On being open-minded


Whether they’re liberals or conservatives, insecure people can’t tolerate profound differences, so their friends must do one of two things: agree with them or hide their disagreement. Such is the result of being members of a species that has evolved to find safety in tribalism.

I value no readers more than those who disagree with me while continuing to read my blog. The ones who go away mad sometimes complain that I’m judgmental. They list my failings (things about which they disagree), clueless  that every item on the list constitutes their own judgment. For instance, I’ve said that I hate nose-rings (I could give many such examples, but this is an easy one), which I grew up seeing on pigs. If I went to a new doctor, and he walked in with a nose ring, it would bother me. I would even hesitate to hire a roofer with a nose-ring, but I would hire him if he came well-recommended. Even so, I despise nose-rings, the moreso because they
’re so prominent that I can’t not see them

Some people would say that this makes me closed-minded, and that they don’t want to read the blog of such a bigot. I would say two things: I would never outlaw nose-rings even if I could, and if a doctor or a roofer who had one showed himself competent, I would still use his services. I would never make a nose-ring the sine qua non of anything, yet those who object to my hatred of nose-rings nonetheless dismiss my entire being as unworthy of their august friendship.

As for those who stop reading my blog because I hate nose-rings (again, this is just as example), I would simply ask: who’s being close-minded here? I hate nose-rings, but you hate people who hate nose-rings. So what’s the difference? Isn’t it ironic for a person to pride himself on being open-minded, only to close himself off to anyone he regards as close-minded? I think he should have a bumper sticker that reads, “I’m Closed-Minded Against the Closed-Minded.” What good does it do to boast of your open-mindedness only to reject those who disagree with you? It makes your open-mindedness into a feel-good position that is devoid of substance. It enables you to go to your ACLU meeting, your atheist organization, or your Unitarian Church, trash all manner of people, and come home reinforced in your opinion that you and your buddies are the crème de la crème, and that out there lie the ignorant, the stupid, the benighted, the accursed, the close-minded, the hoi polloi, and, worst of all, the Republicans. If you even believe in God, which you probably don’t, you can pray, “Thank you, Lord, for that thou hast made me open-minded, for my superiority over those who are close-minded is like noonday to the darkness of a cave.”

Here in liberal Eugene, it’s perfectly acceptable to heap scorn upon racists, loggers, ranchers, Catholics, conservatives, white Southerners, evangelicals, the poorly educated, and the grossly obese. While gloating over the hypocrisy of others, liberals are blind to their own hypocrisy. One wrote in response to my last post that he expected better of an atheist (that would be moi). Better of an atheist?! Does he see us as members of some rarefied elite? Fuck that! Atheists are no better than other people. Not one of us is pure. Not one of us has reason to boast of our goodness while rejecting others for their lack of goodness. I’ll tell you who is good, it’s the person who stops to help me when my car breaks down or I become sick on the sidewalk, and I don’t give a damn how he votes or what he thinks about the existence of God. Goodness exists in honesty, in helpfulness, and in being there for people and other animals. Aside from that, neither religion or politics makes the least difference. They’re side issues that have no more relevance than a whether one prefers candy or cookies.

22 comments:

angela said...

We are all different and we all add to the rich tapestry of life but I cannot stand the haters. I don't mind you having a deferent option. But like educated adults. I'm sure we can agree to disagree.
Except for the footy. Lol

Elephant's Child said...

'Goodness exists in honesty, in helpfulness, and in being there for people and other animals. Aside from that, neither religion or politics makes the least difference. They’re side issues ...'

Yes, and no. I agree that goodness is rooted in honesty and in helpfulness. Religion and politics sadly seem to dictate how people feel they should behave. Those imperatives mean that I would categorise them as more than side issues. All too often they are used as a reason/excuse/rationale for the behaviour of people not prepared to make decisions for themselves or those who lack the courage of their convictions.

Linda said...

AH! Save me from the self-declared open-minded person! The vitriol they spew and the judgments the make are unbearable.

PhilipH said...

I think he should have a bumper sticker that reads, “I’m Closed-Minded Against the Closed-Minded.”

This would require an extra wide bumper methinks.

Is 'close minded' the same as 'intolerant'? I cannot tolerate those who drop litter in the road or play loud music of any kind. I would sentence these cretins to death if it were possible.

Nose-ring wearers are weird but I tolerate them, unless they are tail-gating me in a car with the windows open pumping out thumping base music crap. Then I'm likely to scream "Fuck off you nose-ringed moron" or even something more vituperative.

It all depends, does it not? On what? That's gotta be the question.

Charles Gramlich said...

I used to expect better of groups that I was a member of. I still wish I could do that but I know better. People are people.

Beth Brown said...

Me - being the simple-minded person I am, at the end of the day,figure that if I haven't hurt any one and have actually helped, I'm ok (despite having a nose ring). Kindness is also how I judge others. Except for men in three-piece suits and neck ties . . . for some reason both the men and the suits make me nervous.

Again and again, Snowbrush, you make me think. Much appreciated.

Snowbrush said...

“I'm sure we can agree to disagree. Except for the footy.”

Maybe you mean what Americans call soccer, and everyone else calls football? Last week, I found an Oregon State University cap on a trail, and when it was still there upon my return, I kept it. I live in University of Oregon country, so it’s the “wrong” cap from that point of view, but since I care so little about sports that I rarely even know who’s playing and have no interest in who wins, I’ll still wear it. Maybe I’ll get beat-up. I have no idea. I have other sports caps, and when someone asks how such-and-such a team is doing, I’ll have no idea, because I don’t even know what my cap says. I must have a hundred such caps.

“Religion and politics sadly seem to dictate how people feel they should behave. Those imperatives mean that I would categorise them as more than side issues.”

I grew up in a church that said everyone but us was going to hell, but even in such a church as that, there were good people. I hark back to Jesus’ parable about the Good Samaritan. No race, ethnicity, or system of belief insures goodness. Some, no doubt, make it easier, but in the final analysis, people aren’t they say, but what they do. This was why I was floored when my friend said that he expected better of an atheist. I even had to laugh, because what the hell is an atheist other than someone who doesn’t accept the existence of a divine being? By definition, atheism is simply non-theism, so from whence comes this imagined virtue? Are we good in proportion to what we don’t believe.

“Save me from the self-declared open-minded person! “

Since you’re in Alabama, it probably doesn’t come up much. You have your own brand of demons.

“Is 'close minded' the same as ‘intolerant’?"

I guess, but some close-minded people are proud of the intolerance, while others deny that they have any. The first we call, conservatives, and the second, liberals, at least here in the States. Definitions might differ where you are in England.

“I used to expect better of groups that I was a member of. I still wish I could do that but I know better. People are people.”

Well said, Charles.

“Kindness is also how I judge others. Except for men in three-piece suits and neck ties . . . for some reason both the men and the suits make me nervous.”

Some jobs require that you wear them. For instance, I used to be a funeral direction. I’ve heard such clothes described as “power suits” as if the intent is to intimidate. I just think of them as like the uniforms that people wear at McDonalds. I only judge people by their clothes when they have a choice. Like if a man is wearing a cap or t-shirt that says, “Fuck you,” I judge him harshly because I know that he’s conveying what he wants to convey rather than what his boss tells him he must convey.

All Consuming said...

"I hate nose-rings, but you hate people who hate nose-rings. So what’s the difference?" - Well you say you 'hate' them, and you do, but there are many who might not actually hate you for your opinion, but would rather read someone they consider to have views closer to their own. I have left blogs because the writer's ideas and beliefs are so far from my own I see that we have less in common than I thought. So off I drift. I don't hate them. I save hate for things that abhor me.

Snowbrush said...

“I have left blogs because the writer's ideas and beliefs are so far from my own I see that we have less in common than I thought.”

People who only seek-out those with whom they agree, don’t learn anything new, and, worse yet, they base their alliances upon superficial differences rather than what’s in a person’s heart. I’ve cared for you and delighted in you for eight years or more. You were probably my first reader, but now that you know I don’t like nose-rings, are you out of here. Surely, I read too much?

I recall from the Quaker Meeting that people are expected to examine themselves according to certain questions. For example (and I quote from memory), “Though opposing war, do you find within yourself the anger and alienation that makes war possible?” The question becomes this. If we find that one of our sacred cows has been rejected, do we then reject the person who rejected it? An alternative might be to inquire more deeply into the other persons’ reasoning, that is to find out what it is within him that makes him think and speak as he does. In this case—the case of this post and the one before it—I speak from a very profound hurt due to a recent incident. I don’t think I’ve said anything that I didn’t already believe, but that hurt was the impetus for it coming up. Maybe in the future, or maybe in emails to you and others, I can speak more deeply, but for now, respect for others requires that I address the issues rather than the incident.

Suffice it to say that this incident has turned my life upside-down. I need support, but don’t know how to get it. I understand the feelings of those whom I’ve hurt, but I can’t apologize for what I did to hurt them. Sometimes situation can’t be resolved. They simply have to be set aside and moved beyond, hopefully together but sometimes separately.

All Consuming said...

I said 'so far from my own', in as much as the pendulum has swung too far for me. I follow plenty of people who I disagree with on many things. I read how they feel about these things and contemplate their points of view. I like to see other sides. I don't just follow those who agree with me, but I see no point in reading again and again topics that I completely disagree with, or even bore me. I wouldn't follow a religious zealot say, purely because we disagree.

Snowbrush said...

"Again and again, Snowbrush, you make me think. Much appreciated."

Thank you. Beth, I tried to comment on your blog, but I was dismayed to discover that I would have to create a Google+ profile, and I'm afraid to do that because I don't know how it would affect my own blog. I just know that I don't like the looks of Google+ blogs, and that I find it hard to navigate around them. I'm sorry as I really would like to follow your blog and leave comments.

Snowbrush said...

"I said 'so far from my own', in as much as the pendulum has swung too far for me."

I'm sorry to hear it. I really am. You have no idea how much I will miss you.

rhymeswithplague said...

Snow, I think you are misreading Michele. I don't think she is talking about your blog, but others.

Snowbrush said...

“I think you are misreading Michele.”

I asked her if I was reading too much into her statement, and I understood her response to imply that I wasn’t. Still, you could be right. I’m raw right now, so it doesn’t take much for me to imagine rejection.

All Consuming said...

BLIMEY! NO! I rarely stray into caps as you know Snow, but rhymes is right, I meant other blogs not yours! You'll have to try much harder than that to sling me dear. *hugs him* X

Elephant's Child said...

Actions do speak louder than words, but I believe that accepting the dictates of religion and politics frees too many people from thinking, and leaves them with a 'rule' of behaviour which they accept. And follow. I have friends who are religious, and friends with different political leanings but they all ask questions and, in the end, make decisions based on the answers they find.

Helen said...

... may I just add ~ I would stop, offer assistance, transport you, hold your hand, reassure you ~ but please don't ask me to change a tire!

Ginny said...

To me being closed minded is not taking the time to listen to someone else's point of view or reasoning. Sure you can hate this or that but as long as you respect that I have an opinion and if we are discussing something you give me a chance to speak and vice versa then I consider us open minded. There's nothing that grinds my gears more than someone who is just too busy shouting and talking over someone else to actually listen to what's being said.

kj said...

what can i say, snow? i don't read your blog sometimes because i so strongly disagree with you or am offended or confused or preoccupied in some way. you know your opinions about transgender and black folks are more than i want to know and to respond my own tolerance would have to stretch given the problems in these two areas alone,i choose my shots in that category and aim elsewhere. I know you think it's unfair or wrong or impolite that i don't stick around to argue the point, but sometimes i just read and think about what you've said and that's the best i can do.

I'm confident in my ability to be kind, to help where and how I can. I see that as a gift i give myself.

hello to you from me!

love
kj

Snowbrush said...

“There's nothing that grinds my gears more than someone who is just too busy shouting and talking over someone else to actually listen to what's being said.”

While I don’t think I’m all that prey to actually talking over people, neither am I always as open-minded as I would like, by which I really mean open-hearted in the sense of trying to understand at a deep level how a situation appears to someone else. My strength is that I am willing to keep trying, and that patience and persistence can produce a softening in me. I long ago heard that the feeling that precedes anger is hurt, but because showing hurt makes us feel vulnerable, and showing anger and refusing-to-give-an-inch makes us feel strong, we tend to put our emphasis on anger. In this, liberals are no better than conservatives.

“you know your opinions about transgender and black folks”

I have no idea what I said about either that bothered you. My father was transgender, and he talked to me at length regarding his pain around it. In short, I know it’s real; I have a lot of sympathy for it; and I completely support equality for transgender people, so what more could you realically ask of me? I will admit that my personal feelings—-about this and many other things—are mixed, and it’s not always obvious to me where prejudice begins and ends. For example, I would be extremely unlikely to marry a transgender person, but then I would be extremely unlikely to marry someone who was of another race or half my age, but would this alone make me prejudiced? How about if I strongly preferred a mate with one body type rather than another—would I then be prejudice against the other? In other words, does anything short of my complete acceptance of all manner of other people into my life at all levels, of itself imply bigotry? As for black people, it wasn’t ALL of them that I criticized, but rather SOME of the demonstrators, and many of those were white. Still, am I free of racial prejudice? No, but I don’t think most people—if any—are, and this pretense to be other than we are is one of the main things I hate about political correctness because I see it as creating a bigger problem than it cures. Besides, those whom we hold at arm’s length (because we want to appear more open than we are), are going to know how we feel anyway. I had a black say to me that life was easier in some ways in Louisiana (where she grew-up) that here in Oregon because in Louisiana, white people weren’t twisting themselves into pretzels to pretend that they weren’t prejudiced.

In the South, a great many people got their feelings of superiority from their religion. Here, it’s from their political correctness, and I don’t see much difference in that both consider a great many honest thoughts and questions as too holy for scrutiny. Rather, we’re expected to squash them in the interest of appearing other than we are.

Sparkling Red said...

I had a nose ring for a year when I was 26... not in the septum, but on one side. I thought it looked pretty good. However, I can see that if you grew up seeing them on pigs it wouldn't have the greatest associations.

CreekHiker / HollysFolly said...

I couldn't agree more!! I'm always amazed, especially in the political arena how the name calling goes on and on... and one side is just as bad as the other.