Romney Voters Shouldn’t Feel Shamed, Pressured By Fellow Students

Elizabeth Bentivegna, Contributing Writer

I am not a monster. I am not a selfish bigot, or an enemy of the poor, or a narrow-minded idiot. I am not a racist or a sexist and I am not against queer people. I am not an evil human being.

But for some reason, on this campus, the fact that I voted for Mitt Romney makes me all of these things.

I am a moderate. I waited until Election Day to cast my vote and made an informed decision before I did so. I knew the facts, I did my research and, in the end, my gut told me that Romney was the candidate that would be best for me and for my country. My parents are conservative and my closest friends are liberal; I had good sources for both viewpoints and I considered both equally. I am queer, I am a woman, and I cast my vote for Romney.

Before the election, I sat through countless conversations that called conservative Republicans evil, inhuman monsters who didn’t really care about anything but themselves. I had to sit in silence as I heard my own parents accused of being disgusting, worthless and cruel, because if I had made even one mention of the fact that I hold some conservative beliefs, I, too, would have been ripped to shreds.

I was afraid to admit that I voted for Romney before the results came in. I still am. I have been warned by friends not to tell other friends this fact because they will attack me for it. Many times I was asked if I wanted to canvass for Obama and was viciously harassed when I politely said I didn’t, without even mentioning the fact that I wasn’t voting for him.

The day after the election, one of my professors began class by asking, “Anyone in here a Republican?” No one responded, and he then yelled, “Hey! We won!” as the whole class whooped and cheered. If that wasn’t enough, one of my classmates then made a joke: “If anyone had said yes, we could have been just like, ‘Get out!’ ”

I stayed silent because I was afraid that my classmates and my professor would treat me differently if they knew that I lean right. I was afraid for my friendships and for my grade in the class.

Some people will read this and say that I just shouldn’t be afraid, that I should just stand up for myself and not care what people think. These people do not know what it is like to be in my position. These people do not understand what it means to be a political minority at a school like Oberlin, where signs for Mitt Romney are defaced and lectures by right-leaning academics are disrupted and vandalized. I am part of a group that is actively despised by a good portion of the student body. It is completely unacceptable that I, and the few right-leaning students on campus, should have to feel this way. There is no excuse for our discomfort. There is no argument that could possibly justify the way I have been treated simply because of who I am.

How is the plight of conservative students different from being in the closet? How is this any different from being afraid to reveal that you’re queer when everyone assumes you are straight? We take so much care to make sure that queer people feel accepted and welcome on this campus. We have safe spaces and dialogues and we have discussions on how to make sure you are calling someone by the pronouns that they prefer. If a queer person feels uncomfortable, we jump through hoops to fix it.

But not once has anyone asked me what my political beliefs are. Not once has anyone done anything but assume that I am an extreme liberal like they are. The day after the election, I suffered through countless high-fives and shouts that, “We did it!” without any consideration that I might not feel the same. In some cases, if I expressed my real feelings of disappointment, I was told to “just get over it” and was accused of being a sore loser.

I can’t help how I feel politically any more than I can help being queer, yet I am still considered a lesser person for my beliefs. I am laughed at. I am mocked. The one right-leaning group on campus has almost no presence and is not taken seriously by a good portion of the student body. I have nowhere to turn, no one to talk to and almost no one who wants to hear what I have to say.

I am worried about Oberlin. I am worried that we are being taught not to be tolerant, but to be cautious. When we are released from this cozy collegiate bubble, we will have to accept that the rest of the world does not work like this. No one is going to ask us what our pronouns are, even though they should. Workplaces aren’t going to provide all-gender bathrooms, even though they should. And if you openly start bashing conservatives in a place that isn’t ninety-five percent liberal, you can bet that they aren’t going to sit there and take it. Oberlin students aren’t going to be able to fall back on the safety net of popular opinion: They’re going to have to defend themselves logically, politely and appropriately.

But we aren’t being taught to defend ourselves. We aren’t being told how to stand up and fight for our beliefs, because most of us have the same ones. Our protests and demonstrations are great in theory, but their audiences are made up of people that don’t need to be convinced.

I am not a monster. I love my country and my school and I wish Obama the best during the next four years. But I refuse to let people make me feel bad just because I voted for the other guy.

Obama himself has said, “There is not a liberal America and a conservative America — there is the United States of America.” So why isn’t the same true of Oberlin?