Those were the exact words on a sticker on my sister’s college binder. There were other stickers of a similar political orientation on her binder. When I saw this one, I thought about it, then asked my sister, “Isn’t that a bit oxymoronic?” (In retrospect, I should have used “paradoxical” or “contradictory.”)
One of my biggest pet peeves is tolerant people who are really not tolerant. If one looks closely, this can be seen a lot.
Conservatives, fascists, and other people of the right can be excluded from this discussion - they never claim to be tolerant or accepting. Their very stance denotes intolerance in a sense: conservatives want to preserve what they have (or thought they had) and are intolerant of change; fascists want to change things to fit a certain program and are, as such, intolerant to suggestions, issues, or obstacles that bar the implementation of their program.
Usually, it is liberals who are considered to be (and who consider themselves to be) tolerant. But I don’t see a lot of tolerance from them.
There is a difference between agreement, disagreement, and tolerance. Perhaps I have my definitions mixed up, but I see tolerance akin to this popular quote: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”
I have noticed that when someone comes forward and says something that does not agree with what liberals have tended to agree upon (such comments are usually homophobic, xenophobic, pro-life, racist, sexist, misogynistic, ultracapitalist, and so on), a huge uproar arises. Furthermore, liberals seem (just like conservatives) to be supremely devoted to implementing and imposing their beliefs and opinions on everyone else. “Imposing” - not very tolerant is it?
Such liberals, as activist as they may be, seem also to desire to shut down the opposition. Not so tolerant, is this? Sure, they may be wrong, but doesn’t tolerance basically mean that we accept the fact that everyone has the right to be wrong and leave it at that?
I have seen the vitriol being slung by both Parties in the US. Fine, one isn’t tolerant: that can be ruled out. But the Other - it claims to be tolerant and open and welcoming: if so, why this hatred? why this animosity? why this violent emotion against the opponent? I discuss with people, I read the newspaper, I browse the new books in the bookstore, I listen to the radio - it seems the Other is foaming in the mouth with rabid hatred for the opponent(s). Why? Is this what tolerance is? Has the ability to converse, discuss, debate, and disagree civilly disappeared? What was civility suddenly replaced with intolerance and rude caricature?
I claim - and I may be wrong - that one cannot claim the title of “tolerance” whilst being so fundamentally opposed to any organization or entity or being. There’s a certain rationality and level-headedness about tolerance, a certain equilibrium - one leans not far in either direction, and not because one is centrist but because one realizes that there are many opinions and perspectives and each has its own merits. One cannot be “tolerant” and devoted to one platform at the same time.
Two examples that to me have unmasked the true intolerance that hides beneath the camp of those who claim to be tolerant.
While at university, Matthew Hale, leader of a racist, misogynistic, and homophobic Church, wanted to speak on campus. Now, this is the same campus that has had people from the right (Pat Robertson) and the left (Louis Farrakhan) speak. But Hale, of course, was denied. Who denied him were more or less the student body, as tolerant and liberal as they claim to be. The response was almost universal: a loud resounding no. They did not want him even near the campus. They wanted him gone, banished into nothingness. Why? Why not let this man vent off his steam and speak what he wants to say? Are his words really so dangerous and poisonous? Are his thoughts really such a threat that rationality and common cannot prevail? Why this hatred and intolerance? Has not this man the same freedom to speak as a gay-rights advocate, a pro-lifer, a pro-choicer? His message may not be popular, but why such a vehemently negative reaction?
Dr. Laura has been an unpopular figure amongst liberals. At one point, after certain homophobic remarks, people - people who would claim to be tolerant - began trying to get her off the air. They wanted to shut her down. To some degree, they were successful: faced with the people’s outrage, a number of sponsors backed down from sponsoring her. Now, I do not agree with what she said, but I see that as no reason to bring her down. Does this mean that if, turning the tables, a gay activist makes some gay-affirming comments, homophobes would be justified in trying to shut him/her down? If not, what’s the difference?
These double standards, this hypocrisy - it gets me so sick to the stomach.
Imagine another setting. A group of people who have suffered persecution for millennia: homosexuals. Suddenly in their midst come forth Log Cabin Republicans - homosexuals who are Republicans. Log Cabin Republicans, to begin with, are not very well or widely received by the Party they believe in, but this is of no surprise. But to others who share another commonality - sexual orientation - they are seen as demons, as traitors, as people who have sold their souls to the Devil. Have the rest forgotten so easily the hurt persecution and intolerance can heap upon one’s psyche? When did people begin making exceptions as to what they will tolerate and what they will not? The very people who may see nothing wrong in various questionable sexual acts shudder at the mention of and instinctively and vehemently reject conservatives in their midst. So much for tolerance - tolerance is fundamentally about that which one does not agree with.
I am not tolerant, and I will never claim to be: I know myself well enough to know what I believe and how strongly so; I also believe I am right (or at least justified in my beliefs, opinions, and stance). Those who disagree with me have the right to be wrong. They also have the right to express their beliefs and opinions, regardless how bizarre or disagreeable they may be. They also have the right to be treated with respect. My mother taught me not to call anyone names, not to make fun of anyone, and to treat everyone with respect. I agree with her. I believe this is what civility is about. But when “tolerant” people begin foaming at the mouth, as it were, in intolerance to something they oppose, my faith in humanity drops down a few more notches.
Disclaimer: I just want to vent. Writing this will accomplish nothing else, really. Practically, this is not likely to change anyone’s mind, unless one is looking for something to change his/her mind. But this is an issue dear to me. I rewrote this posting about seven times: it’s difficult to put the right words together. It would be nice to hear from others who have noticed the same about the above; it would be highly instructive to hear from those who disagree. I’m not here to debate, though.