I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’ve become pretty intolerant of folks who yammer endlessly about tolerance.
More times than not it seems those who speak the loudest are unable to countenance the slightest objection to their appeals and ultimatums. The most vocal proponents of tolerance — activists, entertainers, politicians and much of the news media — view even passive dissent as a heresy that must be crushed. The standard-bearers of tolerance hold a zero-tolerance policy for viewpoints not in lockstep with their own.
If I were a betting man, I’d wager I’ve already angered a few readers. How can anyone dare advocate intolerance? Some of you are no doubt ready to cry havoc and let slip the dogs of Facebook comments. That’s funny, for I’ve not yet indicated my stance on any issue except freedom of speech and opinion.
Words mean things, and being “tolerant” conveys the notion that you’re voluntarily abiding a situation even though it’s not your cup of tea. Our society is inexplicably reticent to call things what they are, and properly defining “tolerance” is a particularly odious transgression. It’s right up there with flashing your National Rifle Association card at Coachella, eating a Snickers bar in Whole Foods or exhibiting the most timid resistance to politically correct conformity.
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Simply put, toleration is vastly different from celebration. The former is something you grudgingly concede or acknowledge. The latter is something you embrace. However, America’s self-appointed tolerance police don’t see it that way.
They’ll accept nothing less than toleration and celebration walking hand in hand, asserting that one is not acceptable without the other. Refusal to demonstrate an enthusiastic stamp of synergistic concurrence is perceived as confirmation of hatred, bigotry and prejudice.
I tolerate lots of things. Some I don’t care about at all, and some I merely accept as reality. If gays want to marry, then let them marry. But, don’t command that I jump on a soapbox and start applauding.
If adult transgenders wish to use a particular restroom, then by all means let them answer nature’s call behind the door of their choice. But, don’t get in my face if I refuse to endorse the practice or praise the individual’s bravery and courage. I’ll tolerate the state of affairs, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to get all teary and set loose a flock of white doves.
If you don’t like guns, then don’t buy one. But, you must tolerate my right to use and own firearms without interference. If you don’t like what Donald Trump, Sen. Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton have to say, then don’t listen to their speeches. But you must tolerate their right to speak. Blocking highways, busting windows or starting fights to prevent candidates from presenting their ideas is the epitome of hateful intolerance.
Practicing “live and let live” requires mutual participation.
Much of my personal life has been guided by a simple rule. I never tell others what they should do, think or say but I also demand the exact same consideration in return. It is a good thing to express opinions, to discuss one’s own tenets, assumptions, conjectures and convictions. Throwing out thoughts and judgments for public consumption is healthy, but expecting complete agreement is delusional. Insisting on agreement is cretinous and annoying. Enforcing agreement under penalty of law is criminal and dictatorial.
There’s no way I’m going to celebrate or accept every variant of diversity — moral, ethical, political, spiritual or sexual — that comes skipping down the garden path.
But, assuming they behave with minimum levels of civility and decorum, I’ll tolerate quite a few of them.
A lifelong writer and editor, Ron Marr's column has appeared in Missouri Life magazine for over a decade. Marr, who lives in rural Bates County, Mo., can be reached via his blog at www.ronmarr.com.