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In her Oct. 14 Collegian opinion piece, outspoken conservative Genevieve Harding ’22 discusses the need for respect in political discourse at Kenyon. Unfortunately, Harding’s calls for respect and diversity of thought fall flat — her grievances are bogged down by the destructive regressivism of the conservative ideology she supports.
A primary flaw of Harding’s article is the general ambiguity with which she shields the extent of her conservative views. The closest Harding gets to actually clarifying what her stances are, and incidentally what stances she believes deserve respect, is when she writes, “The issue of abortion is something I feel especially strong about and feel compelled to speak out on.” While she implies that she is pro-life, she does not explicitly state that is so, which coincides with a trend of general unspecificity in the piece.
This ambiguity is a problem, whether Harding wants to admit it or not: There is a marked difference between moderate conservative desires, like lower taxes, and more radical desires, like unscientific “fetal heartbeat” abortion bans, which she unabashedly supports. Without adding any ounce of detail to her views, the audience is unable to fully understand where Harding falls on the conservative political spectrum.
Even worse, given her vocal support of more extreme evangelical-conservative talking points around campus and on Twitter, the audience is fully aware of the damning discrepancy between Harding’s views and her lack of specificity in this article. As a result, it’s difficult to sympathize with Harding’s desire for mutual respect of political views when she deliberately omits the full extent of hers.
The greatest flaw in Harding’s piece, however, lies within the hypocrisy of her primary argument. Harding notes that, “People don’t have to agree, but … people should treat everyone with respect.” This plea is wholly unserious, considering Harding’s radical conservative ideologies have long been the root of the prolonged oppression of marginalized communities in the United States. After all, it was conservatives who opposed the United States’ Civil Rights Act of 1964, which sought to end racial segregation and systemic discrimination. It was conservatives who opposed — and continue to oppose — all forms of poverty-alleviating social programs and safety nets. It was conservatives who lobbied tooth and nail against universal LGBTQ+ rights and protections. In case this isn’t abundantly clear: Conservatism is in constant opposition to the development of social and economic equality in the United States.
Why, then, should Kenyon students, especially those that belong to a racial minority or identify as a member of the LGBTQ+ community, respect antiquated conservative viewpoints that actively denounce their very existence? Why respect a school of thought that has, at nearly every point in American history, ruthlessly stonewalled progress towards “liberty and justice for all”?
It would behoove conservatives to depart from their “liberals are not tolerant of our views!” line of thinking, and instead ask themselves why it is that modern conservatism yields the responses of “‘anti-woman,’ ‘immoral,’ … and ‘racist.’” Instead of blaming the Kenyon community, conservatives like Harding ought to look inward and reflect on how their beliefs harm others — then, and only then, can discussions of mutual respect be taken seriously. Perhaps the Kenyon audience would have been more receptive to Harding’s pleas for respect if she and her conservative cohorts offered even the bare minimum of that to all groups of people — regardless of their sexuality, race or gender.
Salvatore Macchione ’23 is an opinions editor for the Collegian and an American studies major from Chicago, Ill. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.