Political Showmanship Vs. Real Results
By: Trevor Verdonik
In typical Lehigh fashion, Martin Luther King Day celebrations were extended to a full week of celebration marked most notably by the keynote speaker, Tim Wise. Prior to attending Mr. Wise’s speech, I did a bit of research to learn more about this speaker and his views. I must say I was a bit startled by my initial discoveries. While a vehement supporter of equal-rights, it appeared that Tim Wise condemned all conservatives with seeming disregard for any differences in opinion they may have. My first impression of Mr. Wise’s opinions indicated that he had very little interest in entertaining an ounce of conservative thought. Had this been true, it would be another in a series of unfortunate obstacles facing modern conservative thought.
Despite my initial impression, I chose to hear Tim Wise’s speech on the grounds that I really could not believe that his views were as extreme as initially portrayed. As soon as Tim Wise began speaking, his ability to articulate and captivate his audience was impressive. I found myself enjoying his opening stories and method of logical progression. Before long, Mr. Wise delved deep into the heart of his beliefs regarding racism, prejudice, and the modern world.
It was at this point I prepared to be bombarded with extremisms, misinterpretations, or just general crowd mongering, but something surprising happened… I found myself agreeing with him. To many this may seem surprising, since “strong-willed conservatives shouldn’t agree with liberal thinkers.” Where Tim Wise succeeds in his speech is by delving deep into the roots of the problem, and presenting issues such as unintentional bias, accidental prejudices, and environmental pressures. As a conservative, I agree with Tim Wise in that America does have deep-seeded issues of prejudice. On the whole, I believe that Mr. Wise’s speech excellently illuminated the problems prejudices play in our society.
Having agreed with Mr. Wise, I do have some mild criticisms. Most importantly, I think that Tim Wise’s disregard of seemingly all conservative thought is a major mistake. While conservatives and liberals disagree on the mechanisms of achieving a free and equal society, both schools of thought have considerable interest in achieving a better tomorrow for all Americans. I think that Tim Wise would find more friends on the right than one may expect, though they may disagree on his forms of implementation. As such, I believe that the blasting of conservatism and conservative ideals that occurred, albeit briefly, during Mr. Wise’s speech were more a tool of political showmanship akin to the current mode of political “debate.” Overall I think this strategy is ultimately damaging as it avoids the help of a significant portion of political thought.
There is a second reason for why Tim Wise may have such a negative view of conservatives, and this (most unfortunately) was demonstrated during the question and answer session following his speech when several “activists” attempted to berate Tim Wise with a series of illogical and disparate arguments. It is unfortunate that in the modern political spectrum, conservative thought is often associated with this sort of uninformed and misguided act. These people do not represent all conservative thought and only serve to make it more difficult to be an educated, thoughtful conservative. In this context, I can only assume that Tim Wise has a negative view of that sort of uninformed and misguided person rather than conservatives as a whole; however, it would be nice if that distinction was made clear. After all, it would be unwise for one speaking out against prejudices to spread their own.