In times past, getting your photograph taken with an elected official such as the vice president of the United States would usually be looked upon with celebration and respect.
But in the vitriolic political climate in today’s age of President Donald Trump, one college student is finding out firsthand how reverse the world has become.
McKenzie Deutsch, an incoming junior at Scripps College in Southern California, posted a photo of herself on Facebook standing between Vice President Mike Pence and U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., for whom she had served as a congressional intern.
That’s when all hell broke loose as she was pummeled with a non-stop deluge of toxic comments including “B-tch.”
“According to my peers, taking a photo with Vice-President Pence is anything but neutral. In fact, it constitutes direct violence and oppression against marginalized groups,” Deutsch wrote in a column for the Claremont Independent.
“I began receiving vicious comments and private messages accusing me of not caring about LGBTQ rights and attacking me for getting anywhere near the Vice-President. Close friends and distant acquaintances alike lashed out in fury, subjecting me to lectures, rants, and name-calling – all while ignoring the photo’s plainly apolitical context.”
“One person accused me of ‘ignoring the plights of marginalized people to achieve personal gain,’ saying I was a person who ‘smiled with [their] oppressors.’ Some took to mockery, inquiring, ‘Did you manage to ask him why he thinks women are second-class citizens?’ and ‘How many LBGTQ folks do you need to help send to conversion therapy in exchange for reproductive rights from Pence?’ A friend asked me why I would stand next to someone who is ‘a threat to human rights everywhere.’ A classmate simply commented, ‘B-tch.’ Many others ‘liked’ these comments, endorsing this shameless harassment.”
Deutsch wondered out loud how America has come to this point:
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?
A mere “I saw you got to meet the Vice-President; what was that like?” to begin a friendly conversation would have been enough – or simply saying nothing at all. But instead, my peers thought the best way to respond was to confront, accuse, and lecture.
No one seems to remember what their teachers have taught them since Kindergarten: Be respectful of others. Apparently, when it comes to those with whom they disagree, many of my peers are only capable of disrespectful engagement.
For them, there is no value in one of their classmates working for a member of Congress if that member is a Republican. They are horrified that someone in the Scripps community would take a photo with the current Vice-President, a man with whom they disagree.
It is as if every student must follow an understood uniform code of conduct and speech – as if I must share the liberal politics of my peers in order to be treated with respect or considered a decent person. Their lecturing about diversity apparently does not extend to diversity of thought.
This is not as it should be. We need a genuine dialogue – now more than ever.
While division clearly exists between Republicans and Democrats serving within our government, many members of Congress recognize the importance of engaging with individuals across the aisle.
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Leaning to the political left is nothing new at Scripps College.
During last year’s presidential campaign, the student president at the school notified police when “#trump2016” was found scrawled on a dorm room door, calling it “racist … violence.”
In February, a flier posted on campus suggested students of color charge their white colleagues for “emotional labor” inflicted upon them, an allusion to the effort they spend correcting white students on any given matter.
And in 2015, the college provided female students a collection of eight different gender pronoun options, with thinking professors and other individuals would use those options.
Follow Joe Kovacs on Twitter @JoeKovacsNews