Nothing exciting ever happens at Virginia Tech. We’re never treated to spontaneous, poorly handled coach firings or campus-wide pandemonium over a lingerie sale with music.
So it comes as no surprise the school selected a safe pick for commencement speaker with the first lady, a position renowned for taking no positions.
Laura Bush’s passion project during her tenure was promoting literacy while Michelle Obama, this year’s speaker, has made healthy eating in schools her priority. Really controversial stuff.
However, in what came as a stunning twist to absolutely nobody, the announcement was met with uproar from parts of the Tech community. Social media exploded with dismay at the politicization of the ceremony, and various media outlets published diatribes railing against first lady Obama and Sen. Mark Warner.
Perhaps I’m biased due to my belief not every trifling matter is worthy of outrage, but the whole brouhaha seems a bit silly. It’s one thing to object to the choice of speakers due to general cynicism towards politicians. I may disagree, but it’s understandable many feel disenchanted by the government these days.
What doesn’t cut the logical mustard are arguments against the first lady’s appearance based purely on differing opinions. In addition to the first lady being a largely apolitical position, it’s an honor to have the partner of the democratically elected president of the United States of America at our university.
Of course, there will always be blind partisans incapable of accepting that it’s OK for people to disagree with them. What makes some of this furor toward the first lady’s appearance particularly distasteful, though, is the personal nature of the criticism.
How can an adult argue first lady Obama is “unprincipled” because of ideological differences, while providing not a shred of evidence of any personal failings?
“I don’t agree with you, so you are bad,” is how children think. Grown-ups are expected to debate at a slightly higher intellectual level.
Unfortunately, this schoolyard approach to political discourse is increasingly the norm. In the high-volume, low-substance cable news era, President Obama is a “Constitution-hating tyrant,” Mitt Romney is a “soulless, corporate monster,” and Newt Gingrich is an “unredeemable asshole.”
That last one is actually true. Not for political reasons, but because Newt Gingrich really is a huge asshole.
Deserters of cancer-stricken wives aside, this nation’s political rhetoric is out of control. It’s a symptom of a hyper-politicized culture where ideological affiliation is suddenly an indicator of what kind of person you are. We’re not human beings anymore, we’re liberals or conservatives.
If you’re not independent — usually a euphemism for apathetic — you’re either Jane Fonda or Ted Nugent.
I’m what political scientists would label a liberal and Fox News would call an enemy to everything the Founding Fathers stood for. Since Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly have been lucky enough to personally meet George Washington and company, it’s hard to argue with my identification.
So how exactly does a Marx-worshiping freedom-hater spend an average day?
My morning begins twice: once when my alarm goes off and once again when I actually get up 20 minutes later, assuring a fashionably late arrival to class. Seeing as there are no Occupy protests or PETA meetings today, I eschew my tie-dye poncho in favor of whatever shirt/pants combination passes the smell test.
Next follows several hours of sitting in classrooms learning how to increase my Scramble With Friends score. Educational obligations fulfilled, I return to the man-cave to curl up with our enormous puppy, Molly, for an afternoon siesta.
What Stalinist mayhem ensues next, you may ask? Secret leftist meetings? Gatherings of the local flag burning club? Well, nights for this radical socialist usually consist of pickup basketball, Food Network with my roommates or attempting to woo comely young lasses downtown.
Surely, Joe McCarthy is rolling over in his star-spangled grave.
To be fair, though, this is an example of a slow day on my unceasing quest to destroy the Constitution and turn America into a communist paradise that would make Comrade Lenin proud.
Back in reality, I imagine many collegiate peers can relate to that day in the life, even — gasp — those who lean conservative. Is it because they too are secretly anti-American? Or is that maybe, just maybe, we’re all pretty similar regardless of political affiliation?
I don’t define myself according to political beliefs. American? Sure. Breaker of young hearts around the world? Absolutely. But liberal? That may be an aspect of my worldview, but it doesn’t say anything about who I am. Nor does my roommate’s conservative outlook illustrate anything except his probable voting tendencies.
Do I fundamentally disagree with conservative point of views on some issues? Without a doubt. I’m adamantly pro-choice; I believe unregulated capitalism only benefits the top of the pyramid and I would rather fund health care for the most vulnerable citizens than unjustified warmongering.
You’re welcome to disagree with anything or everything I believe — that’s the beauty of living in a free country.
But our disagreement doesn’t mean I’m un-American or you’re unprincipled. It just means we’re two people on the pursuit of happiness that happen to have different opinions.
So let’s ease up on the Armageddon rhetoric. Obama isn’t going to decorate the White House with murals of Chairman Mao, and Romney won’t lead the world into a Mad Max-esque apocalypse. Regardless of what career politicians hold office, our lives are going to be pretty much the same.
Unless we somehow elect Newt Gingrich — that guy is the worst.