In the recent rash of protests against the police across the nation, I was struck by a remarkably thoughtful turn of phrase from the flood of electrons and ink:
As imperfect humans, we have a tendency to limit our association with other persons to those persons who are most like us. Unfortunately, there is even more of a human tendency to stay within our comfort zone by further narrowing those associations to those persons who share our thoughts and opinions. By doing this we can avoid giving consideration to thoughts and ideas different than our own. This would make us uncomfortable. By considering only the thoughts and ideas we are in agreement with, we stay in our comfort zone. Our own biases get reinforced and reflected back at us leaving no room for any opinion but our own. By doing this, we often convince ourselves that the majority of the world shares opinion and that anyone with another opinion is, obviously, wrong.
It is only when we go outside that comfort zone, and subject ourselves to the discomfort of considering thoughts we don’t agree with, that we can make an informed judgment on any matter. We can still disagree and maintain our opinions, but we can now do so knowing that the issue has been given consideration from all four sides. Or, if we truly give fair consideration to all points of view, we may need to swallow our pride and amend our original thoughts.
That sentiment seems to apply to all sorts of matters beyond the issue of the appropriateness of various kinds of police activity. So I resolve that in 2015, I shall take Chief Anderson’s message to heart, and endeavor to seek out those who hold perspectives and opinions which differ from my own on matters of importance to me, and understand with sobriety, charity, and good faith why these people feel as they do.
Being an imperfect human, I will surely not always succeed at living up to this ideal of open-minded intellectual engagement, but I shall at least try. And I must realize that being imperfect people, others of differing opinions surely will not always articulate their own positions with either skill or good faith — but to succeed in this living up to this resolution, I shall endeavor to separate zeal from substance with sufficient patience as to enable comprehension.
And I challenge you to join me outside of the echo chambers, those pleasant places where thought too often comes to rest.
Burt Likko is the pseudonym of an attorney in Southern California. His interests include Constitutional law with a special interest in law relating to the concept of separation of church and state, cooking, good wine, and bad science fiction movies. Follow his sporadic Tweets at @burtlikko, and his Flipboard at Burt Likko.