My Facebook status the other night:
So if I feel the need to counter your
intolerance, does that somehow make me intolerant? Can I be tolerant
and still tolerate intolerance? I'm so confused.
This post came as a results of an FB acquaintance, who had posted an article that purported that having drag queens and the transgendered in society was a form of discrimination against women. And then she cited a homosexual co-worker's over-the-top advocacy of gender reassignment (he claimed that he had no need for women in his life) as justification for demonizing cross-dressers and the transgendered.
This sat poorly with me for two reasons: 1) I have several really lovely transgender friends who feel no more disdain for women than anyone else, and I hate to see TG's run down. They struggle enough as it is, and 2) I hated seeing the actions of one person being used to justify an already extant bigotry against TG's in particular and homosexuals in general. She's not a bad person. I actually enjoy her company in most instances. But she does have a fairly black-and-white view of the world, as dictated by her religion.
So I spoke up. I asked her not to paint with such a broad brush, pointed out the fact that discrimination against women is overwhelmingly perpetrated by straight men (and many women!), and remarked that I have TG friends. And because she is also a creationist, I also reminded her that if she believes God created us, then He created ALL of us, not just the ones that make sense to her. Not sure if it made much difference.
All that said, the interaction got me thinking: if I am as tolerant as I claim to be, should I be prepared to accept all points of view? To take everyone as they are? Or do I have a responsibility to not tolerate intolerance?
If you Google "Bigotry and Tolerance", the top 2 pages are, in order, from the Southern Poverty Law Center and a web site called "Redstate". The first is unequivocal: When you encounter intolerance, it says, you must be prepared to fight it -- in a civil manner, but fight it nonetheless. Or separate yourself from it.
The second states, "Evil Preaches Tolerance", and says that espousing tolerance is how evil gets us to undermine virtue. Then, once evil takes over, it will silence good.
1 for, 1 against, with a wiggle clause if you're not successful. Not much help.
The Dalai Lama says that we should look upon those filled with hate, and should feel compassion for them, taking on their internal suffering so as to reach enlightenment. That sounds like a drag, frankly.
There are a lot of other places to look, most of which are internally inconsistent. Stamp out evil and non-virtue, but one person's virtue is another's non-virtue. Better yet, just do what we tell you to do. But think for yourself and follow your conscience and your heart. Unless your heart leads you to tolerate non-virtue. Then work to change yourself.
And then I realized: my moral compass is actually very strong; I know what I believe. I believe that we each have the right to live our lives as we see fit, so long as we do three things:
1) Don't discriminate based on things that people cannot change (like gender, race, sexual orientation or physical and mental disability)
2) Don't deny others the basic rights we enjoy (like marriage and health care)
3) Don't be deliberately mean or greedy
When I see any of these three things happening and don't speak out, I find it's because I am afraid of being judged a "busybody" or a "know-it-all", or "holier-than-thou". That's pretty wimpy, I guess. If some people don't want to be my friends because I insist that they treat everyone with lovingkindness (which in my mind includes making sure they have a safe place to shelter, sufficient food and basic health care), well, maybe I don't need those people in my life. So be it.
Glad we got that straightened out.