Heinen: 23 opposing ideas to push ourselves

‘Let's see how many opposing ideas we can...
Heinen: 23 opposing ideas to push ourselves

How many ideas can I hold in my mind at one time? How many can you hold? A wise person once defined intelligence as the ability to hold two opposing ideas in your mind at the same time. (A wise person without a smartphone, apparently.) The definition today must surely number half a dozen opposing ideas, or more. But perhaps that ability is about more than just intelligence. Perhaps it is also fundamental to our ability to live together. Let’s see how many opposing ideas we can consider simultaneously in this one column.

The use of deadly force is a horrible consequence of a set of circumstances we often cannot understand.

The use of deadly force is acceptable in only the rarest instance when absolutely no other alternative is available.

When one life can be saved, the taking of another life is understandable.

No, it’s not.

Madison has one of the best police departments in America. Its officers are diverse, accomplished, highly-educated and skilled professionals with higher-than-usual levels of compassion and sensitivity to social justice.

Good cops can make mistakes and admit it.

It is a measure of trust and appreciation for police officers who we respect and value to expect them to maintain the highest standards for use of force.

Kids do dumb things.

Kids should not be killed, beaten, or, sometimes, saddled with a permanent record for doing dumb things.

It’s understandable that some people would believe that the solution to kids doing dumb things is to simply teach kids to behave.

It’s understandable that many of those same people have no concept of the constant state of trauma in which some kids–who do dumb things–live in.

“My kid would never resist arrest.”

Your kid is not African American.

We say things when we are angry or feel threatened or are misunderstood that sound angry, threatening and are hard to understand.

Saying we are sorry emboldens others to blame us and claim to be victims of our actions.

Saying we are sorry is one of the most honest, human and honorable expressions of which we are capable.

This is not a black and white issue.

This is absolutely a black and white issue.

This is an issue with so many shades of gray, with each shade offering a valid perspective, that only by listening carefully and truly considering all perspectives can we come to some sense of truth.

It is always smart to question what we see, but we must also be willing to admit that what we see is real even if that reality differs with our reassuring beliefs.

Two people can see the same thing and come to opposite conclusions.

We are always better off asking questions than making statements.

We are not as smart as we think we are.

I’ll stop there. Twenty-three ideas, most in opposition to each other, some in opposition to all the rest, all expressed in one form or another in reaction to the video of an 18-year-old African American female being arrested during an incident at East Towne Mall. There have been times in the last month or so when I thought my head was going to explode. But we have to keep pushing ourselves, not–as my friend Rebecca Ryan so thoughtfully explained last month–to simply fill our minds with more information, more stimuli, but to be open to other possibilities, to make room for contradictions, to try to understand.

Side notes

Food insecurity
A recent report from Public Health Madison & Dane County (PHMDC) finds one in five white households and one in three Latino, African American and single-parent households experiences food insecurity. PHMDC Food Security Policy Analyst (and former Madison Magazine intern) Nick Heckman says “Food insecurity is a significant public health issue in our county.”

Uniting forces
It was striking and reassuring to see Madison Mayor Paul Soglin, Dane County Executive Joe Parisi and Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority COO Brian Schimming breaking ground together for the second phase of Gorman & Co.’s gateway development at Union Corners. The project leveraged city, county and state resources with all parties playing nicely together.

Lose the belt
Former Mayor Dave Cieslewicz has started a campaign to change the over-used and inaccurate description of Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, Indiana and other states as “The Rust Belt.” Citizen Dave argues the image the outdated slogan conjures up isn’t true and he recommends the more benign and descriptive “Great Lakes States.”

Sign us up.