Being Liberal at BYUI Part 2: Obama 2008

Previously on… can you tell I miss my regular TV shows?

Anyways, back to discussing the ultra-conservative atmosphere on campus at BYUI. Back when this was going on there was one main area everyone bottle necked because of construction. This was the Mainwaring Center (MC) where the bookstore is and the food court area. It was late September 2008. This was before all the spiffy new additions that are there now. Anyway, there were these two areas of the lower lobby that school clubs could reserve to hand out flyers or get signups for this, that and the other. One day I was walking through and saw this giant bulletin board that said “Campus Republicans – McCain 2008.”

One of the student volunteers must have noticed my eye roll from across the lobby area because he made a beeline for me. He was one of those guys with the “Hey, man,” attitude (the ‘bro’ stuff hadn’t reached Rexburg yet) with his very conservative LDS, middle of Idaho, football quarterback look about him. I’d be lying if I said he didn’t distract me a little bit from what he was actually saying, but when I got back around to paying attention I just politely said that I wasn’t interested. He asked if I just didn’t like politics. I shook my head and informed him that, no, I was interested in politics, but I was planning to vote for Barack Obama. I swear his eyes narrowed at me like I had become Korihor the anti-Christ. It would have been amusing if I’d been a spectator and not the source of the glaring. I didn’t want to get into a debate at the time, mostly because I still had half the campus to cross to get to my safe haven of wonderful people, the Snow Building. I apologized, sidestepped him and went on my way.

Thus began my exposure to the presiding cultural attitudes towards Obama at BYUI. Just like Prop 8, it was everywhere. If you wanted to derail and entire class away from a topic at hand, something I might have done on purpose once during a music theory class when my brain was hurting, all you had to do was bring up either Obama or Prop 8 and boom, class was over, political firestorm.

I found allies in unlikely places, one of my favorite professors, who had a stint as the Men’s Choir director, not to mention one hell of a French Horn player, had an Obama sign up in his office and I knew it was a safe place to discuss things with him on a political scale, which being in the leadership of the Choir I was able to do during that semester. Plenty of other teachers and students were able to be found if you knew what to look for. We were never so numerous, or annoying, just my opinion, as the Campus Conservatives. To give you a brief insight into their ridiculousness, they held “debates,” and even called them that…and didn’t bother to invite anyone of the opposing viewpoint. Utter hilarity.

I still remember the excitement the morning the election results came in and Obama had won. I felt elated and excited and posted about it on my Facebook page. Later that morning I received a text message from a rather closed-minded individual whose message was comprised almost exclusively of scriptures in the Book of Mormon talking about anti-Christs, the end of the world, and what will happen when the voice of the people choose evil over good…it was…special.

I received a few more of those kinds of messages on Facebook and in classes and from texts and was pretty baffled. I mean, I know people find politics very strong, but it was the first time I’d realized that people’s religion could dictate their politics and the reaction therein. It was fascinating and disheartening. The worst part was a story related to me by a professor, I think it was my Book of Mormon teacher at the time. He was a really good guy, great teacher, very religiously open-minded but very knowledgeable and had a strong testimony. His son was around second grade age and came home to tell his dad what he’d been told by another kid at school. This second grader had told this other second grader that Obama would need to be killed soon to fix the country. Fantastic, right? His parents, who I’m guessing he heard this from, would be so proud…

Now, let’s be clear, I’m not attributing any of this to church doctrine, necessarily, but I think we can all agree that church culture allows for and sometimes promotes this kind of thinking, and at least seemingly does very little to stop it.

I hope this gave you an idea of the culture that surrounded me in Rexburg as I began the fledgling thoughts to take my life in a different direction.