Tolerance & Intolerance

I’ve been neglecting my blogging duties.  Mainly because of work.  And I should be working right now, but I just can’t concentrate.  At least not yet.  I keep misspelling things, doing the same things repeatedly, zoning out.  I can’t concentrate and I’m exhausted.  I’ll do this for a while and see if I get a second wind.

I was listening to an old Focus on the Family podcast.  They were talking about President Obama and how if he were to get elected it would be the end of the world because he doesn’t care about the family — The Family — and yackety smackety blah blah.  They covered the usual issues and brought up the notion of tolerance.   I’ve heard some interesting ideas and rhetoric re: tolerance over the past few months.

Dr. Dobson’s son wrote a book titled “Be Intolerant: Because Some Things Are Just Stupid”.

You know how when there are controversial issues, the discussion devolves into a black/white issue and then both sides wage a campaign of propaganda, the foremost tactic being to control the language or terminology.  For example, Pro-Life vs. Pro-Choice.  Suicide bombers vs. (Fox News’) homicide bombers.  Or the way that being “politically correct” now connotates a lack of common sense.

Let me take a second here to point out how dumb that “homicide bomber” thing is.  “Homicide bomber” is redundant.  Like murder death killers.  The term “suicide bomber” contains within the explosive homicidal tendencies plus the willingness of the individual to forfeit their own life in the process.  Geez.

Anyway, the Christian conservatives are kind of playing word games with the word “tolerance”.  To them, “tolerance” is a code word for mainstream acceptance of homosexuality.  So the words “tolerance” and “diversity” have become a negative for them, but they’re considered virtues to others.

Now.  On the other hand, someone told me that Bill Maher said that we shouldn’t be so tolerant that we tolerate intolerance, which oddly enough is exactly the same thing.

The Rhetorical Moebius Strip

We shouldn’t tolerate intolerance?  So … we should only tolerate what we agree with?  That’s not tolerance at all.  That’s a comfort zone.

I understand that there’s a limit, but I’d also like to point out that to tolerate something is not the same as condoning it.   Besides, if you want to win someone to your point of view, especially an issue that deals with concepts of social equality and more liberal morays, you absolutely will not do it by being confrontational in a derogatory way.  If your response to the Prop. 8 supporters is that they’re all a bunch of ignorant cave dwellers and hateful bigots, then all you’re doing is exacerbating the issue.

I would say that the majority of those folks aren’t hateful bigots.  They’re just uncomfortable with a societal shift.


When I was in the 8th grade at Holabird Middle, I was the only black person in my classes.  There were only five black kids in the entire school.  In Social Studies we were discussing the Civil War and the teacher had us do an exercise where he split the class in half.  One half had to argue in favor of slavery and the other had to argue against slavery.

Guess which group I was assigned to.  Oy vey.  Very awk.

I don’t remember how the conversation went.  I just remember that people started yelling at me as I was trying to argue that there were a lot of people living in a slave-based economy but that didn’t automatically make the entire population evil or bad people.  That’s what they knew and they were part of the system.  And when it became apparent that things would be changing, they were scared.  Who wouldn’t be?  Heh.  I caught much flak for that.

The teacher stopped the exercise and yelled at the class then.  He said that I was the only one trying.  More awk.

Regarding ante bellum America, some people rose above it.  It takes exceptional people to rise above their own perturbation and pursue what’s right.  Then those people slowly build a consensus.

Slavery, women’s suffrage, civil rights, worker’s rights, children’s rights.

You work as hard and fast as you can, fight tooth and nail for change, and society’s tectonic plates rumble and groan and slowly grind, inching their way to something new until the tipping point.  That’s the way it goes.

A Core of Compassion

You may have noticed that when I wrote that Prop. 8 blog I intentionally didn’t use terms like “Prop Hate” or other sloganeering.  Not because I’m a prince among men, but because I don’t want the people who disagree to shut down before they hear what I have to say.

Martin Luther King, Jr.  Mohatma Ghandi.  Even Malcolm X in his latter days.  Their disciplined compassion was so intense and powerful that it changed the world.  Of course, it also got them assassinated but I’m going to assume that’s because they were so effective they scared the hell out of people.

But this is the level of our discourse these days.  Everybody thinks they have The Truth.  Everyone has their dogma, religious or non-religious.  And collectively we don’t have a grasp on compassion and acceptance, which in my mind are the bases of tolerance.  We’re all about us.  There’s a poem I quote every now and then.  Can’t remember who wrote it:

He drew a circle that shut us out.
A thing to flout.
Love and I had the wit to win.
We drew a circle that took him in.

So I don’t mind so much when other people have opinions that are, in my estimation, off the rails.  And for all of my equivocating, yes there are people that are complete wackos, nutjobs or ignorant bastards.  Those folks, especially, thrive on the chaos and strife they cause, though, which is why they should be relegated to the cut-out bins of social discourse.  Yes, we see you over there with your “God hates fags” signs at our son’s funeral.  Thanks for coming.  Have an ice cold bottled water.  It’s hot out.  It’s your First Amendment right to be here and be loud and ignorant.  Enjoy.  If you start feeling more social and want to offer sincere condolences,  you know where we are.  If you introduce more trauma to these already somber proceedings, I may have to punch you directly in the face and/or throat.  Actions and words do have consequences.  I hope you understand.

I dunno.  I mean, after my initial surge of indignation I feel a breeze of patience for fear and prejudice because I have fears and am prejudiced.  I guess that’s what it boils down to.

Anyway, just some thoughts.  What do you think?


Add Yours
  1. johnbisceglia

    FED UP with having to be “liked enough” for equal rights?

    Believe EQUALITY is ours to TAKE and refuse to beg for it?

    For All Americans who support our demand for equality:

    EQUALITY TAX REVOLT – Wednesday, April 15, 2009

  2. Janna

    Well said and well reasoned as usual, G.
    It’s funny, the older I get, the less I’m into taking sides on stuff, and the more I think that when it really comes down to it, all we can really control is our own state of mind inside our own little heads. I’m not saying don’t take action, but by all means don’t suffer about it or it ain’t gonna make a difference.
    What’s up with the EQUALITY TAX REVOLT?

  3. garyarthuryoung

    Hey! What’s up.

    Yeh, I’m so middle-of-the-road. But I’m passionately in the middle of the road.

    Controlling my own state of mind. Is that what I’m supposed to be doing?

    I don’t know what the EQUALITY TAX REVOLT is. Seems like if I mention Prop 8 I get a comment like that. Either it’s a bot or johnbisceglia is Johnny on the Spot with comments.

    Either way, I like comments.

    Thanks, Janny M.O.

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