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Bullied for a photo with Mike Pence

To what extent is it acceptable to oppose someone in their political views?

A girl has claimed to be bullied by her peers for having her photo taken with Vice-President Mike Pence. McKensie Deutsch, a Scripps College student, posted a picture of herself with Pence on her Facebook profile, only to receive an onslaught of abuse ranging from political criticism to straight-up name-calling.

She has been accused of not caring about LGBTQ rights and has been told that she is contributing to the oppression of minority groups. The bullying has gone beyond social media with her friends harassing her in person too.

“A few weeks ago…I saw how personally my peers take politics upon sharing a photo of me standing with Vice-President Mike Pence and Republican Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers,” Deutsch said. “Knowing my Facebook audience was politically diverse, I made no political comments. Instead, I shared my excitement and gratitude for the opportunity to intern for Rodgers—the highest ranking Republican woman in congress—and to interact with such impactful and important people in my job. The photo should not have caused any trouble. But my Scripps College and Claremont peers begged to differ.”

This leads to the question—to what extent is it acceptable to oppose someone in their political views? Both Democrats and Republicans alike shout offense and abuse, leaving little room for actual debate.

Recently, Donald Trump banned transgender individuals from the military, showing how intolerant his administration is. Pence himself signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act that would have allowed businesses to refuse services to members of the LGBTQ community. Perhaps it’s wrong to support these people as Republican leaders. Maybe Deutsch’s photo was an endorsement of Pence and the Republican Party. This does not give people the right to harass or bully her.

Typically, students tend to be overwhelmingly left-wing, meaning that when something like this happens the bullying can be like an unstoppable tidal wave. We don’t stop and recognize the fact that a vast population of this country identify themselves as Republican, and so attempting to alienate individuals is not only petty but also futile.

In the 2016 Presidential Election, the majority of under 30s voted for the democrat candidate, but not as many as before. Hilary Clinton won the youth vote with 55 percent compared to Trump’s 37 percent. In 2012 Barack Obama beat Mitt Romney to the youth vote with 60 percent of support—a whole five percent more than his democrat successor.

Just like you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar, you win more arguments with debate than with verbal or physical abuse. To overpower someone else’s views, or even change them, one must show counter arguments and display why their point is better. This does not include calling someone a ‘bitch’ for getting an internship with a Republican congresswoman.

These days a simple picture with the vice-president is enough to anger people and many right-leaning individuals choose to hide their political beliefs.

With this, we lose the chance to debate. As young people are the predominant users of social media, it has become an echo chamber for the liberal left. We were surprised when Trump won the election and surprised when the UK chose to leave the European Union, simply because it has become taboo for young people to speak out about their conservative beliefs.

Debate is important so that we may develop and challenge our own opinions. It means that we further understand what we want so that our leaders may do the best thing for our country. To steamroller people’s values does not cause them to change them; it only causes them to take even further steps away.

Of course, to be silent is to be complicit in a lot of cases, but here it is simply about proportional response. The post itself was not directly political, not talking about policy or belief, yet commenters jumped at the chance to criticize her.

Deutsch herself commented: “How did we get to the point where taking a photo with someone is an act of violence? How will we ever be able to have adult conversations if no one is ever willing to listen to those who have opposing philosophies? How can we coexist when we write off our political opponents—as well as those who dare to take photos with them—as morally bankrupt?”

Further reading: Trump Fails to Condemn White Supremacists

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