Just as I was leaving English class today, I scrolled through my Facebook and saw that you had launched a massive attack on me and my Student Government candidacy on the 2,000-strong Davidson College class page. Forgive me for the late response – I needed time to gather myself, and most of all, the time to answer the people who have reached out to me, asked me how I’m doing, and showed their support for me – both in your comments section, and privately in a message to me. I’m grateful to them for everything they have done for me.
First of all, I’m flattered that because of a set of political opinions that I have, you are so bent on attacking me that you would comb through months and months of my Wall and strip quotes from a couple, moderately read articles that I wrote just to take a cheap shot against me in the middle of a Student Government Election that you have no stake in, whose bylaws you broke. You seemed so intent on landing a big punch on me that you ignored SGA rules, Davidson College Community practices, and basic human decency to do it. You’re risking a lot on that punch, brother.
You see, Nick, your post – on our college’s Facebook page, spawning a firestorm of comments before it was taken down – proves exactly the point that I’ve been trying to get across for the past year. About Davidson. About college. About how conservatives are, through a variety of strategies and sting tactics from people like you, silenced from speaking their minds on campus. You see, I’m wired a little differently from most people. I can take it when you decide to go full berserk on me simply because I publish political views – views that in no way, shape or form harm you, views that have no bearing on your life, views that I express simply because I want to. But some can’t. Many fear expressing themselves on campus. Many see the vitriolic backlash that greets way too many conservatives who dare post on social media and the chilling effect occurs: they feel discouraged from posting anything remotely conservative themselves, knowing it is likely they would get personally attacked and insulted for the things that they put on Facebook.
I anger you. I get it. I anger you because I post what I want and I don’t conform to that norm. But I’ve never insulted you. I’ve never questioned your character on social media. I never tried to undermine your candidacy for anything.
I’ll tell you what I did do: one time, and I have footage of it in the comments, you posted an article about abortion, supporting a pro-choice standpoint. I commented, supporting a pro-life viewpoint. It was the only time I ever commented on anything you ever sent. You deleted my comment. You deleted my comment and then you messaged me and you said you deleted it because “it really wasn’t worth [your] time or effort” to engage with it. That’s up to you. You have the right to curate your Facebook as you please. That’s fine.
The next thing I messaged to you was asking you whether you would like to have a lunch sometime to discuss this issue. You said maybe. I replied, asking you to set up a time (“Maybe next week”). You never got back to me. That’s fine too. You have a right to reject my invitation.
But my point is, you never made any effort to get to know me. I know a guy, an avowed liberal, who sat down with me at Summit Coffee the other day to discuss conservatism. Did I turn him into a conservative? Not necessarily. But I helped him to understand my viewpoint – and he helped me understand his. He and I found that we were similar on some things that you wouldn’t have thought. We helped each other. Now? We’re friends. He reached out and opened his mind. You stayed on Facebook and closed your heart.
I was careful to not make my candidacy about politics. I believe the radical thing that a conservative can still represent one-fifth of the Sophomore student body honorably and with passion for your causes. Even after what you said, so directly and crudely, against me, I still want to hear you out. Your voice matters to me greatly. Even if mine doesn’t matter to you.
I still want to extend to you that invitation today. Perhaps a lunch, or a coffee sometime? Or better yet, why don’t you come to a YAF general body meeting one of these days? I think you’d be surprised at the depth of discussion that we have there of conservatives of all stripes. Some days, our debates get so testy we’re yelling from one side of the room to another. But I’m most proud of this: no one ever calls each other names. Everyone listens to each other. And at the end, we always get together for pizza and fist-bumps.
I want it to be the same way between you and me.
But I understand if you want to close yourself off from me. From “the other side.” In that case, I can’t stop you from continue to go on your diatribes, attacking conservatives like me, scoring points with your friends and dismissing out of contempt the people who have different opinions than you.
The invitation is there, Nicholas. Please, for God’s sake, take it.
P.S: I also want to highlight a couple defenses that were particularly important for these times. These people may agree nothing with me politics-wise, but they each contributed valuable points that helped better frame the conversation in a way that I personally can’t.
Life is More than Politics – by Kenny Xu
“It’s easy for me to just go on and on and on about politics. In politics, you don’t need personal vulnerability; a blunt focus and a quick tongue will suffice. In the age of 140 characters, who needs a face-to-face conversation anymore, after all…”