Brace Yourselves: Election Night with the History Department

“Brace Yourselves: Election Night with the History Department,” was the premonitory title for the GC History and Political Science sponsored discussion even in CIIE, on November 8, 2016. Students gathered to listen to four panelist professors give a succinct description of the US election system but most importantly, their perspectives on the proceeding outcome. Professors John Roth, Phillip Gollner, Long Tran, and Jan Bender Shetler were panelists who led discussions and answered questions from the students.

“I appreciated that each professor had something different to say,” Eli Studebaker (‘15) said. “I’ve always really loved dialogue around politics and this election cycle has been frustrating because of polarization and clear issues of racism make it really difficult to have constructive conversations.” In reflecting about the climate of politics, Studebaker expresses the frustration of initiating dialogue. “It’s hard to invite people to think about a broad range of views and ideas when there are two political camps fighting in polarization.”

Neufeld Basinger (‘16) was curious to hear professors speak on the election and said she has had frequent discussions about the elections, apart from the watch party. After attending the discussion, Neufeld Basinger continued to follow the election results with friends throughout the night. “Additionally, I spent a lot of times texting my friends [about the elections],” Neufeld Basinger commented.

After the announcement of the electoral results on November 9, Goshen College students too, have felt the tension and difficulties of starting a constructive dialogue wither voters of opposing parties. Whether it was pre-election or post-election, there has been a growth in political debate, as Studebaker reflects, “I have definitely been thinking about the election a lot this year. More at school than at home.”

Professor John D. Roth provides his own faith perspective to the election conversation. “A Christian’s witness in civic life is probably more relevant in our daily actions on a smaller scale: befriend an international student; learn a foreign language; listen carefully to the stories of recent immigrants; cultivate the courage to speak up.” These actions are not limited but should be enacted by all people, students and professors alike at Goshen College. “These are all “political” acts -potentially radical acts- that we should be doing every day, regardless of who is president of the United States,” Roth said.

In addressing the issue of dialogue between conflicting parties, he encourages people to practice a spiritual discipline of empathy and understand the world from someone else’s perspective. “Understanding the mentality of the Other starts by asking lots of questions. Our goal in reaching out to the other side is not some sort of “neutrality” or “moral equivalence,” Roth continued. These actions, albeit rather small, are radical and necessary.