College Station – How conservative?

After Semantic Overload told us that College Station was a typical conservative town, Ash was worried and managed to dig up some dirt on the town that now I call home. Of course, it isn’t the liberal heaven that Atlanta was in spite of being located in a crimson red state. Being located in Texas and on the edge of the famed Bible belt, it will definitely have tinges of conservatism. I am also smart enough not to air my liberal opinions out in the open. But reading through the site that ranks cities on the scale of their liberal friendliness that Ash linked, you come across several gems that make you laugh and wee bit nervous. It is mostly comments left by readers who have lived in College Station. I am listing some below:

“In the ’92 election, 80% of students who voted voted Republican. Most of the rest voted for Perot. This must be the only college where you can walk around all day and never see a ponytail or a tie-dyed shirt (unless you’re with me or my few friends). The big shots on this campus are the Corps of Cadets, who walk around like uniformed Nazis (complete with jackboots) and physically assault anyone whom they don’t like.” “You are considered a Liberal in these parts, if you dont believe we should burn homosexuals alive, deport all immigrants, and stop the Catholic “papists” from taking over America. Texas A&M is the only campus in the nation where hate crimes against Gay and Lesbians are not only overlooked, but they are not even adressed. Democrat is a swear word on this campus, and socialist is a death warrant.”

“It is a true statement that it is a rarity to see a guy with a pony-tail around here and that is because people around here are clean cut, God-fearing, and common sense oriented. As far as gay people go, less than 1% of this campus will even admit to making a joke about being gay. “Why is that?” you ask. Well, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 CLEARLY states, <insert any gay-bashing quote taken out of context from the Bible here>. God frowns upon those who think they can love who or whatever they feel like. We, Aggies feel the same way about issues such as homosexuality. If God says it is wrong, then it is wrong. That is why A&M has such a low tolerance of people who think that they are smarter than God.”

“Are you people trying to give a one-sided view of our nasty town? Yes, we like our traditions at A&M. For instance, people are asked not to walk on the grass around the Memorial Student Center. The building is dedicated to Aggies who have died in war, and not walking on the grass around it keeps the place looking nice. We consider this respectful. Does this particular tradition threaten you in some way? I have never tried to kill a gay person. I do not belong to the KKK. I don’t hate people because they are different from me. I like my short hair cut. I love my country. I am a Republican. I pray to God. I try to live life without lying, cheating, or stealing. I don’t do drugs. I am an AGGIE. I am quite sorry you open minded liberals don’t seem care for my lifestyle, but I don’t plan to loose too much sleep over it.”

“All of the above is very typical of life at A&M. Very heated debates about what the bible says and why Aggies are the best in the world. My fun anecdote is that when I would walk through campus with my Pro-Choice Aggies T-shirt on people would actually stop and stare dumbfounded. My advice to any liberal Aggie is find like minded groups like the Aggie Democrats, Pro-Choice Aggies and the nationally famous TAMU Skydiving Club (not all liberals but a fun crowd). Avoid the Chicken like the plague (a bar, for those who haven’t had the pleasure) and go next door to Dudley’s Draw.”

Now if you feel scared for me, fret not. I think this is typical of liberal-conservative battles. Both sides like to present extreme viewpoints. I almost laughed at the third comment when the writer chastised us for trying to be smarter than God. Don’t worry, dude, God will strike me dead if he/she thinks so; you needn’t fume in anger.

Largely the town doesn’t seem too hostile. I have been visiting shopping outlets and coffee shops and although the southern charm isn’t quite evident, you don’t see the obvious repulsion that we normally associate with hick country. There is a sizable international community here (the local supermarket, HEB Foods stocks Indian spices too). Don’t worry, I am not too confrontational; I do not argue with people who see beyond reason. The fourth commenter, a hardened conservative, at least seems like a reasonable person that you can sensibly argue with or at least agree to disagree with. I will be just fine here; if not then I might just drive down to Houston or Austin to refill my liberal beliefs.

Incidentally, Kevin Drum over at Washington Monthly also is surprised by the ranking of his city, Irvine. Other rankings of cities available here. These rankings, however go against popular notion. For e.g. Dallas, TX is ranked as a highly liberal city whereas it is almost accepted widely in Texas that Austin is heaven for liberals in a starkly conservative state.

16 Comments

  1. “I am a Republican. I pray to God. I try to live life without lying, cheating, or stealing. I don’t do drugs”

    Yeah well, big deal .. I’m a liberal and I do all that too. Except praying to God. Which probably puts me higher in the food chain than you.

  2. I have always loved your’s and Ash’s blog.. but something I heard today just made me want to post this in the comment box. I knew this guy.. he lived in Texas.. he went to school in College Station I believe.. he was not a Hindu fundamentalist. He wore a sandalwood tilak on his forehead occassionally and practiced meditation.. not in an obscenely expensive pseduo spiritual studio but in a serene park.. privately..Please pray for his family.. He was one of their two sons. He was a star at whatever he did and I hope he shines forever. This life did not deserve such a gruesome ending!

    http://www.indiadaily.com/editorial/4175.asp

  3. arzan sam wadia

    August 15, 2005 at 6:35 pm

    Pat,

    Having resided in NYC over the past 7 years, I sometimes find it difficult to fathom the conservative attitude of the “White Supremacist Trash”. I come across this only during my travels cross country. And it saddens me. Its like seeing the “civilized” “illiterate” come to life. Even in India, people dont bash up or kill foreigners just because they are foreigners. Outside of the few “BLUE” pockets, America can be pretty stifling.

    One website that sums up the attitude is Fuck The South

    ps…feel free to edit, if it violates profanity guidelines on this site.

  4. Arzan,

    “Outside of the few “BLUE” pockets, America can be pretty stifling.
    One website that sums up the attitude is Fuck The South”

    That perspective is, at best, extremely naive. I am Indian, socially liberal, and have lived several years in America in what you would label as a red pocket. I haven’t felt stifled in the least. I understand that you may have had different experiences that have shaped your opinions. However, your statements dangerously conflate political conservativeness (voting “red”) and geographic location with racism and white supremacy. That, to me, is as narrow-minded as the attitudes you claim to detest. I am curious — how much time have you spent in a Southern state?

    – iu

  5. arzan sam wadia

    August 16, 2005 at 7:37 pm

    iu

    My experiences outside of NYC have been cross country rides at least three times. Hence, all my experiences are based on that. I agree, that they may not hold completely true, but I dont think i am too off the mark. I have colleagues in office, American (and white, if you may) who themselves feel stifled when they go back to their homes, after having lived in NYC for an extended period of time.

    And during my travels, whenever we would land up in small towns, we would instantly feel a very “outsider” feeling.

    Your experiences may be different, having lived in southern states, but the operating word is “your”.

    I dont think you can seperate conservativeness, racism, and white supremacy. They somehow are inter-twined, though not necessarily symbiotic. I stand by my view, and as much as it may seem naive and narrow-minded to you, i do understand that both those terms are very relative, especially in the context of this comment.

    And btw…i don’t host the website i pointed you to. :)

  6. Pat,
    Thanks for bringing up this topic. People don’t like to discuss it, but it needs to be.
    I grew up in Texas and went to Texas A&M (TAMU,) and let me tell you that bigotry is alive and well. I am white, speak English with no accent and have a seemingly American name. But when people at TAMU found out my dirty little secret, their attitude changed. That secret being I am a foreigner, Jewish and relatively liberal.
    Not a single reader comment that you posted, Pat, is an exaggeration of College Station. Be happy that you’re brown and can be categorized in the foreigner category immediately and consequently ignored by the more traditional Aggies. If you keep a low profile, your days at TAMU may be peaceful.
    Please take my advice. After 4 years there, I was driving to Austin every weekend to breathe the fresh air of liberalism. And avoid The Battalion, the school newspaper, if you can. I always found it to be inflammatory and offensive.

  7. arzan sam wadia

    August 17, 2005 at 3:10 pm

    iu

    In light of what sabra says, i rest my case. Point proven !

  8. I haven’t lived here long enough to accurately determine the town’s attitude but I am going to believe most of what Sabra has to say. Ash is hyper about this whole thing and is continuously advising me to keep my liberal mouth shut :)

    IU, I have lived in the conservative South for quite some time now. When I say conservative, I don’t mean it as a slur but it can be stifling at times when you dread to air out your liberal opinions in class or amongst your peers. Often arguments turn personal and my views often tend to be extrapolated as views of ‘all Indians’ (coz my classes didn’t have many Indians), so I have to be extra careful.

    Arzan, don’t worry…feel free to post or mention anything on this blog. I am pretty open to anything coz if you (generically speaking) say anything offensive, it refects more on you than on my blog. Of course, personal attacks are to be avoided. You have be a great and active participant on all discussions here. Keep it coming!!

  9. “In light of what sabra says, i rest my case. Point proven !”

    And what point is that, Arzan? That there are bigoted students in Texas A&M. Sure, there are.

    I’ll reiterate my problem with your first comment: making sweeping generalizations based on political choice and geographical location.

    Pat,
    I agree that when arguments turn personal, they can get intimidating. I think, however, that this has little to do with your peers’ political outlook and has more to do with their social/personal skills. (Do you think that a conservative will not face the same situation at, say, Berkeley? Lest this be misconstrued, I am not condoning such behavior but am pointing out that it transcends political boundaries.) I am also puzzled and dismayed that liberal views were not welcome at your school. Most school campuses that I’ve visited tended to be very liberal or, at least, had a very vocal liberal population :)

  10. If it all gets to you too much…head out to the “Fox and hound”, and get a few drinks. It’s not too bad….:-)

    College Station is an experience. I won’t say if it is good or not, but it is very educative.

  11. IU, it is kinda difficult to explain. Tech was very much a college liberal atmosphere whereas State had working professionals from the city in our classes which made it a mixed group. Communicating your thoughts may be futile if the person in front of you has already decided to oppose any argument you make.

    Sunil, thanks for the tip. We went there yesterday and it was a $2 Pint Thursday. Love the place already.

  12. As a new “Aggie” that has made this place my home until I finish my grad degree, I have to say that the sheer lack of hospitality here (as a minority) has been heart wrenching. I feel as if I’m trying to be run out of this town–subequently, I don’t wear my beliefs on my sleeve for fear of annhilation. I think that this IS the friendlies town in Texas–for people who consider themselves conservative.

  13. Hi,

    In 2002-2003, I lived in College Station/ Texas A & M for 9 months. I really enjoyed the people there. Regarding being conservative, you are right in terms of the general atmosphere.

    However, I met appreciable number of liberal/ middle of the road Aggies too.

    Kush

  14. Wow. I lived in College Station for 7 years, and I attended A&M for 3 1/2 of those years, and I never had a bad experience despite the fact that I was, at the time, a zealous and vocal liberal. I bartended on Northgate, and while I certainly saw my fair share of good ‘ol boy behavior (it IS Texas, folks), I also met and befriended some of the smartest, kindest, most hospitable, exceedingly generous folks I’ve ever had the pleasure to come across (from various ethnic backgrounds, some men, some women, some gay/lesbian/bi, some dirt poor, some wealthy) and some of them were as conservative as I was liberal. Didn’t matter — they were just a nice bunch of people, and they extended graciousness to me because (I assume) of who I was, not because (or in spite of) the political beliefs I held. I still have family living there, and I go back as often as I can.

    Please also keep in mind that C.S. is a city hugely populated by people aged 18-24, so if you run into a rabidly conservative 19 year old, try to keep it in perspective….hey, I thought I knew everything when I was that age, too.

    Frankly, this kind of broad generalization about an entire town just deflates me. The increasing divisiveness between so-called conservatives and liberals is nauseating. What ever happened to people getting to know other people based on commonalities (of which there are many) and agreeing to disagree on the rest but maintaining civility, kindness and compassion no matter what?

    Best of luck to you in C.S. I hope you meet and befriend the same kind of people I did.

  15. KB, I’ll keep that in mind.

    Kush, I haven’t been around much to get the conservative/liberal experience yet but I am sure whatever it might be, it shouldn’t be too rabid because of presence of students.

    Buckkel, thanks for sharing your thoughts. Incidentally, I live near North Gate too but haven’t yet experienced much of the liberal/conservative battles, if any. It is heartening to know that all viewpoints are generally accepted.My kind of dialogue is when both sides agree to disagree if they hold contrary views but at the same time, also indulge in discussions not based on emotions or passion but on rational thought.

  16. Hey,

    A great place to go is downtown Bryan. There is a great bar/cafe there called Revolution. Its kinda like a liberal bastion. And every Thursday they have $2 beers and most nights they have good live music. Have fun.

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