Times These Days When You Simply Must Close Your Mind
Thirty years ago, when I was still a music critic, I received a letter from a lady who informed me in no uncertain terms that I didn’t know what I was talking about.
This was after I‘d written about the origins of gospel music, a subject on which I considered myself, if not expert, reasonably well informed. But Minnie C. Howard, a church musician in West Palm Beach, politely sliced me up with such surgical precision that, though I was bleeding from a dozen rhetorical wounds, I could only admire the cutting.
So I did the only thing that made sense. I got her on the phone, and we had an amiable chat about my ignorance.
This sort of thing didn’t happen every day, but it happened. Whether the subject was music or, later, social issues, I would find myself, a few times a year, having an exchange with someone whose objections to something I’d written were interesting and well informed. I didn’t always change their minds nor they, mine. But I found value in an opposing viewpoint ably argued.
That hardly happens anymore. These days, I read critical emails with a finger hovering over the delete button, ready to consign them to oblivion the instant the writer reaches what I call “the stupid part.” Which is never long in coming: some asinine conspiracy, some wild untruth, some silly talking point, and into the ether it goes. It occurs to me that I have become something I once scorned: a person with a closed mind.
I regret that. One thing I’ve always prized was a willingness to hear the other side, to entertain its ideas.
But these days, the other side has no ideas. Consider that the GOP didn’t even bother to put forth a platform in last year’s campaign — reportedly the first time it has failed to do so since 1856. “The Republican Party has and will continue to enthusiastically support the president’s America-first agenda,” read the resolution it adopted in place of a statement of party policies and priorities.
No ideas. Thus, on the one side you have many of us grappling with era-defining challenges: climate change, immigration, aging infrastructure, poverty, pandemic and race, to name a few. Meantime, on the other side, many of us are more worried about Dr. Seuss, Mr. Potato Head and the threat to America’s hamburgers. The only serious issues for which they show any appetite involve banning voters from voting and protesters from protesting.
I miss the days when it was possible to have a thoughtful debate on a substantive matter with a political opposite. The loss of that offers superfluous evidence that we have become a people without common goals, common facts and thus, common ground.
And Lord, what to do about that? You cannot reason with those who have abandoned the practice. And the unfortunate truth is that there are some things to which a mind should be closed: bigotry, ignorance, illogic and fear-mongering leading the list. So what is there to do except hope that time in the intellectual wilderness, a session in the moral woodshed, the ameliorating effects of progress, bring them back around?
May it happen soon. There are few things more dismaying, or that make me more anxious for America’s future, or that have greater capacity to drive me nuts, than dealing with some guy who thinks the Jan. 6 insurrectionists were patriots, but George Floyd had it coming. It’s mentally and emotionally draining. That’s why, as much as you hate it, there are times these days when you simply must close your mind.
If only to protect it.
©2021 Miami Herald. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
In The News
Americans have pulled together with the help of widespread vaccinations to put the worst of the pandemic behind us. Now the country must demonstrate the same Manhattan-Project mentality to tackle the other healthcare epidemic plaguing the country: obscene and opaque prices. Runaway healthcare prices have financially... Read More
For the past year, COVID-19 has kept me up at night. I’m a small business owner with 75 employees, and I have had many restless nights wondering if we are doing enough to keep our team safe to prevent an outbreak in our food manufacturing facility.... Read More
The Biden Administration has made climate change one of its core policy priorities. Understanding the global nature of the problem, as well as U.S. leadership in technology exports and international markets, the reality of the crisis demands that we confront global warming emissions both abroad and... Read More
Memorial Day Weekend will be the first time millions of Americans have traveled in 14 months, signaling the possible end of the COVID-19 pandemic. But another virus, this one causing a cyber- attack on one of the nation’s largest oil and gas pipeline, nearly upended these... Read More
The continued implementation of the American Rescue Plan across the country reflects exactly the type of bold and aggressive action from Washington that candidate Biden promised when he told the country how he would lead us through this challenging time. It also illuminates the huge role... Read More
With American adults spending over 2 hours per day on social media sites, businesses are no longer just anonymous entities that supply goods and services. They are influencing people on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, participating in conversations with clear personalities while expressing opinions. The most successful... Read More