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Seeing the other side

| Monday, March 27, 2017

In my Intercultural Communication class, our final project is spending three hours a week with a community whose beliefs and culture differs from our own. I’ve always believed small government is the best system for our country, so I consider myself a Republican. However, since the election, I’ve felt small government is not the best way to describe the Republican party’s beliefs. Instead, it seems like all they focus on are social issues, which I’m not always sure I completely agree with the party on. Furthermore, the rhetoric has gone from supporting conservative values to spreading hate. Still, I am a member of College Republicans, so I decided to spend time with College Democrats.

Recently, I went to my first College Democrats meeting. We started off discussing healthcare. One student mentioned that a medication she’s taken for years is normally free, but recently when she went to fill her prescription, it suddenly cost her over $100. I’m not sure if those changes are because of the Trump administration or not, but it was scary to hear. We need to consider not only how healthcare laws affect our own lives, but also others, because you never know when the tables will be turned.

The discussion evolved from healthcare to campus climate. Instead of specific policies, we talked about how students on campus feel. I found myself agreeing with the College Democrats more than I ever thought I would. We agreed that as straight white students, we can never fully understand the struggles of minority students, but we need to make a real effort to listen to their stories, make connections and be empathetic.

A freshman mentioned that though she hasn’t even been on campus a full year, she feels a lot of tension in the air. All of us upperclassmen agreed this tension didn’t exist when we were freshmen. However, though there is more tension, we also see progress. I see ways in which Saint Mary’s is more accepting now than ever before. Some professors ask students their preferred gender pronouns. I’ve seen students travel to Women’s Marches and the Dakota Access oil pipeline. In my Intercultural Communication class, the dialogue I hear is all about how students want to build connections and look out for their fellow Belles, regardless of differences.

At first, I thought this project was going to be a huge drag. Who wants to spend three hours a week out of their comfort zone? But as I’ve immersed myself in it, I see the value of doing this. I’ve discovered that while I may not agree with College Democrats on everything, we all agree on certain fundamental principles. I see that I don’t need to automatically agree with what Republicans think is best, and my political beliefs can be fluid instead of locking myself into one side. I’ve discovered that having a respectful, meaningful conversation with the other side is possible, and even though we disagree on how to get there sometimes, in the end, we all just want what’s best for our country.

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

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