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Submission: Students should be more welcoming, respectful of conservative viewpoints

By Thea Dunlevie

February 2, 2018 3:05 pm

As a college-aged woman who supports President Donald Trump, I was not expecting to attend the Women’s March two weeks ago. I have been warned on countless occasions that my views might compromise my safety, but I felt that at least one woman needed to represent my community and viewpoints at the march.

To describe myself as an ideological minority in Pershing Square would be insufficient. Among a pink sea of thousands, it was easy to count on one hand how many people there had similar views to me about our president. I do not blindly support Trump, but I do celebrate his efforts to elevate women in the workplace through international entrepreneurship initiatives. I also support the rights of unborn women and consequently praise Trump’s efforts to stymie the rampage of abortions in America.

Me and my “Women 4 Trump” sign always marched within sight of a police officer, with the anticipated fear of confrontation never leaving my side. There was definitely reason to be nervous.

I had hardly entered the premises of the Women’s March when a man approached me, yelling that my president was going to grab me. The anger toward and hatred of the president I helped to elect was readily palpable. It was a challenge not to internalize the glares of those passing by. In the eyes of the people around me, I might as well have been an accomplice in a federal crime.

Despite such experiences, I am no victim. I know that I walked in the veins of a national body of women who dramatically oppose many of my values and the policies I support. I understand that my research and convictions deviate from the mainstream thought represented on Saturday.

I marched because conservative women are women too. The president changes every four to eight years, but we remain politically connected by the First Amendment and the victory of the Nineteenth Amendment. Womanhood is a collection of shared experiences far beyond our political orientations. I marched because I do not want to be disqualified from the list of women who want to better America simply because of which ballot box I selected in November 2016.

I marched because all issues are women’s issues, including political representation in a march for my own gender.

Despite the overwhelming animosity, there were those who continued to advocate for their position while leaving me with mine. Two women asked me about my beliefs and did their best to listen. And a kind lady embraced me, telling me to keep pursuing my passions even though we had very different political viewpoints.

This is the kind of respect we lack at UCLA, unfortunately. I have heard stories from conservative students about their property being destroyed, how they received hate mail and how they catered their in-class comments and assignments to the campus’ liberal bias for a better grade. Before attending UCLA, fellow Bruins warned me not to wear my “Reagan Bush 1984” shirt if I wanted an A in class. And recently, I stood before a student government panel to request funding for a conservative cause on campus and was met by disdain and laughter from the audience. So much for our True Bruin values or women supporting other women.

I asked many of my conservative peers to attend the Women’s March with me, but I received a uniform response of fear. College campuses are supposedly the marketplace of ideas, but they have become unproductive, ideological battlegrounds where students may end up fearing for their safety. We need only look at the rise of Antifa at UC Berkeley to see this. Should UCLA ignore these lessons and tolerate the suppression of conservative thought, our university would do a disservice to everyone’s First Amendment rights.

Imagine if UCLA’s administration and faculty were overwhelmingly conservative, where you might have to choose between commitment to your beliefs or a better grade. The selective repression many would fear is what conservatives experience now. That’s why we seek to protect the rights of counter beliefs. We safeguard free speech rights in an egalitarian manner – and that’s why I marched for my free speech as a conservative woman.

To my liberal counterparts: We discuss the same current events, care about many of the same issues and might even vote at the same polling station. The student body should strive for a political community where we can respect and exalt the individuality and humanity of the conservatives, libertarians and others we encounter.

Should you see a student in your discussion section with an “I Support Free Speech, Not Political Correctness” or “Freedom Not Socialism” sticker on their laptop, inquire about their thought process. Understand the source of their boldness. How did they arrive at this conclusion? Instead of assuming ignorance or privilege, pose your toughest questions.

The retreat from hyperpartisanship and political violence begins with such discussions. Political discussions don’t have to be a shouting match. I am more than just a female “Trump supporter” or “conservative.” I am a Bruin just like you. Bury the hasty generalizations and ask me about my views. I pledge to do the same for you.

Conservative women are noncarcinogenic – we care about a safer, stronger America, just like you do. We treasure our rights to democratic participation and the civil liberties we enjoy in the United States. We also treasure many of the same rights and privileges for women that members of the Women’s March espoused.

Can we share Pershing Square? I hope so.

Dunlevie is a third-year political science student and president of Young America’s Foundation at UCLA.

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