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A liberal’s survival guide to Notre Dame

| Thursday, August 20, 2020

Medicare for all, women should control their own bodies, Elizabeth Warren, people shouldn’t be able to purchase assault rifles, social justice reform, AOC, climate change is real and caused by humans, Bernie Sanders … Now that all the conservatives have stopped reading this column, the rest of us can finally talk amongst ourselves. Welcome to the liberal’s survival guide to living at Notre Dame!

If you’re like me, there are several conservative, bizarre and downright archaic customs, people and policies at Notre Dame that make you want to bash your head through a wall. Maybe it’s that the University refuses to provide birth control options for students and, surprising no one, consequently has one of the highest rates of sexually transmitted infections in the country. Maybe it’s our rectors’ infatuation with enforcing parietals, often more strictly in female dorms than male dorms. Or maybe it’s your brand new first year roommate who plastered their side of the room with MAGA apparel, so that you wake up in the morning with a picture of Mike Pence looming over your toothbrush. Whatever the reason, you’re not alone. I have compiled a few tips and tricks that may help you survive even the most painful of conservative nonsense that comes your way.

As an important disclaimer, I am a white, heterosexual, Christian male. Students and faculty at Notre Dame face unfair bias, discrimination, stereotyping and even hate based on their gender identity, sexual orientation, race and religious preference. I have not experienced any of this unfair treatment and do not pretend to speak on behalf of the individuals who have.

  1. Know the warning signs for when you’re about to get pummeled by right-wing talking points. One of the most helpful steps to dealing with conservative culture at Notre Dame is to know when it’s coming. In good news, conservative students are absolutely terrible at keeping their political opinions discrete. For example, I have probably seen more ‘Reagan-Bush’ t-shirts on this campus than HERE stickers. Clothing isn’t the only way to spot a Republican, however, laptop stickers are another excellent way to detect conservatives. If you see any of the following stickers, just put some headphones in and walk the other way: Center for Ethics and Culture, YAF, the Knights of Columbus Spectacular (those guys are a hoot), the Right to Life Club or a large, discolored elephant. In recognizing these signs, you will have a greater ability to pick and choose when your day becomes completely derailed by wannabe right-wing talking heads.
  2. You’re going to disagree with people, and that’s okay. In this column I give conservatives a bad rap (often in ill-advised attempts at humor) and it’s not totally fair of me to do. In reality, some of the closest and best friends I’ve made in college are conservatives. Yes, we disagree on key issues of policy, but we are able to recognize our differences and move past them via productive dialogue. Political affiliation should not be a litmus test for friendship. Additionally, disagreement is vital to a healthy political environment. I highly encourage you to engage with your conservative peers on important political and social issues. These conversations contain in them the potential to enhance your political, spiritual, and educational growth, and secure the bonds of friendship.
  3. Sometimes you’re going to disagree with people, and it’s not okay. While healthy disagreement over some issues is a good thing, there are some issues, personal to each individual, that are dealbreakers. Disagreement over policy is one thing, but disagreement over ethics and morality is another. You will run into other students or faculty who hold a fundamentally opposing moral view than yourself over deeply personal issues. It is okay to distance yourself from that person to protect your own mental health and well-being. I would always encourage discussion and debate, but there are times when it’s best to just make like Kelly Clarkson and ‘walk away.’
  4. Make other liberal friends to vent to. You know that one scene from The Office when Andy punches a hole through the wall after Jim pranks his ringtone? Yeah, don’t be like Andy. Conservative absurdity can at times feel relentless, so you’ll need to find times to vent and wash it all off. Get together with a group of friends –– socially distant and with masks of course –– and just let loose. This can be like your little happy place bubble, a quarantine from right-wing senselessness, if you will. A good reset like this allows you to stay focused on school and other responsibilities without going insane.

I hope these little pieces of advice help you as you traverse the rocky landscape of conservative culture at Notre Dame. Even if they don’t, fear not; I’ll be back here in two weeks with another column full of progressive hot takes that will hopefully get you through the week. Until then, stay woke my friends, and please, for the love of God, wear a mask.

Clark Bowden is a senior political science major. When he is not sleeping through his alarm or reminding people that he studied abroad, he can be found having heated political debates or watching the Washington Nationals play baseball. He can be reached at [email protected] or @BowdenClark on Twitter.

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

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