Shame over political views is a shame

December 12, 2008 — by Emily Chen

The community of Saratoga High is somewhat of a paradox in and of itself. Our state is obviously heavily Democratic, yet there’s a reason our Republican governor Arnold Schwarzenegger visited our humble school for a fund-raiser a few years ago.

We are a community of teenagers, a demographic that is known to lean to the left, raised by parents who largely fit the mold of the conservative upper-middle-class American. Such heterogeneity of political views should be embraced—after all, isn’t that what America is all about? Yet too many students seem to be caught up in the false mind-set that they must conform to the views of their peers and feel shame if their ideas conflict with the “popular” plan. The bulk of the problem seems to lie in the fact that if students identify themselves as Republicans, they feel as if liberal students will ostracize them.

For students to conform how they dress or what they wear is one thing, but to conform their minds in fear of criticism is an entirely different matter. Students should not feel the need to hide or alter their beliefs to match what other students are trumpeting as the only solution. What makes those students the expert on the situation? No student’s opinion is any more valid than another’s. In the end we are just teenagers voicing what we think.

Students are often ashamed to admit their conservative leanings for fear of ridicule. Whether left-leaning students identify as Democrats because Obama has made it popular, because they want to rebel against their conservative parents, or simply because they really do agree with the Democratic ideals, they should extend the same liberties that they are exercising by expressing their liberal beliefs to those who share more conservative ideals.

Being a Republican is not a bad thing; after all, America is still largely known as a center-right nation. The clash and overlap of ideas is what forms the foundation of American politics. Yes, sometimes it can get dirty and yes, sometimes bipartisanship proves to be more of a liability than an asset. Ultimately, however, if there were only one reigning party, where would the flow of ideas and compromise come from?

As students, we are the future of the nation and stifling our beliefs out of fear is the exact opposite of what our teenage years should be about. Instead of mindlessly conforming to others, students should be exploring and exposing themselves to differing ideas so that they can get the entire picture— a truly accurate view of what they really believe.

It is crucial for students to realize that they need to be able to stand up for what they believe in, whether it’s popular or not. It may start with being ashamed of political beliefs now, but when entering the real world, students will find that they have much weightier issues on their hands than just a stance on a proposition fellow students may take issue with. What will they choose to do when the stakes involve money, promotions and intimidating bosses? Students need to learn how to take a stand now, for their future.