Hope For Healing: Solutions to the Myths Surrounding Suicide

Lauren Hemmert

Thursday, 4:02PM. Late for class, I hurriedly answer my cell phone. Having already
spoken with my mom earlier that day, I am prepared to tell her that I will call back. It is then that
she asks if I had spoken with my little brother yet that day. I pause, the outer door slightly ajar,
my hand tight on the handle.
“No, why?” I respond. Her voice is strange. Off. The door slips from my fingers,
shutting with finality, as she begins to cry over the phone. It is a broken sound of fear and pain as
she explains that earlier that day while the classes were still in session, a high school student had
committed suicide. My brother’s best friend.
A million scenes and emotions flash through my head. The boys playing spike ball in the
basement. The boys eating ice cream at Dairy Queen after a middle school choir concert or
laughing as I drove them home from their job at a local car wash. The annoyance I felt whenever
they were too rambunctious. The guilt at having been annoyed. The disbelief that washed over
me. The reality. I saw it in my head and felt it in my heart, and yet the doubt creeped in. It wasn’t
real. It couldn’t be real. I braced myself for it again and again and yet each time I was
unprepared for the words that she has spoken. The painful truth raking my soul. Aden was gone.
Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico.
These states make up what is known as the suicide belt. According to the National Institute of

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Mental Health, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States, claiming 44,965
lives in 2016. That is more than 1 person every 15 minutes. That same year, 9.8 million
Americans reported having serious suicidal thoughts, and 1.3 million Americans attempted
suicide. The number more than doubled to 2.8 million for people with suicide plans.
I grew up in Salem, Oregon and my community, my high school, was accustomed with
grief. During my high school years, the student body suffered together with the loss of students
to accidents and suicide alike. You cannot predict when or how tragedy will strike. Sometimes
you cannot even predict how to respond. In these cases, one would talk about it for more than a
month. Avoidance was key. Do you remember so-and-so? Do you mean the senior who… raised
eyebrows, nervous glances… you know, died? It was as if we never knew how to respond. We
had never been trained what to say because society had trained us not to say anything. We would
make it worse if we brought it up, we thought. We would hurt someone’s feelings or trigger
someone’s emotions, we assumed.
In Marion County, where I went to school, a statewide survey noted how 20 percent of
11th graders and 14 percent of 8th graders said they had seriously considered attempting suicide
in 2017. Just last year, 12,278 young people reached out to the Oregon youth crisis line.
According to Natalie Sept, the spokeswoman for Oregon’s suicide and crisis line, Lines of Life,
it is common for people who do attempt suicide to talk about ending their pain, rather than their
lives (Alexander 2018). They are hurting and horribly confused about their purpose in life. They
feel that they are at an impasse. For example, in the wake of the Netflix series release of 13
Reasons Why there was an increase in internet searches concerning suicide. Though dismaying,
studies found that the majority of inquiries were for “suicide hotlines” and “suicide prevention”

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(Pappas). According to this study, people are seeking help, whether for themselves with hotlines,
like the Lines of Life in my state, or for their loved ones through suicide prevention. Now take
these numbers from my county, from my state, and imagine them multiplied by fifty. Imagine
your hometown and how it would respond.
Think, how can we help? First, we need to know the myths. There are many myths
associated with suicide that lead to confusion, bias, stereotypes, stigmas, etc., however, there are
two myths specifically that have influenced my understanding of suicide for much of my life.
Primarily, when discussing suicide, our society has a distinct fear that by talking about
suicide people are more likely to commit suicide. It’s considered taboo. Often this discussion is
met with hushed tones. Reactions to the topic led me to believe that suicide was a “behind closed
doors” conversation. It was as though I couldn’t bring it up for fear of planting the idea in
someone else’s mind or in my own.
This fear carries over into the sectarian notion that suicide is an unforgivable, damning
sin. This myth has been brought about by parallels often drawn between the act of “committing”
or “attempting” suicide with committing or attempting to commit self-murder. Our
understanding has been that suicide is a rejection of God’s path and the blessings of eternal life.
It is a fear that has plagued me personally. This misunderstanding has always been inconsistent
with my image of a loving and forgiving God.
When we are faced with mortal and eternal questions, we must recognize that we do not
know all the answers. There is no perfect solution, but there are ways to move forward. As stated
by Elder Dale G. Renlund in a recent address on suicide, he discusses how coming “together as
families, as churches and communities we can do better than we are doing now.” We will thus be

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able to decrease embarrassment by speaking up and reduce stigmas surrounding suicide by
creating supportive environments of healing. An example I would like to offer is a memorial
vigil held by my community after the death of Aden’s death.
What started as a quiet invitation for parents, students, and staff to join in a prayer around
the building quickly turned into a gathering of more than 2,000 people⏤people with different
backgrounds, beliefs, scars, and strengths. The weak and the strong. The hurt and afflicted.
Those who were healing and those with hands to heal. Each person in my community was doing
better by simply being there. By simply remembering.
Through my community coming together, I have learned that those fears and myths,
which influenced my perception of suicide, were false. So, let me offer my solutions for societal
and spiritual healing in regards to suicide.
By talking openly about suicide, we do not run the risk of increasing someone’s chances
of committing suicide, instead, we allow for healing to begin. It is a hard topic to address,
however, teaching difficult subjects, like the inoculation against harmful or deadly diseases,
provides accurate information on misunderstood topics (Ballard 2016). It protects against
diseases such as bias, stereotypes, stigmas, etc. Suicide is one of those topics that is
misunderstood. Psychologists have expressed how even they have to discuss the topic multiple
times before patients realize they are in a safe enough environment to express suicidal thinking
without feeling judged or weak. It is time to open a dialog that will allow individuals who are
suffering to have a safe haven from the storm. In fact, psychologists and ecclesiastical leaders
alike agree that the most effective healing for those struggling with suicidal tendencies is
fostered by a non-judgemental, accepting, and supportive environment.

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For spiritual healing, I offer an explanation from Elder Bruce R. McConkie, in which he

Suicide consists in the voluntary and intentional taking of one’s own life, particularly
where the person involved is accountable and has a sound mind. … Persons subject to
great stresses may lose control of themselves and become mentally clouded to the point
that they are no longer accountable for their acts. Such are not to be condemned for
taking their own lives. It should also be remembered that judgment is the Lord’s; he
knows the thoughts, intents, and abilities of men; and he in his infinite wisdom will make
all things right in due course. (Ballard 1987)

For me, the key phrase from Elder McConkie is that all things will be made right in due course
by the Lord. Often we expect our mental or spiritual healing to happen immediately; however,
when you have a broken limb, you cannot expect it to heal right away. It takes time to allow the
fragments to bind together and physical therapy to build strength again. As with suicide and the
grief of those affected, we cannot simply mark a date on the calendar and expect to be okay.
Even broken bones still ache years later. We must trust that our loved ones will be ok and we
must believe that we will as well.
Finally, I extend my response to the loved ones suffering from guilt. I often wonder if I
could have done something differently. I have learned that this line of thinking leads only to
despair. Instead, I call out to you with concern. It is not about what we could have done, but what
we are going to do together. As my community joined together, so can you and I join to open the
dialog. Certainly, there are many different ways we can do this. The important thing is that we

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begin to foster environments in which those affected by suicide and suicidal thinking can heal
without judgment.
In high school, I did not know how to react; in college, I am still wary; nonetheless, I am
confident that little by little I will be able to help in the healing process for myself and for others.
It won’t be easy, nor will there be a great change overnight, but I am certain that there is a future
date, unset, on which it will be better. As stated by Natalie Sept, “suicide is preventable”
(Alexander). It takes communication, acceptance, and a willingness to try.
I cannot help but feel the grief and pain that I am sure is only amplified in those who had
been closest to Aden during his life. There is still fear and confusion, but there is also hope.
Hope for the mercy of a God who is also a Father. Hope in the Atonement and the sacrifice that
makes up the requirements of justice. Hope that we will reject stereotypes and offer our hands.
Hope that communities will come together in open dialog to support those who have suicidal
thoughts. Who have attempted suicide. Who feel marginalized. Who have lost family members.
Seek to help. Seek hope.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24 hours a day at 1-800-273-TALK(8255),
connecting callers to crisis centers near them. For help in Spanish, call 1-888-628-9454.

Crisis Text Line (USA), text HOME to 741741

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Alexander, Rachel. “1,000 From Sprague Community Pray Together Following Student’s
Death.” Salem Reporter, 8 Oct. 2018, 2:09pm,
Ballard, M. Russell. “Suicide.” The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, The Church of
Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints,
Ballard, M. Russell. “The Opportunities and Responsibilities of CES Teachers in the 21st
Century.” The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, The Church of Jesus Christ of
Latter-Day Saints, 26 Feb. 2016,

opportunities- and-responsibilities-of-ces-teachers-in-the-21st-century?lang=eng.

Castro, Joseph. “Where is the Suicide Belt?” LiveScience, Purch, 29 Mar. 2013, 3:41pm,
National Strategy for Suicide Prevention: Goals and Objectives for Action. U.S. Dept. of Health
and Human Services, Office of the Surgeon General and National Action Alliance for
Suicide Prevention. Washington, DC, 2012.
Pappas, Stephanie. “Suicide: Statistics, Warning Signs and Prevention.” LiveScience, Purch, 10
Aug. 2017, 9:51pm, www.livescience.com/44615-suicide-help.html.

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Renlund, Dale G. “Reach Out in Love, Elder Renlund Says in New Suicide Prevention Videos.”
Church News and Events, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, 2 July
“Suicide.” National Institute of Mental Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services,

Racial Representation in Latter-day Saint Art

Rebecca Haymore

Among my most distinctive childhood memories is of looking at Del Parson’s famous
painting Christ with Children, the one where He is seated in a red robe with four children around
Him. Three white, one Black. I looked for myself and settled on the fact that both the girls and I
had brown hair. However, I think a tiny part of my child’s mind knew that, as a half-Chinese girl,
I didn’t look quite like any of the children (ironically, the Latter-day Saint Media Library also
refers to the painting as Christ and Children from around the World). I didn’t think much of the
experience then, but now I feel a pang of disappointment and frustration every time I look at
another Latter-day Saint painting that doesn’t represent my experiences with God and my belief
in His love for all His children.
My experience is not unique. The photographs, illustrations, and stories of the Friend and
other Church publications have diversified in recent years, but the religious art that appears in
Latter-day Saint publications, bookstores, and homes remains dominated by white and
European-looking figures. However, the focus of Church-themed art on the white Latter-day
Saint experience fails to reflect the growing diversity in the Church. We lose an opportunity to
teach the world about Latter-day Saint beliefs concerning the nature of God and the inclusiveness
of the Church. Racially integrating Latter-day Saint art will help more members and investigators

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feel seen and included in the Gospel as they learn and relearn that “God is no respecter of
persons” (King James Version, Acts 10:34).
Deseret Book is one of the best-known sellers of Latter-day Saint supplies; there are
around 1,200 products under the Art category of Deseret Book’s website. Of the first fifty-eight
products under Deseret Book’s Featured Art tab which are not portraits of Jesus, Church leaders,
and packs of mini art prints, I found that twenty-four depict scriptural stories, twenty-seven
portray no clear non-scriptural person of color, and approximately five portray at least one
unmistakable person of color. Countless more paintings depicting primarily white subjects exist
beyond what I analyzed; very few clearly depict a person of color and fewer clearly depict more
than one person of color. People who look like my Chinese mother and her family continue to be
overwhelmingly absent from Latter-day Saint depictions of this world, the spirit world, the
millennial paradise, the entirety of the Plan of Salvation. Most of my non-white friends disappear
from these paintings as well.
Latter-day Saints of color remain a minority in the United States — the Pew Research
Center reported in 2009 that 86% of Latter-day Saints in the US are white — but millions of
members live in South America, Asia, and other continents. In contrast to the growing diversity
of the Church, Latter-day Saint artwork as a whole continues to exclude people of color from its
subject matter. Latter-day Saint art would be better able to serve as a teaching tool and a visual
representative of the Church to the rest of the world by representing more of God’s children.
Art has been an important part of Latter-day Saint tradition since the early history of the
Church. BYU’s Encyclopedia of Mormonism explains the purpose of Latter-day Saint art:

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Artworks have been used to help teach gospel principles…Artworks are also used to teach
non-Mormons about Church history and doctrine. … The spirit of Latter-day Saint art is
essentially the same: it evokes a sense of the goodness of God and of a belief in his
eternal plan for mankind … Their [Latter-day Saint artists’] quest consists of the attempt
to translate their religious ideals into their various mediums. (Peacock 73-75)
One doctrine that Church leaders emphasize is the importance of racial diversity and unity and
the wickedness of racism. In an article entitled “Unity in Diversity,” Mormon Newsroom
explains, “Whatever the ethnicity or outward appearance, they [Latter-day Saints] have a
common identity as children of the same Heavenly Father. Race is an affirming part of human
purpose. As much as these differences enrich, the gospel of Jesus Christ transcends them all.”
Artwork that focuses primarily on white subjects denies viewers opportunities to learn
and relearn the principle that everyone has a place in the Gospel and in God’s plan. Given the
importance of images to the way we process and internalize information, the worldwide Church
needs artistic images that remind us to include other people and ourselves, no matter what we
look like. Racially homogeneous artwork can also confirm to misled critics and investigators that
the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a white church when in fact God “inviteth…all
to come unto him and partake of his goodness” (Book of Mormon, 2 Ne 26:33). By affirming
beliefs in God’s love and humankind’s “common identity” through racially inclusive artwork,
Latter-day Saint artists, distributors, and members testify of God’s love to members as well as to
anyone concerned about the Church’s past or present stance on race.
Although Latter-day Saints of color have traditionally comprised a minority in the
Church, our doctrine teaches us that God does not ignore the minority. The fact that people of

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color are a minority in the Church is irrelevant to the need for them to have the same access to
representation that Caucasian members have had for generations.
A few artists have attempted to reverse the racially homogeneous trend in Latter-day
Saint art by painting children of color. While browsing Deseret Book for a gift for the Latino
children we tutored, my mother found a painting of Christ with a girl who almost looks like me.
However, our continual inability to find children in Latter-day Saint art who more closely
resemble the children we befriended diminished my short-lived satisfaction. As I have learned, it
will take more than several paintings to upset a decades-long racial imbalance in Latter-day Saint
art and to represent a wide variety of people of color.
Artists and Latter-day Saint distributors have an important, direct role to play in
diversifying Church art as they create, promote, and sell new paintings that shape the religious
art market. However, members must use buying power and word-of-mouth to show retailers that
there is a demand for racially representative artwork. The next time you want to add a piece of
Church-themed art to your home or display art in your lesson, try looking through the collections
of lesser-known artists such as Yongsung Kim, Jorge Cocco Santangelo, Brian Kershisnik,
Kathleen Peterson, Elspeth Young, or other creatives featured in the Church’s international art
competitions. As members promote the popularity and profitability of racially diverse artwork,
the amount of representative art in the mainstream Latter-day Saint market will increase. I hope
that diverse artwork inundates Latter-day Saint culture until children of color can easily find
paintings of people who look like them. I imagine that instead of my saying to myself, “Those
girls next to Jesus have brown hair like me,” the next generation of children of color will say to

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themselves, “That person looks just like me!” and realize and remember that they belong in
Jesus’ arms too.

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Works Cited

“A Portrait of Mormons in the U.S.” Pew Research Center, 24 July 2009,
The Holy Bible. Authorized King James Version, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day
Saints, 2013, Acts 10:34.
The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ. The Church of Jesus Christ of
Latter-day Saints, 2013, 2 Nephi 26:33.
Peacock, Martha Moffit. “Art in Mormonism.” Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Macmillan
Publishing Company, 1992, pp. 73-75. eom.byu.edu/index.php/Art_in_Mormonism.
“Unity in Diversity: A Series on the on The Worldwide Church.” Mormon Newsroom, The
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 25 Mar 2015.

A Rallying Cry to Change the Statistics

Heather Randle

In 7th grade, my mom was driving our carpool home from school, all of us laughing and
singing. After a long day, it was nice to think only of the food waiting for me in the pantry and a
sassy comeback to the latest comment from a friend in the car. Three minutes away from home,
we started to hear the sirens. Suddenly, flashing lights of ambulances and fire trucks were all I
could see through the windshield. We drove under the student overpass and saw dozens of police
officers on the bridge. Traffic slowed to a stop, and I saw the police escorting a group of
teenagers off the bridge. I saw blood on their clothes. And then it was behind me; everyone
turned in their seats to catch a final glimpse of the chaos. The car was silent until one of my peers
dared to ask what had happened. No one had an answer.
Later that night we saw the story on the news. We had witnessed the aftermath of a
student at the junior high school shooting himself in front of his friends. The people I saw being
pulled off the bridge were his peers who had tried to save him. It was too late.
A few years later, when I was in 11th grade, I noticed some weird posts on Twitter.
People were talking about a boy from my school, nothing like the witty banter I usually logged
on to laugh at. I read confusing tweets about people wishing they could’ve helped the person
they had loved. My curiosity continued to grow, so I called my friends and searched the news for
anything that could help me figure out why he was so prominent on my feed. That night I learned
that a guy in my grade, someone I had calculus with, had shot himself in the elementary school
parking lot. A fellow student that I was used to seeing smiling and laughing with his group of

soccer friends was gone in an instant. The next day at school, the principal came over the
intercom to announce Andrew’s passing.
I don’t pretend to have known him intimately. We only had a few conversations, but his death
really affected me. I saw his friends crying every day for the next week. I saw his empty desk in
three of my classes. I had counselors come into each period I shared with him. They tried to
make us discuss the emotions we felt when the teacher accidentally called his name during role.
No one wanted to say how confused and hurt they were. We let the counselors stand there and
stare as we sat in uncomfortable silence. I attended the candlelight vigil. I saw his family walk
through the halls gathering his things. I saw him being missed.
In Utah alone, there are an average of 578 suicides every year (Health Indicator Report of
Suicide). 578 people give in to the hurt they feel every day. 50.8% of these suicides are by gun.
That means that on average, 294 people will pick up a gun and end their life every year (Suicide
in Utah 2014). That’s just in Utah, who’s suicide rate is far above the national average. In 2016,
Utah had six more suicides per 100,000 people, on average, than any other state (Suicide
Statistics). In my years of junior high and high school alone, five of my peers killed themselves. I
saw the aftermath of such a horrific reality five times.
Such high suicide rates have been linked to minimal gun control. In Utah, you do not
need a permit to buy rifles, shotguns, or handguns (NRA). This is much less restrictive than most
states in the country. Because there are so few restrictions, it makes it easier for emotionally
vulnerable people to gain access to guns. Studies have shown that “more restrictive gun control
laws… are associated with a reduced suicide rate among adolescents and young adults aged 15 to
24 years” (Brent, 89). Other sources report similar findings. Harvard Public Health reported that,

“When widely used lethal means are made less available or less deadly, suicide rates by that
method decline, as do suicide rates overall” (Drexler, Harvard Public Health). Following these
findings, it would appear logical that if Utah made it harder to obtain guns, then the amount of
suicides could decline.
I don’t want to ignore the fact that suicide does not require a gun. Suicide does not
require a gun. In Utah, 24.3% of suicides are by suffocation, 19.8% by poisoning, 1.4% by
cutting, 1.3% from falling, and 2.5% by other methods (Suicide in Utah 2014). When someone
is desperate they can find a way to harm themselves even if they don’t have access to a gun. But
let’s think about the failed suicide attempts of these same methods. 75.9% of failed suicide
attempts are by poisoning, 17.6% from cutting, and 6.5% by other means (Suicide in Utah 2014).
What these numbers mean is that poisoning and cutting more often fail than succeed as suicide
methods. Notice that the gun suicide attempts didn’t get their own category. They are a part of
the “other” category and make up less than 6.5% of the failed attempts. Suicide by gun is much
more likely to succeed than by other methods.
While a gun can kill someone in seconds, other methods often take longer. When cutting
is the chosen method, most people will be saved and sent to a hospital before they bleed out.
Suicide by poison often fails because it takes a long amount of time to take effect. Drugs don’t
work immediately. This is not the case with a gun—when someone pulls the trigger it’s almost
always an instantaneous death. That is not enough time to save someone. That is why the kids on
the bridge couldn’t keep their friend alive despite their best efforts.
I have grown up in a very Conservative home. We discussed guns at dinner, and my dad
and uncles often go on hunting trips. My roots have shown me that there are responsible gun

owners in America who should not be denied their 2nd Amendment right. I do not believe that
Utah, or any other state, should outlaw guns. There is not enough evidence to show that a ban on
guns would solve the problems we are seeing across the country. However, I do however believe
that the state of Utah should make them less accessible. If we can make it harder for children to
gain access to a gun, then maybe we would have the time to save them.
Suicide is a growing epidemic in a society that puts lots of pressure on kids to get
everything right. In my life I have dealt with anxiety and depression, which have
sometimes led to thoughts of suicide. I was lucky enough to get help, but not everyone is. When
guns are as prevalent in society as they are now, when a child feels completely overwhelmed, it
is too easy to let a spur-of-the-moment decision lead to an often unchangeable action. But if we
all stand together and make guns even a little harder to get, especially for kids, then
maybe someone’s carpool laughter won’t have to be interrupted. If we put laws in place to
require guns to be more secured in homes then maybe someone’s Twitter feed can stay witty,
untainted by the dates of candlelight vigils. If we require permits for all guns, and require a
safety class, then maybe we can stop the next set of parents from crying over the belongings in
their son’s abandoned locker. No one has the power to stop every suicide, but we have the voices
necessary to possibly stop one.


Works Cited

Biskup, Michael D., et al. Suicide: Opposing Viewpoints. Greenhaven Press, 1992.
“Guns & Suicide.” The Nutrition Source, Harvard Public Health, 1 Dec. 2016,
Health, Department of. “Complete Health Indicator Report of Suicide.” IBIS-PH — Complete
Health Indicator Report — Obesity Among Adults, Utah Department of Health, 15 Mar.
2018, ibis.health.utah.gov/indicator/complete_profile/SuicDth.html.
NRA-ILA. “Utah Gun Laws.” NRA-ILA, National Rifle Association, www.nraila.org/gun-laws
“Suicide Statistics.” AFSP, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, afsp.org/about-suicide
“Suicide in Utah 2014.” Utah Department of Health Violence & Injury Safety Program,

Developing Doubts: Why American Millennials are Deserting the GOP

Since the American presidential election of 2016 and the messy campaign that led up to
it, tensions have been high. Across the nation, news story after (fake?) news story has unfolded
to a constant barrage of anger, insult, threat, and protest – from both sides of the political aisle.
This political climate is truly atypical – but for the youngest voters in the country, it’s the first
they’ve ever paid full attention to. Millennials in the United States left the Republican Party at a
reckless pace during the past election. It’s normal to see some flip-flop in party identification,
and the Trump-Clinton contest certainly saw both more Republicans voting Democrat, and more
Democrats voting Republican, than many in recent history. However, as a recent Pew Research
study discovered, young former GOP voters left their party far more disproportionately than
young Democrats or elderly voters. They found that 23% of Republicans under the age of thirty
defected to the Democratic Party over the past year (“Partisan Identification…”). Even back in
2014, this was by far the most liberal age group, and within the GOP there were clear ideological
divides by age bracket (Kiley and Dimock). At this rate, the current state of the GOP is driving
away potential young voters. To survive in the long term, the Republican Party needs to
understand why their constituents are leaving.
It’s tempting to believe the common misconception that the youth always tend to be
liberal, and the elderly, more conservative. Some argue that this trend is natural, and that as
millennials grow older they will return to the Republican Party. While there is a small degree of

truth to the claim, in the vast majority of cases, party identification usually tends to stay
relatively consistent throughout the lives of most active voters. According to Amanda Cox of
The New York Times, “events at age 18 are about three times as powerful as those at age 40” in
determining political preferences (Cox). This raises some questions: what is causing the
youngest generation to depart from the party of Lincoln and Reagan? And how can the GOP stop
that exodus?
The first problem is political polarization and its effects on society. The widening gulf in
ideology between the average voter from each party contributed greatly to the dismal choice we
were offered in the last election. If the party extremists hadn’t become increasingly populous and
vocal, then more moderate, less controversial candidates could have a greater say in our politics.
Skeptics claim that the candidates polarize the people and not the other way around. Even if
that’s true, it’s still a problem for the GOP, and a solution still needs to be found. This
polarization is also largely responsible for the rejection of disagreeable media – on the very basis
of its disagreeability. Amanda Taub, also of The New York Times, describes how “partisan bias
fuels fake news because people of all partisan stripes…. use trust as a shortcut” to decide what to
believe (Taub). Media bias affecting our perception of reality is a huge crisis, but polarization
has also caused the caustic, insult- and offense-driven rhetoric to solidify into a contest. Political
winners are decided, tragically, by who can best shout-over the opponent. The GOP has become
very good at this. As Republican Senator Jeff Flake wrote recently, “It is not enough to be
conservative anymore. You have to be vicious. Of course, this culture… is bipartisan. But in the
election of 2016, our side outdid itself” (Flake 10). It’s not merely that millennial Republicans
are becoming Democrats – many others are just becoming politically apathetic.

In my personal experience, I’ve also felt this disgust at our nation’s polarization. As an
18-year-old eligible-voter and college student myself, I have suffered both a political and moral
dilemma as I have tried, over the past two years, to find my place on the political spectrum. In
high school, as an active member of the conservative Young Americans for Freedom
organization, I once had felt confident that my choice had been made. And yet as the election
season approached, I realized that I could no longer call myself a Republican. That’s not just
because of Donald Trump – it’s because of how the entire party reacted to him.
Regardless of whether or not Trump is actually as racist, homophobic, and bigoted as he
is portrayed, the problem is that millennials (including myself) believe that he is. The problem is
that millennials, unlike older Republicans, take offense at his politically-incorrect speech.
FiveThirtyEight recently published polls about the decline of other country’s opinions on
America and her president – and the problem is that millennials care about how other people
around the globe perceive us (Wezerek). Kaitlyn Schallhorn, writing for The Blaze, explains that
young Republicans are already in the “political minority” among their peers, and that while they
desperately want to convert others to their cause, Donald Trump appeals to the values of a more
old-fashioned, traditional, and outdated electorate that may be sufficient for election, but can’t
help millennial conservatives to win over their friends of religious, racial, or sexual-orientation
minorities (Schallhorn).
In the words of the famous science fiction author Isaac Asimov, “There is a cult of
ignorance in the United States…. The strain of anti-intellectualism… [is] nurtured by the false
notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge’” (Asimov).
Despite the dangers of that willful political illiteracy, it’s likely that such a quote will always be
relevant in this country. At the same time, the embrace of anti-intellectualism by conservatives is

one final cause of the millennial flight from the Republican Party. This is what scares me the
most. Only five years ago, Daniel McCarthy of The American Conservative lamented how the
word ‘conservative’ “once signified an intellectual tendency with partisan overtones, now it
signifies a partisan tendency that would prefer not to have intellectual overtones” (McCarthy).
GOP voters used to respect the value of an education. Now, as another Pew survey from this past
July explains, while 72% of Democrats have a positive view of the impact of colleges and
universities on the country, a full 58% of Republicans have a negative view (“Sharp Partisan
Divisions…”). This populist spirit of the “common man” is exactly what Republican politicians
seek to appeal to today, but while it is true that professors and academics tend to have a liberal
bias, and that our society’s increasing scientific atheism is fueled by the secularism of many of
these establishments, the rejection of the value of knowledge-seeking institutions is not only
perilous – it’s also no way to get the votes of their students.
Millennials are defecting from the Grand Old Party in masses. Until party leaders
recognize that this problem exists, nothing can be done to fix it. Young voters, like myself, want
to be won back over, and to rejoin a more conservative electorate. Perhaps with the right
candidates, policies, and recognition for the interests of my own generation, the Republican Party
can survive, and thrive, into future generations.


Works Cited

Asimov, Isaac. “Quote by Isaac Asimov.” Goodreads, Goodreads Inc,
Cox, Amanda. “How Birth Year Influences Political Views.” The New York Times, 7 July 2014,


Flake, Jeff. Conscience of a Conservative: A Rejection of Destructive Politics and a Return to
Principle. Random House, 2017.
Kiley, Jocelyn, and Michael Dimock. “The GOP’s Millennial Problem Runs Deep.” Pew
Research Center for the People and the Press, Pew Research Center, 25 Sept. 2014,
McCarthy, Daniel. “How Conservatism Lost Its Mind.” The American Conservative, American

Ideas Institute, 24 Aug. 2012, www.theamericanconservative.com/2012/08/24/how-

“Partisan Identification Is ‘Sticky,’ but About 10% Switched Parties Over the Past Year.” Pew
Research Center for the People and the Press, Pew Research Center, 17 May 2017,
Schallhorn, Kaitlyn. “Republican Millennials Grapple With a Trump Nomination: ‘The GOP
Has Chosen to Self-Immolate.’” TheBlaze, TheBlaze, Inc, 25 Aug. 2016,


“Sharp Partisan Divisions in Views of National Institutions.” Pew Research Center for the

People and the Press, Pew Research Center, 10 July 2017, www.people-

Taub, Amanda. “The Real Story About Fake News Is Partisanship.” The New York Times, 11

Jan. 2017, www.nytimes.com/2017/01/11/upshot/the-real-story-about-fake-news-is-

Wezerek, Gus, and Andrea Jones-Rooy. “What The World Thinks Of Trump.” FiveThirtyEight,
19 Sept. 2017, fivethirtyeight.com/features/what-the-world-thinks-of-trump/.

Unjustly Accused: Why a GMO label should not have been legislated

ONE OF THE Obama administration’s final acts in
2016 was passing Bill S764, a bill legislating that all foods
containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs) must be
labelled. It’s the first law passed in the United States having to
do with GMO labeling. As such, it’s sparked a lot of
conversation as to why the government should or shouldn’t
take steps to control the consumption of these foods. There’s
no crystal ball we can look through to see the future of GMOs;
however, it seems this bill was an unnecessary measure, one
that highlights how incorrect knowledge leads to poor
government policy.

The Birth of the Bill

Bill S764 came into existence mostly because of the
years of pressure that anti-GMO lobbyists have placed on the
federal and state governments. They’ve argued that GMO
foods are dangerous, that we have a right to know what we’re
eating, and that most Americans want GMOs to be labeled.
According to them, a GMO label should satisfy both those for
and against the purchase of these foods, as it allows both to
choose whether to buy them. They make compelling claims
that were, apparently, convincing enough to influence lawmakers.
However, while there is a degree of truth behind their
assertions, a close inspection of the meat of their argument
shows that it is not quite prime grade.

So, are GMOs safe?

Of the thousands of studies that have been performed
on GMOs since they were introduced to the marketplace in the
early 1990’s, there have been a few that have found adverse
effects of their consumption on health. These studies may have
even found their way onto your Facebook or Twitter feed;
GMO opponents have actively circulated them over the
internet, which has resulted in the widespread misconception
that GMO foods lead to cancer, heart disease, allergic
reactions, and other health problems.
However, thousands of other studies have found
otherwise, and report no increased health risks. In fact, in June
2014, 109 Nobel Laureates—10 of whom earned prizes in their
respective scientific fields—published a letter online,
reassuring the public that GMOs are safe, and calling on
opponents to stop spreading GMO myths (if they had tweeted it
instead, more of us might have seen it too). Additionally, some
researchers have reexamined studies in which GMO foods
were shown to cause harm, and found that the prevalence was
too weak to be attributed to anything but chance.
What GMO opponents forget is that we’re about three
decades into research; while they assert that thirty years have
brought us to no concrete conclusions and insist on further
testing, the truth is that the scientific community has come to a
near consensus on the safety of GMO food consumption.

Even the USDA is on board. According to their
“standards guidelines” for food producers, before any GMO
can come to market, it must undergo extensive testing to ensure
that the content of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients is not
inadvertently altered during the final process. In other words,
GMO foods have the same nutrition content as their nonmodified
So, in answer to the question, “Are GMOs dangerous?”
I would say that GMOs are just as dangerous as normal food.
Can GMO foods kill you? Yes. GMO apple slices are just as
likely to get lodged in your throat as their natural sister-foods,
which could result in suffocation. Anything one can do, so can
the other—but not necessarily any better.

Ignorance is Bliss

Supporters of the bill have said that we need to know
what’s in our food to make healthy decisions, yet by examining
the current health situation of the US, it seems that knowing the
contents of food has resulted in very few, if any, health
benefits. According to the US Department of Health and
Human Services, one in three adults in the US is obese, and
one in three children are overweight or obese. These rates are
about double of what they were in the 1980’s. Keeping in mind
that the nutrition contents and ingredients of nearly every food
bought in the US are clearly labeled—a requirement that was
only legislated in 1990—it’s hard to find a correlation between
increased labeling and improved health.
In fact, one could argue that food labels are more likely
to influence poor health choices than to help the consumer. At
the grocery store you can find a lot of labels, all of which are
cleverly placed to impact consumer decisions. “Sugar-free,”
says the box of Splenda-cookies. “Saturated fat free!” says the
bottle of soda. “Now ½ the salt!” says the pepperoni pizza.
While these assertions may not be lies, they are a
distraction. A decoy, used to avert our attention from the more
sinister nature of the food item, like the mask hiding the
Phantom’s grizzled face. Just like our favorite opera villain,
these foods have something to hide. And funnily enough, even
when we know deep down that the foods are not healthy, we
justify their purchase, and fall victim, like the innocent
Christine Daae, to their wicked designs.
Similarly, a GMO label isn’t going to help the
consumer to make healthy choices, but instead be used as a
ploy to deceive him. I can already see food marketers stamping
a big bright “GMO-free” label onto “all-natural” (whatever that
means) junk foods, swindling customers into buying them.
“Well, I know it’s not healthy, but at least it doesn’t have
GMOs, right?

High Cost, Little Reward

While the effects that Bill S764 will have on public
health are unclear, we can almost be certain that it will take a
big bite out of the public’s wallet. Laws don’t come cheap.
This new law isn’t as simple as forcing food producers to print
a bunch of cheap stickers to punch onto all their GMO food
products. With a new mandate like Bill S764, government
bureaus will be opened nation-wide; these will have to oversee
standard setting, implement certification efforts, and supervise

public enforcement at all levels of food production. That’s just
the spending that will come out of taxes.
Yet, while government work isn’t cheap, the greatest
costs will be incurred at every stage of food preparation,
starting with farming. Farmers who grow plants from both
GMO and non-GMO seed will be responsible for keeping these
foods separate. To do so, they’ll need to spend additional time
and money, hiring extra hands and purchasing extra equipment.
This will also require intensive supervision; a mess-up could
lead to a lawsuit. Companies that buy raw materials from those
farmers will have to do the same. Who pays for all of these
pricy precautions? The consumer—you and me. One study
estimates that, because of these needed measures, retail prices
of food could increase by up to 10%.
Now, I’m a college student on a tight budget, just like
many of you. I work in the summers, pay my taxes and tithing
(don’t worry about the order…), then try to make whatever’s
left last for the next eight months. The thought of spending
10% more at the grocery store every week is not something
that excites me.
But it’s what the people want!
Despite the evidence that GMOs are safe and that this
bill will be costly, we’re still left with the source-based
argument that most Americans want GMOs to be labelled,
which was perhaps what most influenced the government to
make its decision.
The studies could very well be true; however, it’s much
easier for a person to say “yes” to GMO labels in an
anonymous survey than it is to pay 10 cents more on the dollar
for those labeled foods. The facts about GMOs and the
logistics of label implementations are not very well-known,
which could explain why the people surveyed responded how
they did. These surveys take advantage of uninformed
respondents; a little education would go a long way in
providing useful survey results.
When all is said and done, only God knows what “will
shortly come to pass” as a result of this law. But in the
meantime, it’s left a lot of people with arms crossed and
eyebrows raised. Personally, I count myself among them. Now,
some might point the finger at Washington and blame the
government for passing a bad bill; but if our government really
is “by the people, for the people,” shouldn’t it do what “we the
people” want it to? According to many surveys, it did just that.

The problem is, as shown with this law, sometimes we
just don’t want what’s good for us.