As someone who writes some pretty opinionated stuff, I am fully aware and accepting of the idea that people may disagree with me, and may respond to my columns in the format of a viewpoint. As a result, I have never used a response to one of my columns as the basis for another column. Simply put, there’s no point to an endless back-and-forth on the Viewpoints page.
However, this week I will make an exception. For in her viewpoint (“Students for Kerry Respond” March 10 ), Elizabeth Richardson went beyond disagreeing with my ideas about the campaign of her candidate of choice John Kerry, and actually challenged my motivation and right to write about those ideas. I think her piece of press release-prose can teach us a lot about how we handle controversy on campus.
I would love to see John Kerry in the White House instead of George W. Bush. However, I find the attitude of many of his supporters so offensive that I cannot work on his campaign. That’s a bad thing, and maybe something Kerry supporters should think about that. Perhaps instead of rushing to judgment, and labeling me as “misdirected,” actually think about why I, a committed Democrat, cannot get excited about my party’s likely Presidential nominee. Because there are other people who may actually vote for someone else because they’re bored to tears by your candidate and are revolted by the swarm and political polish that even his student volunteers emanate.
Most people don’t write viewpoints just to piss people off. They have something to say, often something that has not been said before in a public space. So maybe we should actually consider the arguments people make on this page, because they’re writing because they want to see change. But people on this campus have a knee-jerk reaction to criticism and opposing views. If someone says something you don’t agree with, the first thing to do is write a viewpoint back, tearing that person apart.
Yes, I say tearing the person, and not their ideas. Too often, the debates on this page and on this campus quickly become personal. Strangely, in response to my own columns, more students on the left (particularly the middle “New Democrat” left) have attacked me via e-mail and verbal criticism, even though I clearly am no conservative. Conservative students on this campus, though, have disagreed with me with respect, recognizing the validity of my writing to express my views. I have actually been told by some of my self-identified ‘liberal’ friends that I should stop writing, because I’m “pissing people off.”
Perhaps my style as a columnist has not been abundantly clear this year. As a columnist with the Daily, I feel it is my obligation to share my feelings on topics of current interest. They can be liberal, conservative, political, humorous, whatever. I have never written in this column about a personal issue, and I never will. I will never discuss someone who has not chosen to be in the public limelight. But, if you do something in public, and I disagree with you, and no one else seems to be calling you on it, you should bet on the fact that I will be talking about you come Monday. I would not be a responsible journalist if I didn’t.
There are some people in life that will talk about what they are really feeling about an issue. In fact, there are some people who think it is their responsibility to share their true thoughts. Then, there are people who think that you should only speak out if no one will be offended and if no potential votes are lost. I am in the former. The people I’ve met in the Kerry campaign are in the latter. To call the hostility expressed in last week’s column ‘misdirected’ is simply wrong, because it is the supporters of Kerry that I dislike.
I don’t know John Kerry personally. I do know many of his supporters on this campus. And I don’t agree with their political philosophies. I just don’t like them. So November for me will be a choice of the lesser of two evils. The question that I grapple with, though, is whether it is fair to judge a presidential candidate by the people he surrounds himself with. This was the reasoning behind my inclusion of Jeanne Shaheen in last week’s piece. Presidents appoint a lot of people who have direct control of government projects and agencies. When we vote for a presidential candidate, we do not vote for one man. We vote for a regime. And let’s face it: many student supporters of Kerry would love to be part of that regime.
In my life, I have seen that the only way to affect change is usually by making a stink about the situation. It is my hope that in commenting on what I see as problems on this campus, I will affect some change. Students for Kerry shouldn’t feel singled out (not just because I never mentioned their organization). I’ve criticized numerous people and organizations on this page. That doesn’t mean I want to see them fail. If I did, I wouldn’t waste my time and yours by writing about them. Think about it: if a pundit talked about Kerry’s moderate-ness and lack of dynamism, you wouldn’t write a letter to the network berating the pundit. People would listen, including those in the Kerry campaign. Bottom line: nobody’s perfect, we could all benefit from listening to criticism now and then.
Adam Pulver is a junior majoring in political science and community health. He can be reached at [email protected]