I consider myself to be an open-minded person. I pride myself on it, actually. But what does it mean to be open-minded?
Surely it means that I would never deem myself fit to judge or stereotype someone based on their race, religion (or lack thereof), sexual orientation, gender, gender orientation, national origin, age, size, etc. And, for the most part, I think I live up to that.
But I've realized, in this ugly election year (as if there's ever been one that wasn't), that my open-mindedness wasn't extending to people whose political beliefs differed from my own. It's so easy to get caught up in the "us versus them" mentality associated with politics.
I suppose, if I wanted to be easy on myself, I could say that I believe all of the aspects of self listed in the second paragraph are things over which we have little or no control, whereas our political affiliation is something that we choose for ourself. So I won't judge you on something you were born to, but I guess it's ok to judge you for the decisions you've made.
But is it?
A well known quote from Aristotle states that "It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it". I've always liked that quote. It fed nicely into my open-minded ethic.
Recently, however, I found myself embroiled in a couple pretty hot political debates - a place I didn't want to be. And while my worthy opponents were spitting the word "liberal" like it was the most loathsome cuss one could ever possibly utilize, I was mentally spitting the word "republican" with equal venom. We were both being quite unfair. The gentlemen who had engaged me in this lively debate were asking me to speak for the whole liberal movement. I can only speak for myself. But it wasn't only them. I was throwing around some ill-advised "you republicans are all the same" speak myself. If only in my (maybe not so open after all) mind.
It got ugly fast, because neither side was willing to entertain a thought without accepting it.
So I'm making a vow to be truly open-minded. I'm going to listen rationally to the arguments of people with whom I fundamentally disagree. I'm not going to have the knee-jerk reaction that everyone who doesn't see things the way I do is a narrow-minded idiot. (this is going to be difficult for me - so wish me luck and have patience with me when I inevitably fail once or twice)
I had sort of built a little cocoon for myself. I've surrounded myself (for the most part) with like-minded people. I seek confirmation of my own opinion. I hang around with people who support my views, I watch news and entertainment that skews liberal (fair and balanced is a myth), I read books and articles that support my opinions and seek blogs that back me up.
I need to rectify that, if I am to truly be able to claim that I am open-minded. I'm not likely to change my mind about anything. My personal beliefs are pretty strong. But I'm going to be less dismissive of opposing viewpoints. I'm going to be brave enough to entertain thoughts without accepting them.
I'm Tammy Howard, and I approve of this message.