“Liberal” is Not Synonymous With “Open-Minded”


Boronica Metaliaj is a native New-Yorker and a junior at FCLC.


Boronica Metaliaj is a native New-Yorker and a junior at FCLC.

Growing up in New York City, I attended fairly liberal schools filled with hipsters and rainbow flags hanging in the classrooms during a period when conservatives were the primary reason same-sex marriage had not been passed. Although my different politics weren’t isolating, my mere association with conservatism during a period of raging liberals on the rise would undoubtedly be deemed radical. More intimidating than an undesirable label was the high potential of such a distinct characteristic to overshadow my versatility.

For as long as I can remember, my opinions have been considered non-mainstream and thus justified by external factors that in one way or another force me to believe the things I claim. Such rejection of unfamiliar views disregards the individual’s ability and right to acquire a perspective that is different from the majority. In middle school and high school, my aversion to President Obama was so implausible that it must have been a mere reflection of familial politics. Peers and teachers treated my opinions as temporary ones; at least until some “liberal” somewhere down the line would enlighten and transform me into an “open-minded” individual. Throughout most of my life, identifying as a conservative and a viewer of Fox News has earned me quite a few labels, but only in college has my intelligence been questioned by those who claim to be more “open-minded,” yet are too unfortunate and self-absorbed to hear any voice but their own.

To avoid the potential misconceptions that may arise from statements to follow, I’d like to make clear that I’m not pointing fingers to the whole student body. But, I will say I’m disappointed by the few individuals who labeled me “privileged” for criticizing our problematic welfare system, “racist” for not supporting Obama, and now, anti-feminist for not supporting Clinton. However, I’d be too sensitive if I felt offended by those who voted for Obama’s skin color more than his politics and will do so again in voting for Clinton based on her sex.

Before moving on to more recent events, I’d like to address those who do little research prior to acquiring opinions that frame their identity and instead jump on bandwagons that ensure their acceptance by the trending majority. It’s disappointing that your time in college hasn’t expanded your knowledge just enough to make your identification as “open-minded” truthful. We’re all here because we consciously enrolled in a Jesuit university that preaches acceptance and respect for all people, but it seems we’re in desperate need of a reminder. To the progressives who rant about injustices and equality: In order to be the change you hope to see in the world, you must begin by practicing what you preach instead of silencing the voices that sound alien and uncomfortable.  

I don’t expect readers to identify with my political beliefs, but I think I speak on behalf of many students when I say that there is no worse feeling than that of belittlement after finally accumulating the courage to share an opinion different from your peers. The kind of self-doubt that arises from being constantly shut down is so detrimental that it leads one to question the validity of their voice and eventually results in self-silencing. The issue at hand does not lie within disagreement, but rather within the inappropriate shaming of opposing views, which instills fear and embarrassment to an extent that suppresses individuals’ freedom of expression in future conversation and limits everyone’s ability for intellectual exploration and expansion.

Although the discomfort I’ve experienced does not necessarily threaten my First Amendment rights, the constant rejection of minority views by the majority within college campuses will create a culture in which students are ridiculed away from sharing their thoughts. In fact, the current oppressive climate in universities nation-wide has been produced by events in which students attempt to deprive one another of their rights. Each case has been hard to watch and even harder to ignore, but the University of Missouri incident best exemplifies the very extreme to which student protesters aggressively force a student reporter to leave the on-campus protests and physically block him from taking photographs. Unfortunately, such injustices have made their way onto our own campus, as Fordham students responded to a fellow student reporter with outrage and cyber bullying across online commentary and social media.  

After publishing his recent article, “False Reports: We Deserve an Apology,” Fordham Observer Opinions Co-Editor Tyler Burdick was discredited and accused of committing ethical wrongdoings by those who identify as liberals and feminists who could also be called “closed-minded” readers. While Burdick displayed attention to the damage caused by false accusations on the victim in question, the alleged, and all rape survivors, the author was undeservingly harassed by readers. The vile labels placed on the writer are sufficient for suppressing one’s comfort to share opinions and eventually result in the deprivation of free expression. Burdick, the Missouri student and I have different experiences that all boil down to one thing: the limitation of the representation of minority views by belligerent majorities within college campuses.

If I’ve failed to accurately convey the message of this conversation, I hope President Obama’s town hall address to universities resonated with you all as much as it did with me, as he reminds students what college is about. In response to the few traditionally liberal colleges that have protested against invitations to conservative guest speakers, President Obama advised, “You shouldn’t silence them by saying, ‘You can’t come because I’m too sensitive to hear what you have to say.’ That’s not the way we learn.” In order to fully exhaust our investment in higher education, we must first understand that our time in college would be purposeless if we filter our brains from variety and seek protection from seemingly foreign perspectives. We cannot continue to justify our actions with freedoms granted by our citizenship if it means depriving others of the same rights, as the First Amendment does not pick and choose and neither can you.