I am an individual, an American citizen, and a moderate Republican. That is my identity. Your identity is bound to be different. Yours may include a religious faith or an association with the country your family originates from; those are factors that I personally do not care about enough for them to be a part of my identity. Our identities define where our loyalties lie. They dictate our behavior in some of the important choices we make during the course of our lives.
An important note on identities is that they are a hierarchical phenomenon. Things that are more important to us come before those that are of lesser importance. I am an American before I am a Republican. No matter what Republican beliefs may dictate, I will always consider American ideals first and foremost. Republicans often criticize me for being against certain policies of the Bush administration such as the Patriot Acts and his prescription drug plan. I go against Republican party beliefs when I believe they go against beliefs that America stands for. My identity as an American supercedes party affiliation. And isn’t that the way it should be? Shouldn’t people’s party affiliation be second to their identification with their homeland?
While a very small minority of people are bound to actually agree that all the ideas of their party are truly the best thing for the country, it seems rather unlikely that any one person, let alone thousands, would be able to truly have the same exact ideals as a large organization. If we’re to believe that people have a sense of individualism, then the notion that thousands of people conform their opinions to the mold that their party sets for them should just seems improbable. But it happens; whether it be Democrats and Republicans in America, Communists in the United Socialist Soviet Republic or the Nazis in Germany, history shows that the masses have always been willing to give up individual thoughts in favor of mass produced ones.
We would believe that if political parties are part of the American government, and their members are supposed to be individuals wishing to make the country a better place, those people should identify themselves as Americans first and Democrats or Republicans second. Yet this logical conclusion fails when we look at the way many hard-line party members from both sides of the political spectrum seem to refuse to say, think or act on any idea not born of their party affiliation.
This probably shouldn’t come as a surprise; after all, our nation was founded on the notion that mankind is stupid and evil. We cannot expect citizens to be rigid in their convictions. But one would hope that GW students would be an exception to this sad but true rule.
Students presumably compose a portion of our society that is open to new ideas. They are a class of people that are supposed to be ready to stand down from their own biases and consider the “other” side. After all, ignorance is the antithesis of education; to be ignorant is to reject the possibility of learning. Sadly, whether we look to the right or left we see Democrats and Republicans at GW condemning any thought born of the opposition party. Not only are they forgetting about being Americans before being partisan, but they have lost their right to identify themselves as students, and to throw away one’s will to learn is to throw away the possibility of ever accomplishing anything great.
GW is one of our nation’s most prestigious schools. Our student body is supposed to be filled with intellectuals, so when will our classmates lay down party lines in a move that will allow them to open their minds? When will the College Democrats and College Republicans realize that no organization should ever be allowed to go totally un-criticized in its policies? When will the future leaders of America allow their minds to entertain ideas that may not necessarily agree with the ideas of the party they associate themselves with?
I do not know the answer to these questions. I do know that the longer partisan attitudes control the minds of American students, the longer our nation will be riddled with irresolvable issues created by the refusal of our nation’s youth to consider themselves Americans rather than members of a political party.
-The writer, a freshman majoring in political science, is a Hatchet columnist.