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That’s it. I’m switching parties.

Leila Green | Tuesday, September 4, 2012

It worked. I am no longer a member of the handout-asking, illegal alien smuggling, abortion-getting gang of socialists otherwise known as Democrats. I’m a Republican now. I can attribute this sudden change of heart to my own stupidity. I guess I was too busy rigging elections and hanging up Obama posters in my dorm. What caused this sudden change in belief? Your compelling argument. You really outdid yourself this time. I’m thoroughly persuaded. Everything I once believed with utmost conviction has been proved invalid. You’re right: tax breaks to the rich always trickle down, gay marriage is wrong and the government shouldn’t be helping those poor people so much. What was I thinking? All I needed was a little convincing to come over from the dark side.

You know those polarizing political debates we sometimes have in class or in the dining hall? Those debates in which you are sincerely convinced that you can persuade the other person that you are right? The ones that are supposed to end with: “You know what Mike, you ARE right. We Republicans are stupid, greedy and don’t know anything about the real world. It IS a woman’s choice. Now where do I sign up for College Democrats?” At which point your now former Republican crony is supposed to remove himself from the College Republican’s Listserv and quit his job as Editor-in-Chief of the Irish Rover. How realistic is the expectation of a sudden, complacent change of opinion?

At least once a month while eating in the dining hall, the people down the table treat me to a heated abortion debate that goes absolutely nowhere. With the first audible utterance of “abor-” I promptly cover my ears, hum loudly and enter a catatonic state that may or may not also be prompted by the gay marriage debate happening at the table behind me.

Be honest. When we enter political debates with people of different parties, it isn’t some carefully coordinated catharsis. In such case they would be passive-aggressive mentions of our beliefs shared over tea, Prozac and suggestively placed Right to Life flyers.

We want to hear what they have to say, judge it (and them) and then change their mind using valid, sound arguments. We scheme for that “aha!” moment when so and so changes his or her mind and emerges from ignorance to enlightenment. I fantasize about this moment. I can already picture the balloons fall from the sky as the Republican Party disbands, and the glorious trumpets sound from the heavens. Will it ever happen? No. Am I okay with that? Yes. Or else, whom could I argue with, and what would motivate me into political action? We need opposition. We need something to ignite our fire. There is no sense in preaching to the choir.

Of course, frustration or difficulty should not prompt us to avoid political discourse. If we did, we would be treading some awkward political purgatory where Republicans and Democrats are giving each other the silent treatment, which, in a sense, is currently happening. I think we can all agree that stimulating, intellectual conversations across party lines centered on political issues are generally good. Mussolini and Kim Jong-il did not principally agree with this. Need I say more?

People tend to hold steadfast to their beliefs. This is both admirable and frustrating. It is admirable because it keeps us from entering political purgatory. It is frustrating because with the fervor that I believe a birther is ignorant, they may think the same of me. That is a disconcerting, rather horrifying thought, but what keeps me sane is knowing that we have free will and are entitled to our own opinions as long as they do not endanger others.

The spectrum of political and moral belief is truly fascinating. It is amazing how one person can believe that the death penalty is wrong while another may believe that it is totally acceptable. The lives we have led define our beliefs. The complexity of our history, experiences and influences factor into what we think is wrong, what we think is right and whom we will vote for.

Our democracy allows for freedom of belief. Believe what you want as long as it does not cause harm. Argue all you want as long as you listen as much as you speak. It is very hard to change someone’s opinion; they have to do that on their own. Ultimately, be thankful that you have the freedom to express your opinions and take advantage of your ability to cultivate them. The absence of discourse indicates apathy. Keep your ears attentive and your mind open.

Leila Green can be reached at lgreen2@nd.edu

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.