A Resolution: Keep an Open Mind
by Matthew Crehan Higgins
This year, one of my greatest fears was realized when I spent several hours locked in a room while authorities swept a building looking for a man with a gun who had already shot someone. The experience was a lot like I had imagined in my nightmares. It was a lot of waiting. A lot of talking. A lot of wondering. A lot of rumors. And a ton of shock when we found out what had actually happened.
Several months later, amongst news reports of a New England town in shock after a violent attack within an elementary school, a friend asked me what it is like to be in a building locked down for that type of situation.
I was shocked to hear myself reply: “Well, that was a whole different thing, I mean, there was only one casualty that day.”
Only one. As if that were not more than enough.
I realized in my reply that the world we live in has exposed us to tragedies that are so big and so grotesque that the big and grotesque things we have heard before can be perceived as small, even though they certainly are not.
When these things happen, we hear outcry for things to change, but they never do. We say we want people from different sides of issues to listen and work together, even while we do not promote that ourselves.
As a bleeding heart liberal, it is easy for me to blame the people I consider extremists for basically all the problems in the world.
But when I think about it, I have myself expressed many feelings over time that others would consider extreme: Opposition to healthcare reform is a just a bunch of rich people who think poor people should just roll over and die. Anyone who questions marriage equality in any way shape or form is a disgusting bigot. Gay Republicans care far more about their money than their minority class.
Even as I type those things I still believe them. But I realize they are extreme viewpoints. They indicate that I have not really been willing to listen to other people’s thoughts and would certainly be ill prepared to have any kind of intelligent discussion.
During this past election season, when social network sites told me that such-and-such number of my contacts “like” a candidate I found repulsive, I did not allow myself to click on the link to find out which friends. I knew that I was unprepared to not take that personally.
But there’s this man who collects the parking validation tickets at the ramp near my gym. He told me I was crazy to be there working out on a night when there should have been a driving ban and expressed his hope that I would get home safely. He gave me a chocolate Santa Claus one year at Christmastime. He let me slide one day when I forgot to get my ticket stamped and had no cash.
I like that man a lot, but he wears a National Rifle Association hat, so I assume we wouldn’t possibly get along if we really knew each other. Of course, I am merely assuming and have never asked.
If I have learned anything in my adult life, it is that the more divided the opinions and interests in our country become, the worse off we seem to be. Personally believing I could have nothing in common with people who do not share my opinions is a (much) smaller version of the same problem.
It’s not really a prediction so much as a resolution, but in 2013 I hope to keep my mind open the same way I hope the minds of others will be open. It is not that I think my opinions will ever change, but that maybe being more informed about the viewpoints, feelings, and even fears of others will leave me better prepared to accept the compromises I claim to want.
- Matthew Crehan Higgins, Buffalo
Matthew Crehan Higgins is an actor and playwright with Buffalo United Artists, and co-host of Cocktails and Cream Puffs (cocktailsandcreampuffs.com).
Artvoice reserves the right to edit letters for content and length. Shorter letters have a better chance at being published in their entirety. Please include your name, hometown, and contact number. E-mail letters to: firstname.lastname@example.org or write to: Artvoice Letters, 810 Main Street, Buffalo, NY 14202
blog comments powered by Disqus
Issue Navigation> Issue Index > v12n1 (Week of Thursday, January 3) > Letters to Artvoice > A Resolution: Keep an Open Mind
This Week's Issue • Artvoice Daily • Artvoice TV • Events Calendar • Classifieds