Monday, April 17, 2006


If I preach tolerance then I should be tolerant. I should tolerate all those who are different, whether it be in religious belief, color of skin or lifestyle choices. What if the lifestyle choice they make is to be an intolerant bigot? Do I need to tolerate them? At what point do I stop tolerating them because they begin to hurt others?

This started in a discussion at Bring It On. My original comment got rather messed up and I think people were reading that I was arguing AGAINST tolerating gays and lesbians. I was actually trying to put forth the question of how far do I tolerate those who are intolerant? For simplicity, let’s call those who are intolerant bigots. Basically that’s what they are.

I can legislate their actions. Ethically I can demand that they ACT in a certain way. However, I can’t change their beliefs. I can try and educate them, but a person has to allow themselves to be educated or changed and if they don’t want to do that, I can’t force them to change a fundamental belief pattern. If I do, how am I different from the Conservative Christians who are trying to force me into their religion through legislating it and trying to make this a theocracy?

If a bigot speaks of his bigotry only to his friends and close family about his bigotry is it evil? Do I tolerate that? I guess if it’s not interfering in anyone’s life, I’m willing to tolerate this. After all, in all likelihood, no one who would be hurt by this behavior is likely to know it exists.

If this bigot speaks publicly, but not in a way to incite anger, is this okay? This would be the person who tells offensive jokes while walking down the street or perhaps on a cell phone in a public place or perhaps cracks a joke in a quiet restaurant so that the people at the next table can hear. If someone of the race or lifestyle that the person is joking about overhears these conversations, this could be hurtful and potentially harmful. However, the bigot can argue that he is exercising his right to free speech to tell a joke. Legally we can try and clean up our workplaces so that people don’t have to put up with that, but this is on the street or in a restaurant or at all Mall. Beyond telling this person that s/he is offensive, what can be done? If they don’t want to learn, how far do we tolerate?

The next step is publicly speaking about this. This might be the minister who teaches that certain lifestyle choices go against God’s will. Ministers have been saying this for years. But if he says it specifically about our sexual orientation, which becomes a bigoted statement, is that okay? He’s preaching his religious beliefs. How can we outlaw that? Certainly it becomes more harmful because he is encouraging others to act in a manner that is neither loving nor peaceful. He is teaching intolerance. How can I tolerate that but if it’s his church and they permit such speech, how can I put a stop to this speech?

If this bigot is on the radio, speaking hatefully, where his intolerance can be heard by millions, do I tolerate him? The station doesn’t seem to see what he is saying as intolerant. They perhaps argue free speech. How do I tolerate this? How do I work to stop this?

If this bigot knows it’s wrong to be a bigot and keeps it a secret is it okay? Perhaps he works with a secretive organization like the Ku Klux Klan and commits hate crimes. I can’t tolerate that but I have made it not okay for him to act publicly (where we can watch him) and so he acts in secret because I haven’t managed to change his mind about his beliefs.

Who is worse? Is it the bigot who speaks openly and commits their hate crimes openly or the person who does so in secret because they know that the public won’t tolerate their speech? How do we work on teaching tolerance and protecting those who have been labeled different over the years from feeling the pain of another group’s intolerance and keeping those who would perpetuate the problem from going under ground and perhaps exacerbating their actions?

How far do we tolerate those who are intolerant? Where do I become just as bigoted as they are in my intolerance of thier thoughts, speach and action?

On some level it's probably never okay. Any intolerance only feeds more. I guess my main question to ponder is where is the line where we take action? I don't think there is a set line and we must each act that point we see fit. It does come down that we do live in an imperfect world and our intention is as important as the outcome and each of us needs to think about that.


Blogger M B's Blog said...

Interesting blog. You can not legislate the actions of others, you can only legislate against intolerable actions (rape, murder, theft, hate crimes, etc). You can legislate process and you can legislate conditions favorable to things society wants to tolerate or actually approve of.

I do find you comment equating bigots and intolerant people a little too broad. Intolerance is not a bad thing. I personally no longer tolerate people who move to America, legally or otherwise, and will not assimilate or learn English. This does not make me a bigot but yes, it has driven me to actions such as writing my congressmen and senators to pass legislation making it a condition that any naturalized citizen must read, write and speak English.

Another area where intolerance is not a bad thing is intolerance of immoral actions, such as those of pedophiles. To me intolerance of these individuals and their actions should always be a part of our society.

I do like that you also do not seperate one's intentions from the outcome. Too often you hear someone say, 'Well, they had good intentions'. That is a topic for another blog.

Good Day!

7:28 AM  

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