The Undercover Elephant

There are three things I should say before I jump in.

1)    this post is more about “cultural” politics that “political” politics. As in, it’s about the way we are divided politically as an American culture.  (you’ll see what I mean)

2)    You probably won’t agree with very much of what I have to say. (which is totally fine)

3)    There’s a really big chance that you’ll find things here that will prompt you to write long and incredibly intense comments about all the reasons why I’m wrong. (which is totally fine, too… but if you’re looking for a debate, you wont find it. I’ll respond politely and evenly and as logically as possible, but I won’t fight you. Sorry to disappoint all you young politicians. I’m not a politician. I just think a lot… probably too much.)

4)    Don’t say I didn’t warn you. You can call me crazy, deluded, fundamentalist… (but you can’t say that I didn’t warn you.)

And so it begins.

a few days ago-

“Mi,” nodded my oh-so-understanding college counselor, “You see, I know the ropes,” he said, “Your transcript is going to freak colleges out.”

There was a pause, and I blinked, until then unaware of the apparent terror my academic records would cause. My counselor got businesslike, “See, after spending your junior year in Beijing, chances are, Mi, the colleges most interested in such an… individualized… high-school experience will be the smaller, more unique institutions.”

I blinked again. He continued talking, and ultimately, what was translated to me was “the only colleges who could possible be interested in little ‘ole you are small-hipster-populated-east-coast-liberal arts-colleges.” Which I was totally fine with. He then mentioned a college in Vermont. A quite vehemently and literally liberal… liberal arts college.

I brought this revelation home to my parents. Considering the fact that I’ve grown up in a republican house surrounded by Christian values, the idea of applying for a tiny liberal arts college known for being enthusiastically blue was a little daunting. For them. And, I’ll be honest, for me too.

I knew that if somehow I ended up spending the next four years of my life in a college like that, any political value my parents had instilled in me, every conservative economic statute I’d ever agreed with, every ounce of faith I’d personally decided to pursue in terms of my believe in a Judeo-Christian God… all of that would be challenged. [(see the stats here)]

But, that’s a professor’s job, isn’t it? Woodrow Wilson himself, in 1914, noted that “the use of a university is to make young gentlemen as unlike their fathers as possible.” Nothing has changed; James O. Freedman, in 2002, states that the “purpose of a college education is to question your father’s values.” [(to read the article in which I found the quotes, click here)]

I’ll agree; blind belief in anything is dangerous. Everyone should absolutely have his or her core values given a good shake, a run for their money. But my adherence to Wilson and Freedman’s ideas goes only so far… is questioning the “norm” a good idea? Absolutely! Is it the sole purpose of a college education? Last I checked, no.

But this is America, no? One could easily argue that the country gives us a right to install a majority of liberal teachers… that, because I’ve grown up conservative, I should be willing to “open my mind” to everything the liberal professors have to say. And typically, I would agree… however, considering the fact that college happens to be some of the most formative years of a life, considering the fact that the only people who have any power over me in college would be my professors, and considering the fact [(see the stats!)] that most of these professors will be fairly liberal… would it be totally crazy to say that, in some ways, the odds, this time, are a little unfair? Food for thought…

I’ve always known that my high school is intensely liberal. Despite being a Catholic school, which, if stereotypes had their way, would encourage more conservative values, not one republican teacher exists on the staff. I am the closet Republican of my friend group [most of them assume I’m a democrat; I’ve got the blue-disguise thing down to a science … laugh at Romney, throw up the odd peace sign now and then, use hipster lingo, wear American Apparel… and no one ever has to know I’m a Republi(censored)!!]

See… I’m white, I’m apparently a member of the 1%, I’m republican, I’m Christian, I’ve been duck hunting, I believe in the right to own a firearm, and you actually can trace my American ancestry to General Sherman. I don’t say these things proudly, I just say them because those things are facts.

I’m also the epitome of everything my liberal friends have come to hate… or at least consider as fundamentalist or ignorant or racist or homophobic or islamophobic or chauvinistic or… the list goes on.

I’m not saying that some Republicans and some Christians and some Capitalist ideals haven’t messed up big-time. I could probably do with a dousing of the opposite political climate, for educations sake, right?

However, how far does that dousing go before it becomes a waterfall? How long before that waterfall drowns what ideals I’ve come to hold dear? Robert Marunto once said of his university experiences, “At many of the colleges I’ve taught at or consulted for, a perusal of the speakers list and the required readings in the campus bookstore convinces me that a student could probably go through four years without ever encountering a right-of-center view portrayed in a positive light.”

Again, I don’t mind being challenged. I don’t mind stepping into others’ shoes. (…why do you think I spent 9 months in China?) I do mind, however, feeling out of place and having nothing to do about it. I’m not extremist right, so I’m not going to be visiting the Tea Party’s website to get my Republican fix. I’m not left, either, so it’s not as if I’m going to be sitting in a humanities class nodding blithely as my professor says something more eloquently along the lines of  “large corporations are evil,” or “fundamentalist Christians cause the biggest problems.”

Some large corporations are evil. Some fundamentalist Christians act less like Christians (love your neighbor, anyone? Judge not, anyone? Blessed are peacemakers, anyone? Bueller? Bueller??) and more like genuinely depraved human beings (remember “God Hates America”?) But the left side ain’t perfect either.

My point?

Everybody poops!!

…or perhaps, to say it more eloquently (in the words of my religion of choice):

“therefore you have no excuse, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things.” (Romans 2:1-3, Bible.)  Or, equally, “Let not the hatred of any people make you swerve to wrong and depart from justice,” (Sûrah al-Mâ’idah: 8, the Quran.)

So, whether it’s my future liberal professor, or me, the fairly stereotypical Christian republican, we both have things to say. We both live in a country where we are free to say it. And elements of what we say both will have merit… but elements of what we both say probably will be evidence that we both poop. ‘Tis the nature of democracy, or so I’m told.

All I want to do is to survive the next four years with my beliefs intact. I’m nearly 18. I’m still young, but I’m not totally naïve anymore; I’m old enough to put my stake in the ground politically. But, no matter how deeply ingrained my ideals are, the next four years seem a little shaky… partially because I want to understand the other side of the political spectrum, partially because I’ll be totally alone while attempting to do so, and partially because I genuinely understand and appreciate my parents’ views. In college, for lack of better options, and not to be melodramatic, I might end up just trying to “fit in” with my liberal friends again, the Undercover Elephant once more. But, I look forward to the day when I wont have to… even if that day, according to the stats, is just something to think about.



  1. I can completely relate to your feeling as an “undercover elephant.” I too go to an extremely liberal school and I’ve sometimes referred to myself as a “closet Christian.” I don’t pretend to follow my classmates’ beliefs but I also don’t go around parading my views on controversial topics like abortion and gay marriage. I’m not affiliated with any specific party but I do have some republican leanings (if anyone at my school discovered that, I would probably be hanged for treason). My reason for that is that the Republican party has often shared my beliefs in many topics. I don’t believe in abortion. To me, having an abortion is akin to killing a baby. I also believe that marriage should be between a man and a woman. But I don’t feel comfortable or safe saying these things to my friends and my classmates because I would probably become a social pariah. And if I go to the college of my choice after I graduate, I’m going to continue feeling that way. So I understand completely what you go through at school because I go through the same thing.


    • Thanks Ugochi! I’m really, really glad that you could relate to by post. Stay strong haha. Those are super tough topics, for sure! Abortion and gay rights… probably the most inflammatory social issues of our day… it’s impossible to state a belief now without offending someone, it seems… I wish I had a solution, because while we have a right to hold the beliefs we do, the beliefs go against the social norm of “tolerance” and therefore are apparently worthy of scrutiny… It’s a really really hard thing to balance between remaining uncompromising in your beliefs, and not banging anyone over the head with them either! Anyway, good luck! And Im so glad you found this post relatable, even if you’re the only one haha 🙂


  2. Hey!

    I’ve been in your shoes before, just a little differently. I up until just recently lived in Texas, and have a very liberal family. Texas is pretty full of far Righter’s, and I had to act more conservative than I am, and I know it can be kinda uncomfortable. What I realized is that I would just go with the flow, and however my views turned out, that’d be fine. So unknown to my parents, I have a few more conservative views, though I still find I mostly lean left. I believe in the 2nd Amendment, but I still side left in a lot of the social issues today, such as abortion, and gay marriage. Personally I think you should just go with however you feel and not worry about what your parents think, because views are ever changing.



  3. Thanks Bo! Wow, that’s so interesting… honestly, I’m oddly comforted to know that it happens on both sides of the political equation! And you’re right, views ARE ever changing, but I don’t know if that’s an excuse to just leave one belief for another, if the original belief was genuinely important to you. I think going with the flow is an excellent plan, but is it possible to do so without compromising? I guess we’ll see. But I get what you’re saying, and it was really encouraging; you’re right, there’s really no need to worry. So thanks a ton! Stay brave, and good luck to you!


  4. Hi there,
    Great post! The statistics about beliefs entering versus leaving college are really fascinating. It seems that going through four years at college swing people to the left. I think a lot of influence on this definitely comes from the fact that probably 95% of college professors are liberal (according to your graph), but also it seems to me that some of the ideas of “old-school” social conservatism are a bit outdated, and younger people are starting to pick up on that. Take gay marriage for example. Nowadays people are much more tolerant of gay people, especially compared to many years ago, when there probably were very few openly gay people. So I think much of the younger generation find it hard to believe that there are still people that think gay marriage should be illegal. Anyways, great job on your post, it was really interesting and it definitely left me thinking for a while.



    • Hi Kevin!
      You’re right… there are a lot of typically conservative ideals that are becoming as you say, “outdated.” Or at least impractical. But I guess I just don’t quite see the few -stick-out-sore-thumb” republican ideals as a reason to let the pendulum swing ALL the way over towards the other extreme, you know? There are still plenty of benefits to conservatism, but young people these days are so fixated on the few icky statutes that they forget to look at the whole shebang. Either way, you’re absolutely right, and I’m really glad my post got those wheels turning! Happy Thanksgiving!


  5. Hi Mi,

    As a non-Democrat living in Portland, OR, I have to say that it’s tough.

    I publicly admitted to being an independent a while ago.Not everybody likes it. The party of acceptance, tolerance, and openmindedness can be pretty stifling at times. Political correctness is hypocritical in nature.

    I was born in Alaska. Moving to and living in the Pacific Northwest and going to a far-from-liberal high school *has* changed my political views, although not to the extreme left. I often find myself arguing with liberals, being the “conservative in the room”. People don’t always like to be disagreed with! It’s just how it is.

    Most teachers are overwhelmingly liberal. I’d be hard-pressed to find a conservative or even moderate teacher at my school. Even in high school, I occasionally catch my teachers passing off liberal orthodoxy as fact. And yes, I do have to stand up sometimes, which becomes more difficult if it’s a teacher I like and respect.

    So… yeah. Life as an openly non-liberal student is never easy. Intolerance dies hard. That said, College may change you, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. You’ll only be a better person for being exposed to different political views.

    Good luck!



    • Hi Patrick!
      You’re so right… intolerance DOES die hard… and irony is the name of the game when it comes to liberal idealism vs. an actual opinion clash. It’s really awesome to hear that you’re standing up for yourself, that you see the full picture, but that you’re still respectful. And I totally know what that’s like to sit and up and go “waaaiiiiiit just a minute here…” when one of my teachers pulls out a left-something out from their sleeve. You’re right… a change in my ideals during college would not necessarily be a bad thing! I’m really excited to the breadth of opinions I’ll have access to… and since I hope to go to college outside the States, well, the opinions might just be all that much more insightful, what with the objective view and such. Anyway, thank you so much for your comment, and I’m really glad you could empathize with my post. Stay individual, keep a stiff upper lip, be informed, etc! Happy Thanksgiving!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s