Third Party Presidential candidate Jill Stein came to speak at Wheaton on September 18. She addressed a variety of issues pertaining to her platform that span from college debt to the inequalities amongst low-income families to underrepresented groups. As she spoke, students listened, but they also seemed to be laughing at what she was saying. The amount of audible disrespect I heard coming from the audience was startling. How could such a “progressive” school be showing so much contempt? This leads to the thought, when does it become appropriate to laugh and be critical of third party politics?
Of course, we should always be critical of politicians, we should exercise our right to free speech, and we should be active and aware voters. Jill Stein uses her platform to address police brutality, mass incarcerations, low income inequalities, indigenous people, the LGBT+ community, and many more underrepresented groups in the United States. The policies she pushes for that represent these groups are rarely covered by the media and rarely discussed by Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. The things she spoke on that day are real issues, issues that a majority of people at Wheaton do not know first hand.
Voting third is a privilege in itself, but laughing at the ideas represented that day is also a privilege. It’s the ability to distance yourself from these issues that plague minorities, women, members of the LGBT+ community, low income families, and other groups that are not treated fairly. The ability to sit in a private liberal arts college setting and be audibly disrespectful as someone speaks on behalf of these groups that are seldom heard, that are rarely respected, and that continually need to fight for a space to exist is disappointing and harmful. We are allowed to be critical of third parties, we are allowed to constantly question ideas, but what happens when we laugh? When we laugh, we are laughing at the ideas that Jill Stein speaks on behalf of, we are laughing at minorities, we are laughing at women, we are laughing at the LGBT+ community.
I am not saying to not be critical, I am not saying to stop questioning, I am saying to allow space for underrepresented groups to be talked about and recognize the problems our society has. I am scared for this upcoming election, and I am not laughing.