Matt’s Traditional American Values: The importance of discussing political differences


Matt's Traditional American Values

Matt Colleran

I read the comments on my articles– both on the Hustler’s Facebook page and on the articles themselves– so I know about the reactions many have had to some of my arguments.  I also read the rebuttal articles that have been written in response to mine.  These rebuttal articles and comments never bother me in the slightest when done respectfully.  There is nothing wrong with disagreeing, as long as all sides are able to voice their opinion without resorting to personal attacks or mean-spiritedness.  If we try to shut down speech or prevent opposition, people will not be exposed to the best arguments from across the political aisle when forming their views.

In addition to the polarizing reaction to my last piece, a few other events reinforced my belief in the importance of political discourse and disagreement.  First, a professor teaching a class called “Talking Through Differences” invited me and a few other students to join a discussion they were having on immigration.  While immigration is certainly not the issue on which I am furthest to the right, I was amazed by how respectful the conversation was. There were about 15 students, pretty much split in terms of political leanings, and I was impressed by how much we fundamentally agreed on, despite some policy disagreements.  

Following the class, a left-leaning freshman student said that she had read my Hustler pieces, and prior to our conversation, did not feel that she could understand my perspective. Even though she didn’t agree with the entirety of my argument, she understood it better after our respectful discussion. These are the conversations we need to be having.

The second example comes from my Vandy Radio show, The Conservative VU.  This week, I had an interview with a classmate from high school who, following graduating from Harvard last spring, decided to tour the country to learn about people who were different from him and his peers.  He had meaningful conversations with different types of people, and viewed his tour as an eye-opening experience that helped him understand Americans’ varied perspectives.

This principle does not apply only to diametrically opposing worldviews.  I strongly disagree with a new executive board member of the Vanderbilt College Republicans who twice implied that being pro-life is an extreme and/or unimportant position that does not reflect Republicans’ belief sets.  That does not mean that I think he is a bad person or undeserving of respect.  I would love to have the chance to sit down with him and explain my perspective on why being pro-life is not extreme and is integral to being a conservative.  

Can we please separate the personal from the political?  I am not saying I am perfect either, as we can all get worked up about our views.  However, if you disagree with my views, can we please have a respectful conversation where we actually try to understand each other?