Shorewood’s left wing is intolerant

Political debate often devolves from education to personal attacks

Shorewood likes to see itself in a certain light. The Village, this political bastion of hope, is full of those proudly proclaiming to be progressive and liberal. Time and time again, people in this village will speak of how wonderfully caring and accepting we are, maybe making a stab at Mequon or Cedarburg in the process. But when ideas come up that we don’t accept, our attitudes and behaviors suddenly change. We are addicted to the culture wars, and we fight dirty.

Shorewood prides itself on the supposed acceptance and tolerance of everyone, but this pride has a tendency to manifest itself in an interesting way in the classroom. Whenever a conversation brings up conservative ideas on social issues, people go on the attack in a ruthless manner. The scene follows a quite similar template each time; someone either curious about or a proponent of some “dangerous idea” will mention it, and the room for a second feels frozen.  You can see people tensing up, most either preparing to battle against the idea, or preparing to have to witness such a battle. Then the attack begins. A student will lead the charge, taking position as the General of the Army of the Politic. The person playing general here varies, but it will usually be someone that the class will accept as left-wing. Students’ reactions and raised or unraised hands display immediately where the frontline lays, and these allegiances almost always fall along similar lines. Firstly, many will shrink back, with a large majority typically demonstrating a discomfort with the debate. You will find a minority of students who are actively upset on the “woke” side of the issue, all ready to open fire with heavy weaponry. Their target depends on their opposition, as one of two scenarios begins to unfold.  Occasionally, the “conservative” side of the issue is actually led by someone who is also actively passionate about their side of the issue, in which case the attacks will be personal, designed to force this student into a trap where they must defend a strawman of themselves. More likely, however, the entirety of the “conservative” side is merely students ignorant about the issue, attempting to further educate themselves through engaging in critical thinking. If this is the case, then Shorewood begins to display its ugly side, and shows the intolerance that has compelled me to write this piece. Students, who may claim to be part of the tolerant left, open fire on rural areas, rednecks, and Trump voters. If Shorewood cannot find an enemy, we make one. Perhaps that’s why we loved Joseph McCarthy so much, but I digress. Anecdotal experiences are extrapolated to represent entire populations, and stereotypes about those without formal education run amuck. Now, are there Trump voters or people living in rural areas or people who didn’t go to college and never left the town they were born in who are objectively mean-spirited, oppressive, bigoted people? Of course, but there are likely more who are just confused or have only ever found evidence to support those non-woke ideas. For a group of people supposed to be tolerant, the way others are talked about is fairly intolerant.  

Additionally, the way that the conservatives or the questioning are treated can also be pretty mean-spirited. It’s not uncommon for someone to respond to one of the points made by the woke side with a question that betrays their lack of knowledge about the topic. Anyone who actually wants to educate this person about an issue should answer the question in a caring and thoughtful way. This happens in many cases, but it isn’t uncommon for the response to be laughter at the ignorance displayed, a relatively mean reply to a plea for help with understanding. I am not a conservative, but when I watch these ugly tactics being used, I begin to feel more sympathy for the right-wing side than the left-wing one. If what it means to be left-wing in Shorewood is that you make fun of people who simply don’t understand a topic as well as you do, it is a left-wing that I don’t want to be a part of.

Growing up in Tuckahoe, Virginia, despite merely being a centrist neoliberal as a kid, I had to earn every political opinion I held, through fierce debate with a conservative majority, although a much weaker majority than that we have here at Shorewood.  The dishonest and immature strategies utilized by those who I argued with made me begin to grow a resentment towards them, and I would argue that it began to push me farther to the left. When I started going into school in Shorewood, this resentment decreased, as it no longer had a strong source, and the political debates mentioned throughout this article allowed me to get out most of it on others. However, I eventually realized that I was simply becoming the people who I had resented and disliked, and that these sorts of debates are not conducive to actually changing someone’s mind and bringing forth positive change. I would encourage everyone else at this school to do the same, and treat anyone who you’re arguing with not as your current enemy, but your future ally.