Context matters, but there is no excuse
Ashton Weber | Tuesday, November 3, 2020
Every year around Halloween, I love seeing throwback pictures of my friends in their cringiest childhood costumes. It’s always funny to see the people you know so well in a context that you’ve never seen before. But, when it comes time to share my worst Halloween costume, I have to preface with a self-deprecating joke about how much my politics have shifted. Why? Because, in 2008, I dressed up as Sarah Palin.
Something I value a lot is context. I like to know where people are coming from and how they ended up where they are. It’s incredibly important to look at the bigger picture before you can make moral judgements of an entire human being (even though it’s often much easier to just judge). From some of the context I have shared in past columns and the fun costume fact I just shared, you can probably guess that I grew up very conservative.
Obviously, as an eight-year-old, I couldn’t hold my own political views, and my outward displays of conservatism were reflections of what I learned from my environment. But, as I grew older, it took me a long time to finally reject conservatism and embrace progressivism. So, it’s historically been easier for me to have mercy on people my own age and older who actively embrace political agendas that seek to completely debase my human rights and those of many of my peers. In the past, I’ve been quick to think about why someone might be making a certain political decision through the context of their family life, social circles, career aspirations, etc. Even if I didn’t agree with the choice someone made, I tried my best to understand why they were making it.
However, this year feels different. In the past weeks, I’ve seen many posts on social media that claim things like “if we’re friends and you vote for Trump, we’re still friends. If we’re friends and you vote for Biden, we’re still friends.” Where I was able to “see both sides” in 2016 and 2018, I no longer have the emotional capacity to understand people who vote for a man who cannot even denounce white supremacist domestic terrorists.
Since arriving at college, I have shifted much farther to the political left and, this year, I have finally made friends who are active in leftist discourse on campus. Through research and conversations with my peers and professors, I have come to recognize that the Republican party in the U.S. has become dominated by right-wing extremists and that what they call the “radical left” (aka Joe Biden and Kamala Harris) should actually be called the center.
All this is to say that Biden is not my ideal candidate either. He doesn’t support the Green New Deal or believe that the police need to be defunded. There are multiple accusations of sexual harassment and assault against him and he’s failed to defend LGBTQ+ rights in the past.
But, Joe Biden does not pose nearly as much of an “existential threat to the future of our people, our nation and our planet” as Donald Trump does. I could spend hours discussing how detrimental another four years of Trump America would be, so I’ll leave these resources here if you need more information. I think I’ve made my political position very clear, and that’s not what I want to talk about in this column anyway.
This past week, when I was at the demonstration against Jenkins’ support of Amy Coney Barrett, I saw some peers and professors marching in a counter-protest to congratulate her confirmation, and their presence felt like a slap in the face. There I was with my friends and peers, feeling more supported and welcome at this school than I ever have in five semesters, and an entire crowd of people decided to make it known that they don’t believe we should be included.
What I want to address is the fact that today is a particularly painful day that signifies the end of a particularly painful election season, in the midst of an extraordinarily painful global crisis. Those who already exist outside of the societal norm have been pushed further to the edges of society, while those who typically prosper have become even more profitable. We’ve watched our University align itself with a Supreme Court nomination that could harm the rights of thousands of members of the Notre Dame family, once again limiting the scope of who truly belongs HERE.
Where I may have previously been able to understand those counter protesters (because I would have probably been one of them in 2008), the excruciating detail to which the Trump administration’s failures and bigotry have been documented makes it clear to me that people are choosing to ignore truth and justice in favor of party lines.
So, if you’re someone who will be most impacted by the aftermath of this presidential election, I want to name that you are allowed to feel angry that your peers, your University, your family, your friends and your fellow citizens may have voted against you. Yes, everyone has the capacity to learn and grow and make better decisions in the future. But, at this point, your immediate mental health and personal safety are the most important things.
You do not need to stay close to people who don’t respect you enough to vote in your favor. Yes, context matters, but there is no valid excuse for voting for Donald Trump.
Ashton Weber is a junior with lots of opinions. She is an econ major with minors in sociology and gender studies, and can often be found with her nose in a book. If you want to chat about intersectional feminism, baking blueberry scones, growing ZZ plants or anything else, she’d love to hear from you. Reach Ashton at [email protected] or @awebz01 on Twitter.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.