Perspective: promoting liberal ideology at Franciscan

JOSH MERLO
LIBERAL COLUMNIST

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As this will be my final liberal column for The Troubadour, I thought that I would do things a bit differently this last time. Instead of focusing on some pertinent international or American issues or focusing on some big-picture arguments for a particular liberal platform, I’m going to focus on something much more local. I’m going to write about, well, writing about liberal ideology on a largely and intensely conservative campus.

Before I continue, two matters need to be addressed. First, this is not going to be a piece that argues that all conservatives are bad. I leave such to opinion pieces in the Times and the upcoming general election ads directed at Trump. Second, I am not actually a political liberal. For some issues, I support the liberal position. For others, I don’t. What I have always supported, however, is open and frank discussion concerning the problems that the people of the United States – and their elected officials – will have to confront. It was for this purpose – the promotion of intelligent and informed political conversation – that I took the liberal columnist position three years ago.

Over my time here, I’ve touched upon a lot of different topics: everything from the Second Amendment to states’ rights, lobbyists to law in the international sphere, defense spending to the Declaration, the Founding Fathers to federalism to filibustering and countless other issues of contemporary or historical relevance. A few times, I’ve received feedback, both from professors and students. Those few times were among the proudest of my tenure with The Troubadour. I always wondered whether what I wrote had any effect on its readers, whether anyone read my columns at all. When I did receive comments, I felt vindicated. I was happy to know that my written words were provoking dialogue.

In today’s polemical political climate, gridlock has become the accepted status quo. We no longer question why representatives and senators cannot do their jobs and compromise on their unyielding campaign points. We no longer question why the president cannot do his job and work out a way to work with a divided Congress. We no longer question why ideological conflicts cannot be settled amongst the complainants and instead must be refereed by the federal court system.

Unfortunately, the attitudes of our leaders, elected or otherwise, have trickled down into the common populace. Political opinions are now presented in an absolutist framework: the stark black and white of one side’s moral superiority and the other’s utter depravity. Disagreement is no longer an intellectual exercise; it has become an affront to a person’s dignity, a disrespectful and disingenuous hiding from the truthfulness of an opponent’s claims.

This is the mindset I’ve wanted to combat. No political climate that relies on the demonizing of an opposing viewpoint can be productive. No political climate that relies on increasing partisanship can be effective. And these condemnations can also apply to us here at Franciscan.

Ask yourself the following: are you willing to accept a critique of a political position that you hold? Are you open to an opposing mindset? Will you listen to evidence that goes against the conclusions you’ve drawn on specific political issues? These questions are not directed at conservatives in specific, but neither should they be directed at liberals in specific. These are questions that apply to any person of any political background; do you give fair standing to people with whom you disagree?

If you, like me, sometimes struggle with accepting opposing views as valid or sound, consider this an invitation. Sometimes, an opponent will know what he or she is talking about; sometimes, he or she will give you figurative food for thought; sometimes, you might even have to reconsider what you yourself hold to be true. Welcome those moments.

If writing counter-cultural political columns here at Franciscan has taught me anything, it is this: the more open-minded you are toward what you believe to be wrong, the better your chances are to learn you were the one in error. If everyone adopted this mindset, there’d be a whole lot less political conflict. If there were less conflict, something might get accomplished once in a while. And whether that accomplishment was done by liberals or conservatives or moderates, it just might make someone’s life a bit better. Shouldn’t that be what politics aims at, the improvement of the lives of political constituents? I think that’s something upon which both sides of the aisle can agree.

1 comment for “Perspective: promoting liberal ideology at Franciscan

  1. Stephanie
    April 24, 2016 at 2:50 pm

    What I find irksome about this editorial piece from my Catholic liberal arts Alma Mater’s is that the students writing for the Troubadour use the adjectives “liberal” and “conservative” in opposition to each other as if they had contrary meanings as do “hot” and “cold” or “true” and “false”. From the beginning, this was not so. Until the revolutionary French bastardized its original meaning, the word liberal was understood to describe that which was “worthy of a free man”. As later applied to those qualities of intellect and of character, according to an etymological explanation from the Catholic “Encyclopedia, liberal got the meaning of intellectually independent, broad-minded, magnanimous, frank, open, and genial.” All of these qualities Mr. Merlo correctly insists ought to be characteristics of civil discourse to which all men of whatever opinion should order themselves. Yet, Mr. Merlo intimates that he enjoys “provoking” dialogue, which is at odds with his later assertion that debate “is no longer an intellectual exercise; it has become an affront to a person’s dignity, a disrespectful and disingenuous hiding from…truthfulness.” A truly liberal man would not engage in provocation. Rather, as modeled by our late Holy Father Pope St. John Paul II, he would engage his fellow free man in authentic dialogue, always mindful of his inalienable worth.

    Again, FUS’s “liberal columnist” echoes the teaching of our Catholic Church when he condemns “today’s polemical political climate” and it’s tendency to be oppressively centralized and antagonistically absolute, to which an authentic Liberal political system is opposed. However, to describe himself and his opinions (and those with whom and with which he disagrees), Mr. Merlo again adopts the modernist definitions of liberal and conservative, and unwittingly promotes the ideological Newspeak which shapes this false dichotomy and to which he seems to be sincerely adverse.

    Since I am certain that I have surpassed my alloted number of characters, may I suggest that my fellow Franciscans submit to an earnest study of the words we banter about these days. Simple internet research from reliable sources will show that authentic definitions of conservative and liberal are not at all antagonistic as we modern men have made them.

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