This sumer, I took part in a fellowship program in New York that drew students from across the country. Towards the end, we had a barbeque in Brooklyn and the conversation turned to politics. In discussing potential vice presidential candidates, Sen. Joseph Biden (D-Del.) came up. One of my colleagues from the Midwest commented, “Oh, they wouldn’t put him on the ticket; he’s also from New England.”
I gently (okay, not so gently) pointed out that Delaware was not in New England, nor did it even border on any New England states. My colleague responded, “Well, where I come from, Delaware is considered part of New England.”
In the name of tolerance of others’ opinions, I could have accepted this statement. But that would have been ridiculous, because he was just wrong. No matter how you slice or dice it, Delaware is not in New England. And while I encourage diversity of viewpoints, I would not support the airing of my colleague’s “opinion” in the media or in a classroom dialogue, not because I disagree with his opinion, but because New England is a clearly defined set of states. There is no room to argue that Delaware is in New England.
This campus was presented with a similar situation with last Wednesday evening’s panel, “Homosexuality and Society,” sponsored by the Tufts Republicans. As most readers are probably aware by now, panelists spoke such gems as “There are only heterosexual people and homosexual problems” and that there is “no such thing as gay people,” while also implying that homosexual activity leads to the death of others.
The panelists discussed what “gay politics” have done to public health, based on completely unsubstantiated claims by individuals with no public health training (an MD does not count), while conveniently ignoring the anti-public health principles promulgated by conservative politics in the realms of sexual education and drug policy.
Tufts Republicans President Nicholas Boyd refers to these comments as “part of the new perspective we want to provide to the campus.” But these are neither new – they are antiquated, disproved fallacies from centuries past – nor perspectives. Rather, like the notion of Delaware being a part of New England or the concept that the world is flat, these statements are just incorrect.
I do not know who Nick Boyd claims he is speaking for, but it is certainly not the majority of Republicans in this country. Regardless of their opinions on same-sex marriage, most Republicans do not challenge the existence of homosexuals, discount the role of genetics in influencing sexual orientation, or label homosexuality in and of itself as a public health problem. Ronald Reagan, the neoconservative icon himself, actually helped defeat a ballot initiative grounded in much of the same rhetoric that would have banned gay teachers from public schools when he was Governor of California.
Boyd and his counterparts in the “conservative” movement at Tufts consistently disrespect the ideals and viewpoints of the majority of Republicans, both at Tufts and in the nation as a whole. Most Republicans are not extremist ideologues like the Tufts Republicans would have one believe. In fact, it should be noted that the Bush administration is more moderate than the Tufts Republicans seem to be.
The Republican Party is not a party grounded on principles of hostility, intolerance, ignorance and hatred. I know many Republicans and I talk to them on a regular basis. (I come from a mixed household; my father is a registered Republican and my mother a Democrat.) Most of the Republican students on this campus actually represent the more moderate wing of the party, which is clearly a product of our geographical location, age group, and educational status. Many of these students recognize the falsity of last Wednesday’s statements and find them quite offensive to their intellect and the notion of a university education.
The Tufts Republicans have been whining about a lack of political diversity in campus dialogue and in the classroom for years. But in ignoring the viewpoints of the majority of Republicans at Tufts, they are discouraging this diversity themselves. While the Republican Party line has embraced a more conservative platform as of late, nowhere has it made claims as outrageous and false as the ones the Tufts group made last week.
In four years here, I have been appalled by the lack of Republican-sponsored events that embrace the core Republican values. The Tufts Republicans do not give enough credence to the socially liberal paradigm that is greatly responsible for convincing individuals like my father, Senators Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), John McCain (R-Ariz.), Olympia Snowe (R-Mass.), Susan Collins (R-Maine) and numerous Tufts students to maintain their party registration with the GOP. Free markets? Fine. Balanced budget? Bring it. Small government? I’m all ears.
In fact, by spewing incorrect, absurd statements, the Tufts Republicans hurt the credibility of the valid viewpoints they do have. After last week’s event, it is easy to see Nick Boyd and the Tufts Republicans as full of hatred, intolerance and ignorance. But these are not the values the Republican Party stands upon.
I urge the majority of Republican students at Tufts to rise up and stand for their valid viewpoints, which are sadly being neglected by their leadership on campus, and to some degree in Washington. I don’t agree with most of these positions, but I’ll at least respect them as viewpoints, instead of the nonsense spewed at events like the one last week.
As for last week’s panel, it probably had no effect except for further tarnishing the reputation of the Republican Party on this campus. For there is no room to argue: Delaware is a Mid-Atlantic State, and gays do exist. And there are even gay Republicans in Delaware.
Adam Pulver is a senior majoring in community health and political science. He can be reached via e-mail at [email protected]<$>