by Lucie Dufkova
My Thanksgiving break on campus gave me plenty of time to reflect on life. As Whitman turned into a ghost town, I became a daily customer of downtown Starbucks, trying to escape the deadly silence of our school. I began to contemplate over my favorite latte about my first few months at Whitman.
Looking at my recycled Starbucks cup with an environmental quote printed on its cover, I thought of a little napkin, which I saw on the message board at Bon Appetit a few days before. Some student expressed a concern about Whitman’s choice to sell Starbucks’ coffee because of their environmental practices. This memory of the napkin made me think of how little I fit into our community with my old-fashioned views. I am not a Democrat and there is very little I know about the environment. I am nothing but the opposite to the stereotypical Whitman student. I am a living proof that conservatism at our college is not yet an oxymoron because I didn’t go around and clap my hands when the Republicans lost the election. It made me sad.
Finding a George Bush supporter at Whitman is like looking for a needle in a pile of hay. It seems funny that a President elected through a democratic process has so little respect in such a diverse community, especially when there are so many states represented in the student body. We do not even have a Young Republicans Club to challenge the Young Democrats in a school debate. Sometimes it seems to me that our college reached a common consensus that what is Republican is simply wrong. Speakers who visit campus are often very liberally oriented and most of our professors take our liberal viewpoints for granted. It even says in the Princeton College Review that Republicans are almost dead in our community. Our school takes pride in this label.
I often find myself in the position of George Bush’s sole defender. No matter what mistakes he made in Iraq, I still see him as a man of great values. I see his failures, but I am not willing to overlook his positive contributions to freedom in general. I am distressed that most Whitman students do not think that there are reasons why the President is worth their respect. Bush sometimes reminds me of Ronald Reagan during the Cold War era. As a kid, I used to know Reagan’s words by heart because they gave me hope that my country could reform. In the same way, Bush makes me believe that America will always fight for democracy around the world. By this, I am not arguing that Whitman students should not criticize Bush for some of his actions. I hope that Whitties did not simply adopt the notion that being liberal is synonymous to being educated and broad-minded, because this kind of labeling is faulty.
Although most college campuses have a large liberal student community, Whitman far exceeds this standard. We go to extremes. Liberals on campus promote environmental care to such extent that I often wonder whether it is truly necessary to live so green. I find it cute that in the middle of wheat fields, we feel the necessity to invest money in reducing Whitman’s air pollution. Moreover, there is quite a large movement for animal rights on campus, which often raises questions about meat consumption.
I did not care about this trend in our community until I had to look at a picture of a dead animal during my dinner time. Putting this emotional picture in front of me could not possibly suppress my natural appetite for meat, but it made me think that Whitman is one of the few schools where vegetarianism receives such great attention.
What is even worse, Whitman promotes the vegan diet, although many doctors think it entails certain health problems and can lead to malnutrition. I knew a girl at my school who tried it for a year and then her doctor refused to give her medical treatment until she stopped. Her blood test yielded severe results. Knowing what she went through, I feel that Whitman should educate about veganism instead of simply promoting it.
Another issue, which makes me think about the Whitman liberals, is gay rights. I find it quite fascinating that in the last few years, our Western civilization accepted the gay movement as our key problem. At home in Prague, the gay and lesbian issue is never at the top of any party’s agenda, but in America, it seems to be the defining split between Democrats and Republicans. Concerns about gay rights are so widespread that I think they exceed the level of appropriateness. I totally agree that our society needs to make some legal changes, but isn’t gay marriage a bit too much? Should it have the same value as a marriage between a man and a woman? The truth is that if our society comprised purely of homosexuals, there would be no society at all in a few decades because we would fail to reproduce. I certainly hope that by promoting homosexual rights, we will not bring up a generation of young people questioning their sexuality because being homosexual sounds “cool.” The traditional family should always remain on top of our society’s values, although I agree we must learn to accept homosexuality as part of our culture.
At Whitman, I am sometimes suffocating with an overdose of liberalism, which makes me wonder whether our school does not need a conservative injection. I often think that our community fails to reflect America as a country of two separate political stands, which does not prepare us for the reality outside of the bubble.