Redefining Leftism : LUSENET : Unk's Troll-free Private Saloon : One Thread

A student struggles through her identity crisis


Columbia Daily Spectator, Feb 11, 2002


Redefining Leftism

By Jennifer Thorpe

Growing up in New York City, the difference between left and right was always clear to me. I was used to being leftist, with my pro-choice, anti-censorship, anti-drug war, pro-environment, pro-universal health care sentiments. Only my communist friend had me beat, but we never debated the issue because she knew her ideas were unrealistic. Having never lived in a communist society, she could not argue with my Russian friends' protestations that communism was a detrimental system. But even with her opinion added into the collection of diverse opinions in my high school clique, no one questioned that my political sway was dominantly liberal. Political affiliation concerns an entire ideology on many different issues.

Since Sept. 11, the majority of this country has supported the war effort to defend Americans against further terrorist attack. Even most New Yorkers, who are known for being liberal, support the war. Step off the Columbia campus or take the 1 train to Park Place, Fulton Street, or any place in Brooklyn to see the public display of support for a military response to terrorism. American flags fly from houses, and downtown Manhattan will never forget what was stolen from it. This sentiment crosses boundaries of race, religion, ethnicity, gender, political affiliation, or any grouping that might exist.

Since that fateful Tuesday, Columbia has redefined for itself what 'left' and 'right' mean. People like myself, who have spent their entire lives as leftists and support the war, are now being labeled rightists. It is as though the campus has defined 'left' as "anti-war" and 'right' as "pro-war," completely disregarding any other issues. Columbia should always be acutely aware of how important the war effort is, but should also be aware that there are many other important issues that have not gone away since Sept. 11. One's opinions on issues other than the war still matter and cannot be discounted in the determination of political sway.

Many leftists on this campus, as a result of these poor definitions, have the dreadful misconception that someone who supports the war could not possibly be liberal. This is far from the truth. Not only do the majority of liberal New Yorkers support the war, but so do other notoriously left-of-center people. In his response to President Bush's State of the Union address, Democratic House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt said to the terrorists, "We are going to hunt you down and make you pay." If Gephardt is not left enough for you, how about one of the most left-wing men ever to walk the face of the Earth, George Carlin? Carlin is known for his anti-Vietnam War commentary as well as his mistrust of the American government, yet during his most recent HBO special, broadcast Nov. 17, 2001, he explicitly stated his support for the War on Terrorism. No one in his or her right mind would call George Carlin "right," yet people on this campus call fellow students who support the war just that.

It is human instinct to place people into categories, but categories often do not describe people properly. Students on this campus must consider the fact that being pro-war is not exclusively a conservative belief. The idea of being politically right or left concerns so much more than the war, and there are many different ways to be either. Some people are now even using a political spectrum rather than a line: at the Students for a Sensible Drug Policy conference in Washington, D.C., last semester a spectrum included the categories of liberal, libertarian, authoritarian, conservative, and centrist. But even that scale is not descriptive enough. Two people in the same category can have different views on some political issues. It is hard to define political orientation, but if we cheapen the entire categorization system by making it rely on only one issue, as this campus has, why bother having one at all? If we can't categorize properly, let's not do it at all.

Columbia students should open their minds to the truth. Since bodies of young people are often primarily liberal, calling those who are pro-war "right" is nothing more than a tactic to gain a feeling of "us (the liberals) versus them (the pro-war people)" on campus. Columbia students should be able to see through that and recognize that the two groups have a large area of intersection. If you need a term to distinguish me and those like me from the rest of the liberals, call us the "pro-war on terrorism" left. It's longer, but it's accurate.

The author is a Columbia College sophomore.

-- (, February 11, 2002


Jennifer luv, Leftists are not anti-war. We are anti-American. Puuuhlease get it correct (Whew, I almost said "get it right")

-- (Algernon C. Braithewait III @ Cambridge.MA), February 11, 2002.

Oh great, LL the nutcase is back.

-- (get@lost.bitch), February 11, 2002.

"The author is a Columbia College sophomore."

Pretty much sums it up.

-- (Leon Trotsky @ serious.Leftie shit), February 11, 2002.

Yeah, rightwingers never go to college. Like Dubya, they just get their rich Daddys to buy them a degree.

-- (rightwing@cheaters.suck), February 11, 2002.

College is elitist and unfair. We demand that every child be awarded a PhD from Harvard on their 18th birthday.

-- (whining@you.babe), February 11, 2002.

If Jennifer is real she's done the most important thing any sophmore can do. Question the value of club comfort vs observation and thought. Thinking out of the box and being a world changer may come later but right now challenging the reasons for being in the typical campus thoughtstream box is more important. Hats off Jennie!

-- Carlos (, February 12, 2002.

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