Sloan: Both sides need real arguments

For many, Nov. 4, 2008 marked the beginning of the end of one of the most insidious forms of prejudice America has ever faced. And yet, it seems, the need to see things in terms of black and white, metaphorically speaking, has only become more pronounced. For some reason, even with the urgency of the election gone, the need to be right, at least at Yale, has become more prevalent than ever.

Take, for instance, Elizabeth Moore’s article, “You made a big mistake, America” (Nov. 7), and Maria de Leon’s rebuttal, “Lazy, weak and cowardly?” (Nov. 10). Moore makes a number of impassioned and unsupported claims regarding Barack Obama’s morality. De Leon does a good job of pointing out some of the most atrocious of Moore’s comments; however, her rebuttal panders just as much to those who have already been indoctrinated with a liberal ideology as Moore’s does to those who favor a very conservative one.

On the online comment boards, Moore has been accused of merely repeating the Republican platform. De Leon does the same thing in repeating Democratic arguments. The outcry that greeted Moore’s column but not de Leon’s is predictable given that, according to a recent News poll, 81 percent of Yalies support Obama and therefore likely agree with de Leon, whereas probably not even the whole 12 percent who supported McCain agrees with Moore. But that doesn’t mean that de Leon’s words weren’t similarly superfluous in terms of crafting a persuasive argument. As someone who is left-leaning, I was personally more offended by Moore’s article than de Leon’s. But as an independent who believes that everyone should be held to rigorous standards of personal and intellectual responsibility, I am troubled that neither side was able to deviate from the tired lines of the parties with which they have chosen to affiliate themselves.

In the spirit of a new era for America, which both sides professed to want throughout the campaign, I challenge us all to look inward, and question why we believe what we believe. Do some research — it’s not hard in the age of the Internet. Find a translation of Marx, and figure out just how communist Obama really is, or isn’t. Look up the history of the death penalty in human society and contrast that with the standards of the American judicial system. Not everything your parents told you was true. Check their facts, and make sure you don’t think what you think just because they told you to.

And, similarly, some of the things you didn’t believe just might be worth another glance. Learn to recognize both that believing a woman has the right to be able to control what happens to her own body does not make someone a baby-killer, and also that believing a fetus is alive does not make someone a misogynist. The Bush regime was not protecting us when they taught us to fear and hate our fellow Muslim citizens. On the other hand, having an overwhelmingly blue Congress is a terrible idea if Democrats are prepared to cling as blindly to their beliefs as Bush has, and as de Leon and Moore do. Both columnists would have us believe that their respective ways of thinking are right, and the other is wrong. But the questions we’re struggling with here — the big ones, such as how to fix the economy, health care, education and Iraq — are not so simple that there is only one right and one wrong answer. If we work together, we might be able to find a good answer.

Some may find it surprising that my Republican father saw enough commonalities between his beliefs and anarchism that he named me after a prominent anarchist from the turn of the last century. In an address at an American university, to an unfriendly crowd, Emma Goldman once said, “[Authority] turns the individual into a parrot repeating time-worn slogans, until he becomes incapable of thinking for himself. … But I believe in the possibilities of youth.” Those possibilities, as I see it, are that we might find that compassion, that sympathy that is the result of our all being Americans, our all being human.

We are still in the process of answering the question at the end of the Star-Spangled Banner, working to achieve the American Dream which both Moore and de Leon cherish. But the more divided and closed-minded we become, the farther from it we fall.

Emma Sloan is a junior in Branford College.

Comments