SCHLOSSBERG: Can’t stop, won’t stop, from VA to CT

At Yale, you can find someone passionate and enthusiastic and involved in just about any issue. For many of us, though, our school’s prevailing progressive political atmosphere can make us complacent.

I only realized this after I spent time with the Virginia Young Democrats (VAYD) this past weekend. On Saturday, I left Yale for Richmond to attend the Virginia Young Democrats Convention, where I had been invited to speak.

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but what I found was a sense of enthusiasm and a political community that is rare to come by in our blue-state bubble.

Heading down to the convention, however, I thought these Young Dems might be apathetic about the upcoming election. After all, I thought of Virginia as a state that usually goes red, a state with a very conservative governor, a state that began the recent assault on birth control when the state’s legislature proposed that women considering an abortion be subject to mandatory transvaginal ultrasounds — a state, in short, where being an outspoken Democrat might not make you too popular.

I couldn’t have been more wrong. I realized this when each delegate who spoke to the convention had the whole hall chanting a newly adopted motto: “Can’t stop, won’t stop.”

Though I had anticipated the VAYD would be a group of smart but apathetic and cynical kids, I realized that a group of Democrats like that wouldn’t get far in Virginia. I asked one delegate, a 20-year-old guy from Mechanicsville, Va., how he became a Democrat and about his experience as a Democrat in a typically conservative area. He said his mother was a Republican and he was brought up that way, but when he got interested in government, he realized that Democrats were “more accepting of many different kinds of people.” He said, too, that while he thought his generation was more liberal than prior ones, he still couldn’t talk comfortably about certain issues, like gay rights, among most Virginians.

But what really grabbed me was when he explained that he and his fellow Young Dems “have a deep sense of urgency because we know that if we do nothing, then we risk letting people have a very poor quality of life.”

I realized that I don’t feel this way most of the time, but I should. I’ve always been in an environment saturated with Democrats, and because we aren’t constantly challenged, we feel little urgency, we struggle to be enthusiastic and we can get lazy.

Now, that’s not to say that some people at Yale aren’t excited by and invested in politics. But the sense of community, the level of urgency, the can’t-stop-won’t-stop attitude that I saw in Virginia is hard to find here. How could this be true at a university as progressive as ours in a state as blue as Connecticut? Consider that, if you are like me and strongly support gay marriage, at Yale, the so-called Gay Ivy, you might not feel like you are risking “letting people have a very poor quality of life” if you don’t fight for these rights. In Connecticut, recently ranked the best state in the country for women to live and work, the threat of mandatory invasive ultrasounds isn’t even on the horizon.

Perhaps that sense of urgency can be found among Republican organizations on campus. I wouldn’t know — though it would make sense — but my point is not that we need to be more like Virginia or that most Yalies are lazy. Rather, we should try to challenge ourselves to figure out what we really care about and then get excited about it together.

If what excites you is the Democratic Party and the 2012 election, great. If it’s environmental action, that’s great, too. No matter what political cause compels us, we should always feel as though it’s being threatened. We should use these causes, whatever they are, to bring people together and get each other excited about our role, so we feel like we can’t stop and won’t stop.

Jack Schlossberg is a freshman in Trumbull College. Contact him at john.schlossberg@yale.edu.

Comments

  • The Anti-Yale

    **Connecticut ain’t no liberal picnic .
    ” . . . . As late as 1970, Connecticut denied a driver’s license to a man for being an “admitted homosexual”.[3]**

    Lawrence v. Texas
    From Wikipedia,

    • Goldie08

      Fine, but that was 42 years ago.

      • eli2015

        Don’t worry, theantiyale has a conceptual difficulty distinguishing between now and the days when he went to college.

        • The Anti-Yale

          It’s not a conceptual difficulty, it’s a preferred vantage point.

  • eli2015

    This, at least, is a nice attempt from Mr. Schlossberg to atone for his previous South-bashing. Sadly, it reads like a badly written pump-up speech for the 2012 election, despite the last paragraph.

  • rmh49

    I do think that Mr. Schlossberg’s fundamental point about awakening from complacency is extremely important. No matter how disappointed one is with Obama’s first term, the thought of a Republican-controlled White House, House, and Senate is terrifying to me.

    eli2015: “This, at least, is a nice attempt from Mr. Schlossberg to atone for his previous South-bashing.”

    I would agree, except for the following:
    “Though I had anticipated the VAYD would be a group of smart but apathetic and cynical kids. . ”

    Good Lord, son, if this is you atoning, I’d hate to see your actual South-bashing. Not exactly how you win friends and influence people.

    “After all, I thought of Virginia as a state that usually goes red. . ”

    True historically and still the case on the state level, as you point out. But now Virginia’s one of the most important swing states in the country!

  • Branford73

    There is a long history of arrogance of New Englanders in their attitudes towards Southerners. Perhaps Mr. Schlossberg‘s freshman status can excuse his exhibiting yet another example of that arrogance in his surprise that there might be progressive young voices in Virginia. Gosh, imagine that, some folks outside the enlightened state of Connecticut push for liberal to progressive ideas in politics.

    I came to Yale from Ohio and only settled in Virginia later, so I have no inbred loyalty to the South. But I understand some of the resentment toward those who exhibit self-righteous arrogance toward the South’s shortcomings. There is much to be annoyed and ashamed by Virginia’s past and contemporary politics and there is much to be proud of, just as there is in many states Northern, Midwestern and Western.

    But sometimes unthinking arrogance tends to make Southerners, native and transplanted, remind y’all that legal segregation originated in the North in the antebellum period (doesn’t anyone at Yale read it’s great Southern historian C. Vann Woodward anymore?), that it was *Connecticut’s* ban on the use of contraception that led to Griswold v. Connecticut, and the most virulent and violent race conflicts over mandatory school busing occurred in Boston, Massachusetts

    • dreamcreature

      Well it’s not so much New England pride as political blue-blood I can see there.

  • The Anti-Yale

    No one is pretending the North is a citadel of enlightenment. I have seen in the home of a wealthy Mt. Carmelite, early 1900 photos of hooded Clan meetings at the Sleeping Giant on what is now the Quinnipiac Campus, my childhood playground.

    However, the Southern resentment of the North is a kind of inferiority complex raised to the level of ritual.

    WINNING is everything for certain ” males,” and the Civil War loss festers even 150 years later, especially since manhood is in question when one loses.

    Add to this, the envy of the great Northern universities (Yale, Harvard, Princeton, Columbia etc.) and that envy turns into a kind of ritualized anti-intellectualism, spoiled grapes raised to the level of cultural bias.

    Add too the mix an evangelical Jesus who hates homosexuals and defends white power structures and you have a toxic mix of resentment, envy, superstition, and male self-aggrandizement.

    I know.

    Half of my family lives below the Mason-Dixon line. (I have a cousin who brags that his is a “redneck family.”)

    Save me from such ignorance.

    I appreciate Branford 7’3’s points, but the subtext is a bit fuzzier than s/he would have us believe.

    PK

    • Branford73

      MY subtext was that one shouldn’t generalize about any region or the people therein, since doing so misses wide swaths of people in those regions who don’t fit the stereotype.

  • haletinytea

    Yes, let us not self-aggrandize, let us not pretend that we partake of a liberal picnic, even here. In a northern city of my distant youth, at the Danbury Museum and Historical Society — where I wiled away many a most satisfying and engrossing adolescent hour — I recently (within the last thirty years,in fact, in March 2012) witnessed a bit of the dramatic art which reminds us that as recently as 1693, women in the Nutmeg State were being tried for witchcraft. Indeed, that law remained on the Connecticut books … until … less … than … 300 … years … ago.

    http://www.boston.com/news/local/connecticut/articles/2012/03/31/putting_a_face_on_the_connecticut_witch_trials/

    And don’t get me started on anti-suffrage in the supposedly enlightened North, where as frighteningly recently as 1894 — ALMOST WITHIN LIVING MEMORY — prominent Northern politicians spoke openly against women voting:

    http://yufind.library.yale.edu/yufind/Record/3330744
    http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/r?ammem/rbcmillerbib:@field%28DOCID+@lit%28rbcmiller001238%29%29

    But as I said, don’t get me started, because once I do, I WILL go on and on and on and on …

  • The Anti-Yale

    “misses wide swaths of people in those regions who don’t fit the stereotype”

    **Including the members of the Ku Klux Klan who met at the Sleeping Giant in the early 1900’s, photographs of which I worked with in the early 1980’s in organizing the photographic collections of G Harold Welch Sr., New Haven banker, at his home, Christmas Tree Farm, in Mt. Carmel, CT.
    NOTE: The presence of these KKK Mt. Carmel photographs in his collection, should in NO WAY BE CONSTRUED TO SUGGEST that GHW Sr. was a member of that despicable organization.
    However, those photographs are visual evidence that that despicable organization did indeed meet in Mt. Carmel, Connecticut, seat of the Yankee North. As I recall it, Mr. Welch, who was 85 at the time, was as amazed by those photos as was I.
    Paul D. Keane
    M. Div. ’80
    M.A., M.Ed.**