Julia Lindpaintner
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MFA Thesis

A blog documenting my journey creating a Master's thesis towards an MFA from the School of Visual Arts' Products of Design program.

Seeking disagreement

Last night, I did something I never thought I'd do. I attended a debate viewing party organized and attended by the New York Young Republicans Club. At a crowded bar in Midtown Manhattan, I watched the first debate between our nominees for president, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. As someone who generally has questions about everything and is loathe to choose a position before feeling adequately informed, it struck me that I walked into the room with absolutely NO question who I'm voting for in this election. In an ever more polarized and divided political climate, I was curious what I might learn by seeking disagreement.

Here are my (brief) observations:

Psychological safety is essential to productive dialogue. When I asked the first man I met at the event—another first-time attendee of the meetup—what made him seek out this gathering, he said: "Well, I wanted to find a place to watch the debates where I'd feel safe." In the context of our conversation, it was clear that he meant that he wanted to be somewhere where having and expressing his views and beliefs would not put him in danger. My classmate Josh likened this to the kind of feeling expressed by other groups. While expressing a homosexual identity outwardly seems to be accepted in New York, there are certainly times and places where exposing this information would put individuals at risk of ridicule, at best. 

Nobody likes angry yelling. Despite what the media and conversations I follow would have me believe about groups of Trump supporters, there was only one woman in the bar who was shouting at Hillary, crying "Liar, liar" and "Hillary for prison!," at the screen. But I wasn't the only one who turned around and looked. She didn't exactly get dirty looks, but she certainly got looks of disapproval. This group was clearly trying to see who this one person was who flinging out this assertions and insults. My favorite/least favorite moment was when she yelled, "Your husband cheated on you!" ARE WE SERIOUSLY STILL TALKING ABOUT THAT?*

Psychological safety is essential to productive dialogue. When I asked the first man I met at the event—another first-time attendee of the meetup—what made him seek out this gathering, he said: "Well, I wanted to find a place to watch the debates where I'd feel safe." In the context of our conversation, it was clear that he meant that he wanted to be somewhere where having and expressing his views and beliefs would not put him in danger. My classmate Josh likened this to the kind of feeling expressed by other groups. While expressing a homosexual identity outwardly seems to be accepted in New York, there are certainly times and places where exposing this information would put individuals at risk of ridicule, at best. 

Not being forthright makes me an awkward communicator. I was surprised by how poor my conversation skills were at this event. While I didn't lie and tell people I was a Trump supporter, I didn't out myself as a Clinton supporter either. I told the president of the club I was just interested in learning about the group, and then asked her, "So, what do you do other than President-ing this group?" Literally. Nervous laughter. "Oh, no, I have a full-time job," she said. "Oh yeah, I know I know, that's what I meant—just curious what you do.." Oy.

* I guess this is my own angry yell, so I apologize. Nobody likes that. But I have to ask, what does this assertion even mean? And why are we holding it against Hillary???

Julia LindpaintnerComment