Respecting Rick

By Jon Carvalho

While Rick Santorum is prone to ejaculating statements that are wildly inappropriate for the public forum as well as ideas that are seemingly half-baked at times, his ideas still deserve to be respected. Before you start sending death threats, hear me out.

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While his ideas may be out of the mainstream, they have encouraged some retaliatory attitudes as toxic as the attitudes he is thought by his opponents to embody. People have been speaking not only with opposition to Santorum, but they have also been just plain angry. Too much anger never helps either party, and it does a disservice to Americans in general.

When it comes to this sort of behavior, there is a very clear lack of civility in the political sphere. On nearly every issue, people make things deeply personal and start attacking those who don’t feel the same way, often with a tone so negative that it is pathetic at times. Both sides are inherently guilty, and it needs to stop. It simply lowers the dialogue. I recently listened to some of my peers discuss Santorum, and the conversation was particularly dismissive and filled with disgust.

“Someone’s made a collage of Rick Santorum’s face made entirely of gay porn,” somebody said to a roomful of laughter that seemed to imply approval. It struck me that if someone had made a collage of a gay rights activist that was negative in any way, the same room would likely be up in arms decrying homophobia or an attack on basic human rights. The double standard for this sort of behavior is appalling.

Many of Santorum’s stances aren’t popular with large swathes of people, but it doesn’t mean his views can’t be respected. He isn’t advocating the subjugation of millions of Americans; he just isn’t for gay marriage. Neither is Mitt Romney. President Barack Obama favors civil unions, not gay marriage. So Santorum doesn’t believe in contraception; I’m pro-choice, and that’s his choice. He’s said he wouldn’t impose his personal contraception beliefs on the public, and it is only fair to take him at his word. The way he’s being talked about, one might think he’s pro-murder and a strong opponent of puppies, love, and happiness.

If we want to argue with Santorum, let’s take aim at the inherently stupid statements he’s actually made. Exhibit A: That Obama is somehow a snob for wanting all American kids to have the means to attend college. What Santorum was likely trying to say was that those who look down on people without a college education are snobs; this is true, but it isn’t what he said. And coming from a messenger who has three college degrees, this message was pretty well bungled.

Exhibit B: Santorum says separation of church and state isn’t appropriate. In reality, the Constitution’s ban on church-state relations wasn’t to keep all religion out of government; it was simply to prevent any one church from becoming the state’s official religion. We’d just left behind a government that advocated membership in the Church of England; we didn’t want a powerful Church of America. But again, Santorum didn’t manage to give a convincing argument, and has yet to backtrack on this statement.

Santorum’s a lousy politician. He’s passionate, but he’s too outspoken and leaves little room for those who don’t agree. He could stick to the less controversial beliefs he has, but he insists on amplifying his most offensive ideas. This greatly frustrates those who genuinely like the man. Can he not stay on target to win this?

Let’s try this: Stop hating on people because of what they believe. Attacking people for being intolerant is fine, but to do so with hate-filled rants runs counter to the point. Santorum isn’t a homophobic, misogynistic jerk any more than Obama is a socialist, anti-American radical. They’re two men who love America enough to devote their time to campaigning for president, which is certainly not enviable. Instead of speaking about them in tones of varying disgust, we could likely be a little more respectful of their opinions and try to debate the issues at hand. We will encounter people in the world who disagree with us very often; it doesn’t make them evil. We can argue with them, and we should never stop arguing, about what is best for this country. The more people who are passionate about America and are dedicated to making it work, the better off we are.

It just isn’t right to accuse people of things you know aren’t true for the sake of political gain. While it may be an expression of freedom of speech, it is not a winning strategy. You wouldn’t like it if other people did it to you to score a few cheap points, so you should likewise not falsely accuse. Give people as much of a break as you’d like them to give you.

If you want to disagree with Santorum on everything from abortion to economic policy, go for it. But enough with the personal animosity; it isn’t helping your cause, or your country. All I’m asking, like Aretha Franklin, is for a little respect.

Jon Carvalho is a Collegian columnist. He can be reached at [email protected]