OP-ED: What the left and right get “right”


It’s rare to see someone on either political side acknowledge the other’s merit. We train ourselves for verbal combat without much concern for the hidden truths in both sides. Observations like these make me grateful that I spent my formative years around “the left” even though I eventually swayed to “the right.” Experiencing both sides in their most persuasive forms allowed me to see how people in good faith can cherish either viewpoint.

The Left

Imagine you are in a café (perhaps Radina’s) and across from you is an activist. He is wearing a “Black Lives Matter” t-shirt with a wooden carving of Africa dangling from his necklace. This is a rough description of a friend who shaped me.

Before I met him, I comfortably assumed only leftists were enlightened by reason and conscience. This assumption was further solidified when we competed against other debaters who argued oppression and racism are nonexistent. We assumed they were conservatives and Republicans and found ourselves utterly repulsed with the “right.”

Though my opinions have changed, I still understand and value what the left has to say on race and identity. I don’t agree with everything, but I certainly see the truth in police accountability and acknowledging the existence of racism. Some of my white friends have admitted to being indoctrinated by family members into racist thinking, and I have even witnessed some singing crude songs. However, I cannot stress enough how these anecdotes are not representative of all white people; they are, rather, calls to awareness on everyone.

Moreover, the prominent conservative firebrand Ben Shapiro misses the mark when he claims racial diversity is meaningless. Our cultures and identities play a part in our worldviews and being with diverse crowds teaches us conscientious communication.

For example, I once met someone who was surprised I could speak proper English; he assumed because of my Asian background I would speak with an accent or in fragments. Would we say that racial diversity is meaningless, or that the world is better because his assumption about Asians changed?

Even the prominent conservative Robert P. George of Princeton admits that his friendship with leftist intellectual Cornel West helped him realize his former assumptions about race were naïve – simply saying race is irrelevant and that we should be “blind” is unhelpful when our society is designed to see it.

Though more can be said, I will yield by saying that the left has important truths to share about identity and society: that injustice is real, and we should be alert to our beliefs and actions, that sometimes the institutions and traditions we cherish are expressed in improper and destructive ways.

The Right

Now, a change of setting. You are in a cottage on the English countryside. An elderly British gentleman sits before you, distinguished with wisps of grey and golden hair. This is Sir Roger Scruton, the thinker who changed my mind about conservatism.

I felt alienated during the 2016 election by the rage of the left. I came to America as a child and since then have felt a great sense of patriotism and gratitude. This country gave my family a chance, and the Christian Church provided us a home and community. I found the left’s slogan, “America was never great”, and its disdain of religion a major source of difference. I saw that they didn’t really want to reform these institutions, but that they wanted to hold their moral superiority over them and render them subordinate.

Scruton, however, introduced me to another view of life in the documentary “Why Beauty Matters” by exposing art’s decline with postmodernism’s ascendance. His gentle, yet insightful, tone motivated me to discover his philosophy of conservatism.

I found that there are many things the left takes for granted when criticizing our economy and society. Some of these include the effectiveness of the free market and religion’s crucial role in forming and maintaining civilization. The world is fragile, the product of generations of wisdom and traditions. In much of the left’s rhetoric there is a desire to debunk and deconstruct beliefs deemed unprogressive. At the same time, however, they fail to understand why these institutions were first established and how they are divorcing people of a home.

In expanding the government for the new “religion” of social justice, I fear many liberals are unaware of the beast they’re releasing. While we are decrying the government for being too elitist and unresponsive to the people, many leftists are sneering at Second Amendment activists who fear governmental tyranny. Tyranny always originates from a distance and lack of accountability to the people, and the left only seems to praise the government’s power when it’s on their side. To be fair, the right is also guilty.

I have always appreciated how conservative thinkers begin by acknowledging our limitations, and how we can best work within them. They do not view every economic issue as a moral abstraction but try to reconcile our desires with reality. They do not view every moral issue as subject to only choice or utility – but also value and principle.

Only when we see the validity of either side can we begin engaging one another as moral and intellectual equals. Though I disagree with the left and many conservatives, I believe both views begin with genuine concerns and in good faith. We always need to remember that no one side has a monopoly on truth.

Suan Sonna is a freshman in political science and philosophy. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Collegian. Please send comments to opinion@kstatecollegian.com.