Staying Unspoken

February 16, 2010
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“I have seen great intolerance shown in support of tolerance,” said English poet and philosopher, Samuel Taylor Coleridge. As a sophomore in a not-so politically diverse high school, I have probably not seen as much intolerance as Mr. Coleridge. However, much of the prejudice I witness at school is shown in support of tolerance. In a country where freedom of speech is a fundamental right and schools should create a comfortable, accepting environment for students, opinions that go against those of the majority are too often silenced by peer pressure. Too often have I been afraid to openly disapprove of President Obama or to present and argument against gay marriage for fear that I will be given a severe tongue lashing from my peers. For students straying away from the beaten path of accepted political ideals at school, defending one’s beliefs is a daunting challenge.
Peer pressure is a force to be reckoned with in high school. I’m not talking about the kind of peer pressure where Kid 1 tells Kid 2 that “it’s cool to smoke,” and they become drug dealers and ruin their lives together. I’m talking about when Kid 1 doesn’t want to risk verbal abuse from his peers so he keeps his mouth shut about his personal views on politics. Our country prides itself in the fact that every person can voice their opinions without fear of government action against them. Why should a high school be any different? The truth is that high school operates with a whole different set of rules than the federal government. In high school, freedom of speech is present, yet disputing the public opinion when it comes to politics is like permitting everyone around to open fire on your ideology. A friend of mine, Tess, is an active participant in our country’s democracy. Last year she voted in the presidential election. Although she voted for McCain, she told everyone that she had voted for Obama instead. When asked why, she responded “I didn’t want to tell people I voted for McCain because too many people would attack me when I said that.” She denied her true ideals because she simply did not want to deal with all the negative opposition she would get from her friends. Most teenagers, in establishing their true identities, have extremely strong political opinions and will not hesitate to reprimand others for disagreeing with them, as long as they have plenty of friends to back up their arguments.
I believe that being held accountable for your principles is very reasonable; however, being judged by others, including total strangers, on the sole basis of your political views—a frequent result of supporting an unpopular belief—is unacceptable. A while ago, my friend, let’s call her Millicent, openly stated on Facebook that she was against gay marriage. Six people, at least two of whom Millicent had never met, promptly jumped to “support their cause” by verbally assaulting her and assuming that she was a terrible person. To this day, people still cite her “prejudice against gays.” There are those who preach that they are “intolerant of intolerance,” but isn’t the latter a little subjective? What one person sees as their personal ethics, someone else can perceive as barbaric bigotry. Many high schoolers don’t want to be labeled with words like “republican” when they connote ignorance and intolerance in a mostly liberal environment. In a school where Obama won with about 75% of votes in our mock election, “conservative” is a dirty word that nobody wants to be branded with. Numerous students feel that supporting their opinions is not worth the trouble of judgment from their peers.

It is nearly impossible to be heard and not ridiculed if your political principles disagree with those of the majority in a school like mine, which is filled with liberal students. Perhaps after all my classmates graduate high school, we won’t feel the need to put down others with differing political opinions. We won’t feel the need to brag about advocating gay rights or to lie about our opinions just to impress others. We will cast ourselves out of our sheltered, liberal environment into a more diverse one in college. Most importantly, we will all learn to accept different views, no matter how much we disagree with them.

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Mortitia said...
Feb. 25, 2010 at 12:20 am
First, I want to mention, that subject matter aside, this is well written. You conveyed your message effectively, diplomatically, and intelligently. To address your opening quote,it's usually the other way around for me. I have personally seen bigots, in my own life and on the news complain about how their own intolerance isn't being tolerated. Like you, in my environment, though I am of the opposite opinion of you, mine is the minority. In my class, I am the only representation of the... (more »)
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