ERROL CASTENS: ‘Open-mindedness,’ ‘self-defense’ and other abused concepts

By Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal

A couple of months back I was talking with a colleague and two new acquaintances. In the course of a half-hour, as we got to know a little about each other, I mentioned a couple of experiences that proved I don’t have all the answers.
While by nature I tend to see issues in black and white, I shared how I had learned the hard way that one must see shades of gray on some.
Soon, the subject moved to politics. One man launched into a somewhat dismissive treatise on the Tea Party movement. While the other two people asked questions or made comments, the man eventually realized I was no longer talkative.
“Uh, you’re not a Tea Party supporter, are you?” he asked, embarrassed. I said I didn’t know everything the various elements of the movement stood for but that I was in sympathy with less government in general, adherence to the Constitution by both Democrats and Republicans, protection of our borders and a few other principles I had heard espoused.
He stammered out an apology, explaining that because I had been so “open-minded” earlier in the conversation, he had assumed I was opposed to this conservative movement.
I accepted his apology, but it irked me that this man discounted the possibility that an open mind might actually lead someone to different opinions than his.
On a related topic but not about the same person: It says a great deal about their commitment to honesty for some Tea Party opponents, as advocated by “Crash the Tea Party” organizer Jason Levin, to be trying to undermine the movement by infiltrating protests with intentionally misspelled signs, raunchy behavior and racist remarks.
“Whenever possible, we will act on behalf of the Tea Party to exaggerate their least appealing qualities,” he is quoted on, a decidedly non-right-wing Web site.
Changing subjects entirely: There may be more to the story, but on the surface it looks like a prosecutor’s dream – a Minnesota man claims he was acting in self-defense when he allegedly hit his girlfriend in the face 10 times.
The woman lost all four limbs to a childhood disease and uses a wheelchair, but the defendant insists she was assaulting him after he accused her of cheating on him.
If all is as it seems to be in this case, I hope this man will read up on the concept of “clear and present danger.”
And yet another subject: Voters in Tracy City, Tenn., elected Carl Robin Geary as their mayor this week by a 268-85 vote over incumbent Barbara Brock. Problem is, Geary died several weeks ago.
If people thought government was unresponsive before … .

Contact Daily Journal Oxford Bureau reporter Errol Castens at (662) 281-1069 or

Click video to hear audio