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?