Election Day is quickly approaching. It seems as if everyone has an opinion and a stake in the battle for the presidency. However, the tone of the discourse has mirrored that of the current president’s, even as many participating denounce him. Social media and conversation is rife with half-truths, slander and personal attacks. This is not productive and it is downright hypocritical for opponents of the president. In the next month we as a student body should strive to do away with discussion that doesn’t base itself in good research and facts. Failing to do so will lead to misinformed and irresponsible voting. Conjecture, exaggeration and their ilk have no place in a decision as important as the one most of us will be making on November 3rd.
The strength of a person’s opinion should in most cases be proportionate to the depth of their knowledge base. Many on campus mock Trump’s every move and make egregious claims about him and his voter base. Biden gets the same treatment, albeit to a lesser degree here at Cornell. I would argue that most of the people making these attacks don’t have the knowledge necessary to back up many of their claims.
For example, Joe Biden was recently described as healthy and able to serve as the commander-and-chief. According to medical professionals, he does not have dementia or other conditions that would preclude him from office. To give equal treatment, Trump has not refused to condemn white supremacy, as some claim. He has done so on several occasions. I could cite more, but you get the point. Criticisms leveled at both candidates are often baseless. Yet we continue to repeat them, never considering that we are perhaps incorrect or lacking in our judgments and facts.
I would be remiss if I didn’t speak on the climate of the campus regarding political debate. It is no secret that this campus is overwhelmingly liberal. As a recent Sun column points out, it can at times be so overbearingly liberal it stifles open discussion. There’s no room for careful analysis or even consideration of the possibility that the conservative side is the ‘correct’ one. Trump is, by default, always wrong and the liberal position is always the right one. This shouldn’t be the case.
By no means am I advocating for Trump. However, it’s clear to me that he’s not given fair treatment here at Cornell. As such, he and his party need people to step up as proponents of fair debate. This kind of courage is difficult but, in my view, the only way to change the culture here. It won’t happen overnight, but my dream is for Cornell students to have the freedom to support either party without censure and hatred.
A first step in this endeavor would be for those who criticize others’ political views to make an effort to know as much as possible about the issue in question. No matter how informed you think you are, no one knows everything about anything. There are always gaps in understanding. As such, no one should be completely confident in their stance; there is always opportunity to learn more and shore up deficiencies.
A few weeks ago, after the first presidential debate, I noticed an Instagram story circulating that claimed all Trump supporters are racist because their candidate wouldn’t condemn white supremacy. Even brushing aside the mind-boggling leap in logic that the publisher of that story took, the statement that Trump refused to condemn white supremacy is simply false. However, in the current campus political atmosphere it would be difficult to argue against that post. Regardless of your true political opinions, doing so would label you a Trump supporter and earn you immediate censure.
This nation and this school are divided. The upcoming election is adding fuel to the fire of that division. Passions are running high on campus, and it’s incredibly important to speak carefully and with thought. To do so, we all must work to understand issues on a factual level. As I said before, conjecture has no place in the debate that will be taking place over the next month. I plead with all of you to break away from the herd mentality that has overcome Cornell. Your position may not change, but with knowledge you will at least have a firm grounding in it. I will be doing a lot of reading and research in preparation for November 3rd. I hope all of you will do the same. Remember: An uninformed voter is an irresponsible voter.
Cornell University: It’s your job to stand with us in recognizing the importance of this election. I ask administrators to allow us all to devote the proper amount of care to our vote. Cancel classes on November 3rd. Allow students and faculty who are voting in-person to do so with thought and without the distractions of an upcoming class or deadline. I realize this is an enormous request, but so is our task, and its consequences. Please, consider it.
Christian Baran is a junior in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Honestly runs every other Friday this semester.