Conservatism at South

By: Melissa Wang

victorThere are certain immutable parts of life: death and taxes, the constant rain in the Pacific Northwest, and Eugene’s liberal culture. In a community that by and large has eagerly embraced biking, tie dye, the Birkenstock and sock combo, and pretty much every liberal or hippy trend there is, rarely are we exposed to conservative viewpoints in our own community, much less within our South bubble. As high school students, we generally like to think of ourselves as open-minded and accepting, yet when we are faced head on with drastically different opinions, the truth is murkier, and those with differing points of view suddenly find that the allegedly tolerant majority is closed off. Take, for example, Victor Raiskin, a South senior, conservative, and Ted Cruz supporter.

I will admit I went into the interview with Raiskin armed with quite a few preconceived notions. Even though I thought of myself as a fairly non-judgemental person, I was expecting to dismiss most things Raiskin said. However, he made an excellent point that there seems to be a taboo against expressing a different political opinion.

“As soon as we differ on belief, it’s the cards thrown out: sexist, bigot, racist, homophobe, xenophobe, crazy,” Raiskin said. “My favorite one is crazy. That’s the worst thing to be called, because they’re throwing out everything about you that is humane, everything you have worked so hard for. Your logic, your mentality, your virtuosity. But that’s just an attack. That’s not achieving anything about policy, about values. It’s not an argument.“

I do think there is truth in his statement. Raiskin was initially quite reluctant to go on the record. Even after the interview, he was concerned, to say the least, with the possible blowback. It is simple to just take the easier path in dismissing arguments, but what is truly difficult is tolerance. Tolerance does not necessarily entail listening to everyone’s ideas or not objecting to them. On the contrary, dissent has long fueled our academic institutions and government. I tend to think of tolerance as respecting other’s ideas, acknowledging that their life experiences have shaped their worldview much like your stories have shaped your beliefs. However, what surprised me the most were Raiskin’s statements about conservatism specifically at South.

“It’s this mob mentality that is everywhere,” Raiskin said. “When I walk in the halls of school, sometimes, I was warned by my friends, you should be careful because people are out to get us, us as in conservatives.”

South has always prided itself on having an open community, but the true test is not of issues that are widely accepted in Eugene but of topics that are harder to swallow. We at South should remember this, especially in light of this bizarre election season that Raiskin admits is unconventional to say the least.

“People have nominated a pathological liar, manipulator [Clinton],” Raiskin said. “The other candidate is a bumbling egoist, egocentric piece of human lard.”

Part of Raiskin’s frustration with the liberal majority at South stems from the fact that, according to him, “The current state of America is bye bye facts, hello feelings. It’s no longer evidence. It’s just whining, sadness, anger, and fear.”

Make no mistake, I in no way agree with Raiskin’s political views. On many issues, we are about as diametrically opposed as humanly possible. I am merely suggesting that we, myself included, take a deeper look at the conservative viewpoint. Regardless of where we fall on the political spectrum, insulting someone is probably not the best way to have a constructive discussion and actually try to change someone’s viewpoint, which in Raiskin’s opinion are formed at birth

“Conservatism is what I was born with. It’s not perfect, but neither is liberalism,” Raiskin said.

Whether you agree or disagree, more than 13 million people voted for Trump in the Republican primary. In light of the new tapes on Trump’s lewd conversation with Billy Bush — ironically the most important Bush this election season — and the recent sexual assault accusations leveled against Trump, I, and many others at South, cannot even imagine who would support Trump. Still, it is an important distinction to make that not all conservatives are Trump supporters. If you ever run into a Trump supporter (though not exactly probable in Eugene), I would encourage you to ask them about their opinions. Hopefully, you will find that most Trump supporters are actually good people. While political beliefs may be central to our individual identity, they are not necessarily the defining feature. In Raiskin’s case, he does not even consider himself a political person.

“Am I proud to have been adamant in my beliefs? Absolutely.  Do I wish it wasn’t a central part of my life? Absolutely,” Raiskin said. “I’m not the biggest politics guy. It was thrown on me because I differ from most people. I just became that Trump guy even though I actually supported Ted Cruz. I like being the conservative guy, but I don’t like it being the central part of my reputation.”

In the end, Raiskin still participates in the great equalizer: he wears Birkenstocks.

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