Talk of the Quad: Liberal Arts: not so liberal
I come from a bubble of liberalism. As a New Yorker who attended the same small private school for all 14 years of her education prior to Bowdoin, I had only been exposed to a very progressive, very liberal perspective. I had more openly gay friends than I did straight friends, until recently had never encountered an individual who was pro-life and had only been taught by Democratic teachers. There were four conservative students at my high school and not one them openly shared their opinions with the student body. School-wide assemblies were aimed to figure out how to better participate in the women’s rights movement and class discussions were focused around the intersectionality of identity. My home life was even more one-sided. Since the first Hillary Clinton presidential campaign in 2008, my mother has donned pink jeans, pink Converse, pink sunglasses and a pink T-shirt with an authoritative portrait of Secretary Clinton on a weekly basis. I was vacuum-packed within my bubble.
Although Bowdoin is a predominantly liberal campus, I come from a community that makes Bowdoin seem conservative in comparison. Bowdoin is my first exposure to living in a community with people who possess fundamentally different views than my own. Difference in political atmosphere is the largest adjustment I have had to make in my transition to college. Despite the fact that it has been engrained into my mind to listen to views that differ from my own, as that is central to progress, I have never had to put that into practice until now.
On the first night of my pre-Orientation trip, outside a cabin along the Appalachian Trail, my group launched itself into a deep conversation about racial inequality. The debate was centered around the validity of the Black Lives Matter movement and affirmative action. Perched in a hammock by the light of a campfire, I was stunned that people could find fault in the efforts of the movement. Although I did speak up, I found myself struggling to form a coherent argument to counter the one with which I so fundamentally disagreed. I had never had to defend my beliefs before. My beliefs had always been the shared by the people around me. There had never been a cause for argument. Upon returning to campus, as the election progressed, I found myself face-to-face with views that women should not participate in combat roles, that there is an age that qualifies as too young to get gender reassignment surgery and, most shocking of all, that Trump should be elected president.
While I was never ignorant of that fact that somewhere in the world there were people whose ways of thinking deviated from that of my community back home, it was never a world in which I lived. Bowdoin’s different environment has caused me to question the roots of my beliefs. Most importantly, while it was obvious before, it is even more obvious now that based on the recent election results, a liberal perspective (my liberal perspective) is not the correct perspective. It is just one perspective among a diverse array of political thought, both on this campus and in the country.
Sara Caplan is a member of the class of 2020.