On January 22, the Supreme Court voted 5-4 to allow the temporary implementation of President Trump’s new policy regarding transgender members of the military. This policy, which completely bans any people who identify as transgender or have undergone transition from serving in the U.S. armed forces, had been blocked by lower federal courts since July 2017.

On January 22, the Supreme Court voted 5-4 to allow the temporary implementation of President Trump’s new policy regarding transgender members of the military. This policy, which completely bans any people who identify as transgender or have undergone transition from serving in the U.S. armed forces, had been blocked by lower federal courts since July 2017.

As of now, the ban is not permanent; the Supreme Court’s ruling only allows it until the Court rules on a case that challenges the policy. Even so, it has incited a tremendous level of controversy since it was initially announced, drawing both fire and support from all sides of the political spectrum. In the wake of Alex Scott’s speech at Lawrenceville this past December, this conflict has reached the Lawrenceville community as well.

A previous issue of The Lawrence featured a Letter to the Editor from writers who expressed their own—and other students’—frustration with what they considered a dearth of conservative perspective in contrast to the “unwanted” surplus of liberal influence. Naming Dalia Mogahed and Alexandra Scott, who spoke out at school meetings against Islamophobia and transphobia, respectively, as examples of the “political bias” of school presentations, the authors emphasized their wish for the student body to hear from more conservative speakers.

Although the article in question was published several issues ago, many students, ourselves included, remain troubled by the deeply partisan attitudes underlying the authors’ plea for less political bias. Rather than rebutting each point in their argument, however, we wish to highlight the greater issue of how the current political environment has taught Americans that moral truths are up for debate in the political arena—and thus meant to be dissected like partisan issues rather than personal ones.

The United States has had a long-lasting problem where partisan politics polarize its people to the extent that they develop negative, personal opinions of those with opposing viewpoints. At some point, these negative attitudes evolve into blind hatred, further fueling hostility between those on the two ends of the political spectrum. However, this issue has now been amplified by the new blending of political issues with social concerns. The gray area of identity mixed with politics encourages members of one side of the political spectrum to launch personal attacks on members of identity groups associated with the opposite political party. Thus, this gray area has become a source of concern that we feel needs to be addressed.

We are living in a troubling point in time—one in which one’s moral conscience depends on which “side,” conservative or liberal, one aligns with. Right now, someone could be deemed a racist, sexist bigot because they voted Republican at the primaries, or an anti-religious, immigrant-loving monster if they voted for Clinton at the elections. We feel, however, that there is a fundamental difference between being politically liberal or conservative and being socially liberal or conservative. There can and do exist members of the Republican Party who want amnesty for undocumented immigrants and support the LGBT community—making them politically conservative, but socially liberal. On the other hand, there are likely Democrats who are pro-life and favor the construction of a border wall. The way these social positions cross party boundaries demonstrates just how reductive it is to associate specific moral positions with political parties.

The truth is that politics and morals should never have to go hand-in-hand. When people speak about a social issue, our understanding of their message should be based on the actual stance they take on the matter—whether that is debunking irrational fears or promoting support for a minority group—not on our perception of which political “side” they are on.

This is the difference we want to emphasize to those reading this article. Dalia Mogahed and Alex Scott did not visit Lawrenceville to promote any political agendas. While we do recognize that both Mogahed and Scott undoubtedly expressed some political preferences in their respective talks, that was not the focus of their presentations. These expositions were unquestionably liberal, but only socially. Student organizations, not just the School, invited these speakers to highlight issues within the country and within our own community and not to force political ideas onto the students. These speakers came to share their experiences and opinions on issues they personally face as American minorities. However, given how often politics and social morality overlap, these presentations may have come off as politically-motivated by some students, as many Americans now erroneously believe that if one disagrees with certain moral ideas that are primarily conservative, this difference automatically makes one a hard-line liberal and vice versa.

We wholeheartedly agree that the school community would benefit to hear from more conservative speakers like Professor Robert George, the example cited in the previous article. Nonetheless, we want to remind everyone again that just because someone is conservative politically does not automatically make them socially conservative. The students that wish to invite a conservative speaker are welcome to look for one, but the speakers we bring to our community should not share views that can potentially attack or alienate minority students or faculty. George could certainly be a great pick for a conservative speaker, but we feel that the valuable arguments he could share with our community would certainly not involve things such as his experiences as chairman for an anti-gay marriage group, for example. The administration supports student efforts to bring in speakers to highlight social issues rather than a political agenda. We believe that speakers like George could offer us many enlightening arguments promoting views from the political right, but conservative speakers like him should never be invited to advocate an opinion that could violate the identities of minority students and faculty.

The modern American political system has evolved in its complexity as it has grown increasingly entangled with morality. It may seem that one’s stance on certain moral issues such as the recent transgender military ban or the abortion question dictates one’s political alignment. But there should nevertheless still be a difference between the two. We encourage everyone in our community to try to look past the divisions caused by partisan influence and evaluate these social issues away from your respective political affiliations.

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