Most of us like to think of ourselves as open minded, just like most of us think we are decent if not good drivers. With time, and increasing level of self awareness, however, I’ve come to think that I might be a decent driver, but I can also be aggressive, and some (or perhaps many) of the things I do can make my passengers feel quite uncomfortable or nervous. The recent election, and all the heated and emotional debates that are still raging across our lives, have made me finally realize that perhaps I am not as open minded as I had once believed myself to be.
I always said that people fear what they don’t understand, and this fear often manifests into hatred, resistance, or some other form of repulsion. It seems the mere knowledge of this in theory does not make me immune to its effects. I, like many Hillary supporters, have been deeply disappointed by the election result. Hillary was a champion of a number of values that I hold near and dear to my heart. Trump, on the other hand, has come to represent so many of the things I abhor: racism, sexism, homophobia, paraochialism, incompetence, just to name a few. The overall sentiment is that the country is deeply divided, it’s a war of “us against them”.
While grieving for Hillary (and “our”) loss, I went through shock, denial, and anger. I couldn’t believe someone like Trump could defeate Hillary. I did not want to accept this awful reality. I blamed the thing on the people who didn’t vote, but especially on the people who voted for Trump. I couldn’t fathom any acceptable excuse for their actions. In my mind, it was a war between the progressive, well-educated, intellectuals and feminists and the ignorant, parochial, racists and sexists. Was it a class divide? Sure. Was I entrenched in my elitist thinking? Absolutely. The liberal media made it easy for me to feel righteous about my side of the argument, and instead of engaging in a full-fledged debate, I simply dismissed the other side as a “lesser” opponent.
Luckily, I have friends who are more open-minded than I, and thanks to them, I have come to acknowledge the terrible errors of my ways. The way I have been thinking is indeed one of the factors that have contributed to this bitter divisiveness we see in our country. As uncomfortable and difficult as it is, I need to do better at navigating differences of opinions. Like exercising, the most uncomfortable routines are usually our weakest areas. But with time and persistent practice, the weak areas can be strengthened and we improve overall.
In conclusion: confirmation bias and rejecting the unfamiliar are common, but we can and need to do better.