump on Trump supporters, and I have made this mistake more than I would like to admit. But the more that we elite urbanites think we’re above the middle-of-nowhere average Joe, the easier it is for us to marginalize that community and the very real worries they have.

If we make an effort to recognize the anxieties that generate extreme voices, it becomes easier to bridge the divide. Internet trolls, neo-Nazis and demonstrable racists are tough company to sympathize with, but these hateful people are still people. They arrived at their opinions the same way we did — a certain set of experiences and educational circumstances produced their specific outlooks. For example, a commonly held viewpoint among the far right is the rejection of multiculturalism because of the belief that immigrants will displacethe economic or social status of some Americans. Hateful actions should never be condoned, respected or allowed, but when we persecute people who hold an opinion that we despise, we only strengthen the views that we want to annihilate, deepening the rift. Educating and empathizing with those we view as misinformed shows compassion and reduces inflammatory polarization on both sides of the spectrum.

Moreover, criticizing the extreme aspects of conservatism without acknowledging our own fringe behavior is rather regressive, especially since we’re not the only ones assuming that the vocal extreme of a party represents their entire philosophy. When you can see where your faceless political enemy is coming from, you can better realize where you stand in their eyes, and hopefully gain an ounce of modesty in the process.

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Email Louis Rodriguez at [email protected]