You’re Right, Professor: When You Act Like A Bratty Child, “We Can’t All Just Get Along”

By now, most of campus (and many other major publications) have probably picked up on the University of Michigan’s own communications department chair Professor Susan J. Douglas’ recent vitriolic attack against both the Republican Party in general and Republicans as individuals. She recently penned a piece, featured over at In These Times that leads with her ugly declaration: “I hate Republicans.” She then goes on to say, “I can’t stand the thought of having to spend the next two years watching Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, Ted Cruz, Darrell Issa or any of the legions of other blowhards denying climate change, thwarting immigration reform or championing fetal ‘personhood.’”

Oh no! Someone disagrees with me! Better take to the Internet and throw a fit worthy of a temper-tantrum prone five-year-old who was told she can’t have ice cream for dinner. Never mind the whole First-Amendment-and-a-country-founded-upon-liberty thing—because that’s just plain inconvenient!

We live in the real world, Douglas. People will disagree with you, and it’s not your place to say that you “hate” those who do. The people that you have labelled as worthy of your hate are just that: people. People with personalities, hopes, dreams, families, goals—people who possess all of the qualities and characteristics that make you a person. What you have done by hating a group of people based on their political affiliation is in no way different than a person hating a group of people simply based on the color of their skin. How ironic, coming from a Democrat. I thought Republicans were supposed to be doing that?

In addition, you are hating a group of very diverse persons: many people claim the mantle of conservatism, and these people do in fact raise many legitimate detractions regarding policies touching on climate change, immigration reform, and fetal personhood. And (shocker!) there are many good arguments for the positions and policies that you so eagerly vilify.

First: on the issue of climate change, many level-headed conservatives (and one Steven E. Koonin—Ph.D. from MIT in theoretical physics and Director of the Center for Urban Science and Progress at New York University) are simply claiming that we ought to slow down, assess what we do know about climate change, recognize that we do not know as much as we should in order to do good policy work, and not do anything rash. When we say these things (things that, mind you, any sane person should be able to get behind—and they do, in other, non-climate related situations) we are viciously smeared as “climate deniers” and “obstructionists.” In the face of all this name-calling, I still will not say that I “hate” those who unreservedly profess climate change to be happening and to be a very grave macro policy challenge.

Second: believe it or not, there are sane, reasonable people of good will who (funnily enough) are not just sitting around itching for half an excuse to spit white-hot hate at outsiders, immigrants, and “foreigners”—people who, in a word, are not xenophobic—but actually oppose on principled grounds what is being discussed and pushed nowadays in Washington as “immigration reform.” Many conservatives that I know and read are just a bit miffed over President Obama’s now-one-month-old, blatantly illegal executive action. Many I know would call it “amnesty” or “presidential caesarism

Regardless of what you call it or whether or not you agree with the latitude that the president has taken on the issue, you still will not hear me say that I “hate” Democrats, liberals, or progressives even though I vehemently disagree with the rationale for the immigration executive order proffered by President Obama’s defenders on the Left. Because it makes complete sense that—since Congress hasn’t dealt with the problem (at least to progressives’ full liking) by passing legislation (which, incidentally, Congress is under absolutely no compulsion to do—read the Constitution)—President Obama is allowed—nay, it is his solemn duty—to absorb the powers of the legislative branch. … So because Congress does nothing, the president must do anything. Got it.

Third, I am one of those “blowhards” whom one would find “championing fetal ‘personhood’.” (Though, I’m unsure of what the quotes are meant to denote … If I had to guess, probably the depersonalization of the unborn—who are indeed alive—to make it easier to dismember them in the womb as well as to pave the intellectual highway for the acceptance of arguments for their execution even outside the womb.) The bottom line is that there are good arguments for something like fetal “personhood” or even the overturning of Roe v. Wade, and we should be wary of being so callous and gung-ho about discarding the most valuable resource that we have: the human capital of the future. (In New York City, black babies are more likely to be aborted than born. So much for racial equality!). Abortion is morally reprehensible and philosophy can show us this. Not to mention the fact that my generation is more pro-life than my parents’ generation.

Notice a pattern here? I disagree with those on the Left about many things—this is by no means an exhaustive list—but I will not “hate” anyone. The person with whom I disagree is just someone who has a different opinion than I do. Fine. I don’t hate them or anyone for that. So stow the hate, professor: it’s unbecoming. We can indeed all just get along, and we can work together—Democrats and Republicans—toward real solutions to the many problems that America faces but only if we see “those people” on the other side of the aisle, not as shadowy, devious fiends but as real people. Actual, flesh-and-blood people with real desires and dreams who do not knee-jerk believe things out of hate (in the aggregate, of course—no one is saying that some don’t oppose, say, immigration reform out of some kind of nativist animus).

We all have a right to express our opinions and hold the views that we hold. You and I both have that right. But don’t expect someone like me who believes in respecting all people no matter our disagreements or origins not to call you out on your hate speech. Our University deserves better. The students deserve better.

America deserves better.

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About Deion Kathawa

Deion Kathawa studies philosophy and political science at the University of Michigan. He enjoys ice skating and binge watching Netflix (who doesn't, though?) in his spare time. He can be reached via email at kathawad@umich.edu. Deion tweets @DeionKathawa and invites you to friend him on Facebook.