Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Open Your Closed Mind

What in the world are you supposed to do when someone accuses you of close-mindedness (or worse) simply because you disagree with what they have to say? What are you supposed to do when someone who refuses to listen to your side of the issue wrongly accuses you of not listening to their side?

I've been pondering this question of late. It's certainly happened to me before. Recently in my Family Law class when I defended the idea of civil unions for same-sex couples I was called a bigot because I didn't go far enough, in demanding that there be same-sex marriages allowed as well. I was told, in no uncertain terms, that the only reason to be opposed to same-sex marriage was not a moral objection (founded on well-established religious and ethical grounds (i.e. natural law)), but rather because I was motivated by animus and hatred of homosexuals. I think my life speaks for itself in this regard, and that's plainly false. But it was immensely frustrating to have people in the course who supported same-sex marriage tell me that there wasn't even the possibility of a counter-argument which they would consider listening to. And yet, for their close-mindedness, I was labeled the bigot (and for supporting civil unions!).

Ben put up a terrific quote about basically the same idea.

"If there's one thing that annoys me more than a close-minded, self-righteous conservative, it's a close-minded, self-righteous liberal."

And my sister Emily is obviously dealing with the same problem. She writes, "everybody in the class makes me feel like if I say anything different from what they say I'm a horrible, close-minded, prejudiced and discriminatory person. I hate [my school] sometimes, because they're all so freaking 'open-minded' that you can't be 'conservative' about anything anymore because you're automatically close-minded. Freaking people."

So since it's been on my mind, I'm trying to figure out how to deal with the problem. In response to Emily's post I suggested that she try throwing dead seafood at the offenders. After all, there would be something very cathartic about flinging fish at a deserving target.

But as wonderful as it might be to make like Lew Zealand, there's gotta be a more reasonable way to respond when these things happen. Any ideas?

Also, huge bonus points for anyone that gets the Lew Zealand reference. Without looking it up.
Also, I've decided that for the rest of April, all my song quotes will be from They Might Be Giants Songs. There's just too many good lines that I've been neglecting.

Speak softly drive a Sherman tank


Jeff said...

There is one thing that I will stand by. I will not listen to anyone who tells me that the Dallas Cowboys are anything less than the incarnation of evil on earth :)

A lot of times people say impassioned things in the heat of the moment (like "you're a bigot, nanny nanny boo boo"). Then they look back on it later and say, "well, that was dumb of me." The blogosphere and the classroom are two places where such behavior is easily cultivated since they both require/encourage quick responses to arguments. Hell, I know I'm guilty of it a lot.

But most people will listen to reason after a cooling-off period. That's why I support a seven-day waiting period on all political opinion. Oh, wait, that would mean I'd have to delete my entire blog. Nuts. Failing that, I guess it's just up to people who come up against impassioned illogical rants to call B.S. on it.

Ben said...

Sometimes there's nothing you can do. The best thing I one can do, in my mind, is stay calm. Don't get worked up in response to their accusations. If you act calm and reasonable, conceding where you must and standing firm where you can and stating your reasons, then perhaps others will see the contrast between that and your opponent's wild accusations.

Or, depending on the audience, perhaps not.

Justin Gannon said...

Wasn't Lew Zealand a muppet?

Matthew B. Novak said...

Bravo Justin. Good to have you post again.

emnovak said...

definitely know where you're coming from matt. obviously, since you quoted me. which is cool. except now since you put a link to me on your post i feel like i should post something intelligent. or at least post.

joel. said...

Dude, you are SO close-minded for even bringing this up.

That doesn't work so well, does it?

Jeff said...

It can work if you keep an open mind about it.

btnovak said...

I had that muppet thing down in a heart beat

Matthew B. Novak said...

Yeah, I figured that'd be a softball for you.

Andrea said...

Matt, I tend to think a lot of things you say are wacky but you hit the nail on the head about closed-minded liberals. I am pretty liberal but I like to think that I am truly open-minded and can truly see the other side of most arguments if they are framed in a reasonable way. At the very least I will listen to them. I think a lot of people at Georgetown haven't heard good conservative arguments on most issues and have only heard bad, bigotted sounding arguments. I think a lot of people at Georgetown are exactly as you describe.

There is a really good article on Slate.com about the religious left. I think the left needs to ease up on our digust for religious-based politics.


Matthew B. Novak said...

"I think a lot of people at Georgetown haven't heard good conservative arguments on most issues and have only heard bad, bigotted sounding arguments."

My initial reaction to this statement was "well, duh. There aren't a ton of good conservative arguments on most issues..." But that's probably not fair.

But I appreciate your support on this one. I think there's a problem, but there's also plenty of individuals out there like yourself, who do actually listen to every side.

And finally, I think it's only fair to point out that it isn't just close-minded liberals who are the problem, it's all close-minded people.

I. Hulk said...

Hulk Smash close-minded puny humans!
Hulk not close-minded. Hulk smash all puny humans!