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Tolerance revisited - John [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]

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Tolerance revisited [Nov. 25th, 2004|10:56 am]
(Not a book exerpt, but something derived from part of it, with some rambling to help flesh out my ideas.)

Why should you be tolerant?

I mean, isn't that something us icky liberals complain about all the time? Why would you want to be anything like a (ugh!) liberal?

Well... what is this tolerance stuff anyway?

It's the idea that, if a person or a group isn't hurting anyone, you leave them alone.

Okay, it's a bunch of idiots holding a protest, you can shout back at them. And sure, you can bitch about them if you want to, but keep one thing in mind: if you bitch about people often enough, someone's going to decide to beat them up, or steal or vandalize their property, or some police officer is going to remember some obscure law to hassle them over. That ain't right, and you need to remember that. No, it's not your fault if you bitch about people, and some other bunch of assholes decides to do that kind of crap, but you still need to keep it in mind. At least, you do, unless you secretly want someone to beat them up, steal or break their stuff, or have the police hassle them. And, if you want that, well, that's not very tolerant. So, throw in a few "well, it's all right I guess, but I still don't like them". Hey, you don't have to like them. Just make sure that, if something bad happens to a few annoying, but harmless, folks, that you can look people in the eye and say "Anyone who ever heard me talk, knew damn well I didn't want that to happen. There was no question in anyone's mind; I didn't like them, but I was willing to leave them be, and thought everyone else should, too."

That's it; that's tolerance in a nutshell. It doesn't look quite so icky when you put it that way, right?

But why? Why on earth would you do this, when people are loud, obnoxious, and annoying?

Well, the answer to that is freedom.

Freedom means the right to be loud, obnoxious and annoying. Yeah, if you're loud, obnoxious and annoying too often, when it's not important, you're being rude. Sometimes you have to be loud, obnoxious, and annoying, just to get people's attention, so when it's important, you have to let it go by.

Rudeness should be it's own punishment. You remember the great flag burning debates? I always thought they were silly. If anyone burns the American flag, they deserve exactly what they get from the vast majority of the American people: contempt. See, burning the flag isn't burning what America is doing right now, and it's not burning stupid or nasty politicians who hold office. Burning the flag is burning the symbol of the dream.

Mind you, I'll fight to protect people's right to burn the flag without being arrested, and if I thought you were going to rearrange a flag-burner's face, I'd stand in the way, and you'd have to go through me to do it. But if you spit at his feet (not on them; I've been spit on and I won't put up with that), and glare in contempt, well... if that upsets him, too bad. He bought it and paid for it with his actions. If he doesn't like the results, maybe he'll learn better next time.

Some people say that tolerance is all about giving so you receive, and that's not a bad reason to do it. A loudmouth who stands on a street corner screaming that all non-Christians are going to hell to burn, burn burn! has no right to whine if someone thinks Christians are nasty people, who dislike everyone who isn't in their little 'Christ club'. The loudmouth bought and paid for that attitude; become a former-loudmouth, with a better message, and people's attitudes will change.

But that's not the real reason. The real reason is, if you love freedom, you pay the price for freedom. That includes letting a few nutjobs and wingnuts be loud, obnoxious, and annoying (or, hell, quiet, courteous, and still annoying), unless and until they're actually hurting people, or putting people at risk. It's not always an easy price to pay, but the price for anything truly important isn't always easy to pay. And freedom? It's one of the most important things on earth.

If it was cheap, if it was easy, we wouldn't value it so highly. Tolerance is part of the price; you don't have to pay it with a smile all the time, but if you really love freedom, you will pay it, and be proud to do so.