In Defense of Being Challenged

by Casey Beiswenger

In most politically charged conversations I have had over the past two years, I have often felt the need to explain my political position in order to avoid being lumped in with a single set of ideas that I do not entirely agree with. Today is no different. I am a moderate with left-leaning social views and right-leaning economic views. I am a patriotic globalist, and I have never considered this to be a contradictory belief. I’m beyond grateful for the freedoms I was blessed with simply by luck in the “ovarian lottery”, and believe I live in an incredible country. At the same time, I am always looking to be progressive and pragmatic.

In my short political consciousness, I have known the word “conservative” to be a bad one. I was a freshman during the primary elections for the 2016 presidential election, and I remember discussing the debates in Leadership Seminar. In C145, Ms. Shah started me on a path towards political literacy. I quickly began learning everything I could about the upcoming election, and I watched in awe as history unfolded. Donald Trump won the Republican nomination. I saw the disappointment of some of my classmates when Bernie Sanders lost the primary, and as Trump and Clinton squared off, I prepared for what I hope will be the most dividing election I ever have to experience.

“Conservative” was the word we associated with Trump, “liberal” the word associated with the resistance to him. If you take one thing away from reading Retrospect today, let it be this: political ideology is on a spectrum. Identifying with a party does not mean you agree with every stance, and not identifying with another does not mean you oppose them. “Republican” is not synonymous with “bigot”, nor is “Democrat”. To be intolerant of those with different opinions is not restricted to one side of aisle. I have been demonized for some of my right-leaning, moderate views, and those who launch ad hominem attacks are often making assumptions without any understanding of my stance on the issue. This is not to say that those on the right do not make the same attacks, but let’s be better than the country around us. In a world lacking prominent examples of civil discourse, let us create it.

Reflecting on September 28th’s assembly and the subsequent email, I would like to make it clear to those who were uncomfortable because of the political rhetoric or what may have appeared as harsh generalizations that it is healthy to be challenged, and that identifying with a party does not define all of your values. You are multifaceted, more than your politics, and, as long as you are respectful and informed, your voice is valuable. When you feel strongly, I urge you to speak up. Allow yourself to be challenged, and allow yourself to challenge others.

If you felt affirmed by what was projected from the stage, I want to tell you that I stand with you in defense of our right to hear Danez Smith and Hieu Minh Nguyen. Challenging speakers must be allowed to speak, and I would be a hypocrite if I did not defend this assembly. Their provocative poetry impressed me, and although I did not agree with some of their commentary, their voice is valuable, as is yours. It is just as important, if not more so, for you, the majority ideology at HB, to be challenged.

In the email from Dr. Bisselle that followed the assembly, it was stated that “all perspectives are valued at HB and we intend to make that more clear”. My experience at Hathaway Brown has not always affirmed this, but I am choosing to remain optimistic. This event- the assembly, the email, and the discussion it has created- has the potential to catalyze change in our community. So let’s continue to invite challenging speakers; let’s open our minds and welcome true ideological diversity. Because without it, we cannot truly understand or grow.