Where Rhetoric Meets Resistance — Morgan Beechey

As a current junior here at Wittenberg University, there is little doubt that I’ve had an above average experience when it comes to faculty interaction. I’ve been blessed with having access to both a top education and an atmosphere in which my beliefs can be voiced – and those who might disagree with them are equally as encouraged to speak. Almost every single colloquium I have attended thus far had a great and inspirational message. Unfortunately, the colloquium given by University of Washington professor David Domke fell short of this precedent in my eyes.

During the presentation of his lecture series, the onset of his message was a good and reasonable one: mandating that we, as citizens of the United States, have a duty to vote and be politically active, something to which I couldn’t agree more. As he continued, even though it was a relatively brief talk, the strings of reason and eloquence started to unravel. As a presenter, but more importantly an educator, anyone who has an opportunity as Domke did, having access to the undivided attention of hundreds, if not thousands, of developing minds must not take such a situation and use it for a means to indoctrinate.

Everyone has political bias; it would be silly to expect anyone, including myself, to completely remove themselves from their opinions when presenting to an audience. However, the way in which Domke delivered his speech was, at times, fraught with both a subtext of condescension and various argumentative fallacies. It is the first of these which I take exception to, and hope to justify why this is the case.

Throughout his presentation, Domke paints with very broad verbal brush strokes, over a variety of extremely controversial topics – from race relations to ethics. He stated at least twice, along with implying several other times, that to vote for Donald Trump in this coming election equates to that voter being morally compromised. Another thought process of his that made me uncomfortable was his comparison of the Tea Party movement as being comparable to the Ku Klux Klan, in both origin and purpose. It should also be noted the professor only had about 40 minutes to work with, so I do not think that any of this was intended to be malicious.

There is an enormous difference between telling other people what one thinks, and telling the same people what they should think. Throughout his speech, Domke seemed to imply that Conservatism as a whole has existed solely to resist positive social change. Having watched several other of his lectures online, it is worrying to me that his anti-Trump “shameless plugs” as they exist throughout this lecture series. During our own lecture, he said some of the following sentiments, at least, as well as my midterm-fried brain can recollect, “There may be turmoil if Hillary Clinton gets elected, but if Donald Trump gets elected, things will implode,” as well as, “Hillary Clinton is going to win this election.”

Several times, he reiterated similar ideas, implying that to disagree with him is to stand on the wrong side of history, and American morality. This subtext will only serve to widen the gap that exists between both politicians and our communities as a whole. The very same would hold true if a more conservative professor were to espouse his opinions as facts, and I hope that my biases wouldn’t hold me back from critiquing him with equal scrutiny.

Do I think that any of this makes Domke a bad person? No, no I do not.

Is this article reflective of the amount of time I have on my hands? Probably.

Am I glad that Domke had a chance to present before Wittenberg students? Without a doubt. One of my professors once expressed that their greatest apprehension with politics these days was that no one takes the time to listen to the other side anymore – that the views one holds now act as a way to divide ourselves into opposing sides. I cannot help but share in this frustration as this election cycle continues, and I just hope that we, as fellow Tigers, can work to make sure that no matter our political persuasion; we can continue to cherish and embrace the intellectual diversity which a college education offers us.

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