5.09.2012

Let's Keep An Open Mind

In the midst of my busy life, a small guilty pleasure I indulge in on a regular basis is to scroll through the news feed on my Facebook page.  There I will find articles, videos, and status updates from all of my favorite people, which is to say my "friends" from all the different parts of my life.  There I can quickly get caught up on someone's kids, the latest news, and the funniest jokes. 

Almost all of my Facebook friends are grown adults, and as a result are pretty set in their beliefs and worldviews.  It seems to me, and though I try to be conscious about this I am guilty as well at times, that there is a lot of bashing of others' points of view.  Democrats bash Republicans, Republicans bash Democrats,  Christians get bashed, Muslims get bashed, and everyone bashes gay bashers and Kim Kardashian. Where is the love? 

For as open-minded as we all would like to think we are, I don't actually see much of that on display.  Rather, people post as if the other side is not only wrong but devoid of reason, and if devoid of reason then clearly morally bankrupt.  Which is why I am so intrigued by Jonathan Haidt's new book, "The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Religion and Politics," which was reviewed by the New York Times a couple of months ago.  Haidt, a self-professed "partisan liberal," argues that reason is subordinate to morals, and that Republicans have actually been more broad-minded than Democrats because their beliefs are based on a plurality of moral themes (care, fairness, liberty, loyalty, authority and sanctity for the R's, vs. just care and fighting oppression for the D's).

More broadly, he urges the kind of open-mindedness that I hope for on Facebook, in my in-person conversations, and in my own internal musings.  I'm not asking for people to not believe strongly in things, or to not think that there are any absolutes in life, or to blindly accept new propositions without testing them.  But I do think that we would all do better, individually and as a society, if we didn't presume to know it all and not have anything to learn from "the other side."  Think about how much better we could do on things like the Trayvon Martin murder, gay rights, how to fix health care, and the future of the American economy if we didn't assume that those who think differently than us were intellectually ignorant and morally defective. 

I hope I have not communicated close-mindedness or ridicule in my words, although if I have, I would not be surprised, and I would like to have it pointed out so I can apologize, examine myself, and get better.  Rather, I hope I have helped cultivate a mood of approachability, in which it is OK to ask tough questions and pose uncomfortable propositions.  Isn't that how we stretch from what we think we know now, and grow into a more informed and respectful perspective? 

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