Nowadays, the big thing in the US (as it was in Europe when I lived there years ago) is tolerance. It is the current zeitgeist. On the surface, there seems nothing wrong with it. After all, the idea is that we should be open to people who are other than us, accept them, be loving and avoid judging them for their difference. Sounds good, right?
So, what happens to the idea of tolerance when one doesn’t support it? What do its followers turn into? That’s right – they become intolerant, and sometimes unbearably so. It would appear that they become just what they’d preached against, and become something they believed they were not by lifestyle (or innately). In those moments, it’s as though the saints have begun throwing stones, and they often throw them the hardest!
I too like the idea of tolerating (heck, there’s a better word: “accepting”) difference. I even delved into it as my research topic in grad school. Having grown up in Europe, I’d breathed it, lived it constantly, and seen through it long enough to identify loopholes. The loopholes exist because, well, its followers don’t inherently know how to love. None of us do! Yup. Sounds mean, sounds judgmental, but I think pointing out an issue is not the same as being judgmental. That’s a major confusion that has arisen as a result of this “movement”. It is simply true that we humans, ALL of us, don’t inherently know how to love. We do know that we need love. It’s something we need to survive and thrive in every way. Now, we have moments when we love well, but again, those are moments, and the love we provide in those times, while a great gesture, remains imperfect by nature.
So, having such imperfect people be the ones preaching the need to love sounds a bit, umm, paradoxical. Is that the word? And the true nature of this spirit of intolerance shows up when those very same people encounter difference – dissenting opinions to their viewpoints. When such opinions manifest, these tolerant people will shoot them down, label them, and try to literally drown out the sounds.
A relatively recent case in point took place following the election of US President Donald J. Trump. Using the hashtag #LoveTrumpsHate, people voiced their strong opposition to the event through every medium, though social media was the major one used. They also went out en masse in protests against the election outcomes. It at times meant that riots actually broke out. Remember, these were the tolerant people. Then it started showing up on the news, the unique voices of people who had voted for Trump for reasons other than those that were considered “evil” or “racist” by the populace and mainstream media. That for me was a major test of this tolerant ideal. What would people do with these new voices? Well, they simply resorted to calling said people “racists”, despite the fact that these new voices didn’t easily fit into the clean labels that had previously been hurled at any and all Trump supporters. Some of these voices included a Muslim woman and a Hindu Indian Republican man who had both voted for Trump.
I was stunned that I was supposedly living in a democracy. Could this really be happening? I was especially shocked to discover close acquaintances of mine sound that mean or hateful at times. I wondered: how exactly are we then different from those radical racist types who simply run to labels when confronted with people/situations they don’t fully understand and are unwilling to grapple with? What has happened to modern intelligence? Healthy debate? Loving disagreements?
Are we in actual fact turning into a society that simply cannot abide opposing viewpoints? What are we training kids to be and do? To me, it appeared that those responses were no better than that of the very man, Trump, that they vehemently opposed. How exactly was love trumping hate in all this?
To say the least, I found myself greatly disillusioned for a while. I needed time to process, to pull it all together. What is the potential endpoint of a world such as this? I see in America that not only do we seem unable to handle a discussion with people we greatly disagree with, but even much less are we willing to live next to or engage difference. Thus, we have a society increasingly filled with people who surround themselves with those who think and feel as they do. What does such a choice do for the mind?
It is well known that to be an excellent leader, one mustn’t surround herself with only “yay-sayers”, but, like Abraham Lincoln, should “deliberately surround himself with all of his disappointed antagonists” (quote from John Maxwell’s book). Such an action is an indication of maturity and strength of character. That’s a fact of life. And it appears that these are the missing ingredients in our world. Maturity and strength of character. Which of us is willing to be intentional about opting to associate with those not only different from ourselves, but who are specifically against our own beliefs? Just who? This sounds like an idea that harkens to a time gone by, but I would say that we oh-so-desperately need to call it back. It is desperately needed in these times. We need people who are strong in spirit, full of courage, packed with faith, and who truly love. The current tit-for-tat being done by politicians and journalists are a picture of what the country has turned into. A sea of petty middle-schoolers slinging mud at each other. It all needs to stop!
Where are the beautiful ones?
Are you one?
5 thoughts on “The intolerance of tolerance”
Hipocracy, Intolerance and the inability to see it. This is the new U.S. today.
True Love is selfless, strong, doesnt give up and stands on convictions.(much more)
What most see as love today, is really the opposite of what God speaks of as love.
When you truly love selflessly, you won’t even see it in yourself.
I know of noone who has mastered this, including myself.
Wow. I love that statement of yours: “when you truly love selflessly, you won’t even see it in yourself.” Has certainly got me thinking of my condition. Am I that? Am I on the way to being that?
Thank you so much for your comment!
You are well on your way.
You have a big heart.
We will never master this, but will grow in God’s love more every day!
Good head scratcher is this one, dear Uche. I cannot think of one completely tolerant human being that ever lived. Abe Lincoln felt strongly enough to mobilize a civil war to confront slave owners who would rather secede than give up their slave holdings. Jesus had some choice polemics for the Pharisees in His days (Matt 23) that could make an independent reader/hearer wince.
We may be tolerant of any or every sexual orientation until our loved ones are molested by the pedophile. We then insist all sex must be consensual but isn’t that a value judgment? What if the preferred orientation of this one is sex with some child or that one gets better satisfaction from combative sex? We are social conservatives, with proper family values but may tolerate a philandering popular charismatic figure until we or our loved ones are the jilted, the raped or sexually molested by this otherwise well grounded conservative bright mind. So it may be ok to object to sodomy but look the other way at the heterosexual philanderer. We may be tolerant of the current sexual freedom but would object to our tax money being used to protect against the consequences of that lifestyle – unwanted pregnancy, STD etc.
Each one of us have ‘values’, our non-negotiables and when those boundaries are encroached on we each give a response that can be defined as intolerant. Mahatma Ghandhi was not tolerant to British rule in India but would die for an India that united Hindus and Moslems etc. We may not take up arms in protest but we surely speak up or write to protect our values
I am not tolerant because I have convictions that I will speak up to defend and I can be labeled ‘bigot’ etc. but I see the same basic responses across the fence in the global debate. I happen to submit to the values of Jesus, the Christ of God and that by itself sets me up for rejecting anti-Christ values and lifestyles. An interesting world we live in.
What an incredible thought-provoking comment this was! I don’t think I’d thought of things that way. You make total sense in that our tolerance is hinged on our values. Absolutely!
I guess therein lies the clicker: it would be ideal if all our values were anchored on Truth. Otherwise, yes, the reality of life on this plain is that one person’s values will always clash against another person’s sense of “freedom”. And… What then?
Thank you so much!