The word ‘tolerance’ gets thrown around a lot these days. Often, it is being screamed by someone demanding someone else be more tolerant of some belief or behavior. In many cases, I’m not sure the term is being applied properly. Before we get started, let’s have a look at the definition of the term tolerance, as provided by Merriam-Webster:
tolerance: sympathy or indulgence for beliefs or practices differing from or conflicting with one’s own; the act of allowing something.
Obviously, there are other definitions, but this is the one which applies to our discussion here. Tolerance, in my opinion, includes the ability to accept things with which we might not agree or understand. Sadly, the term is generally not used this way in current discussion of politics and social issues. “Tolerance” to many exists only when others agree with and argue for their view of the world, no matter how narrow it might be. There are many behaviors which I simply don’t understand, but I have come to accept that people that indulge in those behaviors are still good people and have a right to conduct themselves in the way they see fit. Whether I understand it or not does not matter. I just have to accept it. However, I do not have to go out of my way to support the behavior, only the person. In addition, I was raised to “mind my own knitting”, a Georgia way of saying that I should look to my own house and not worry about what others are doing, as long as they aren’t causing others harm. One example is homosexuality. I don’t understand it at all, but I accept that I have many gay friends who are great people. I want them to be happy and not have to worry about being treated like second-class citizens. I’m not likely to show up at a Pride parade, but I’m not going to judge anyone based on their choice of partners. And, simply put, it’s none of my business!
The antithesis of tolerance is intolerance, another term which gets used a great deal these days, usually in conjunction with some political disagreement. The way it gets used now includes a suggestion of hatred on the part of the person accused of intolerance. It is important to remember that disagreement does not necessarily imply hate. It is sad that we have come to a place in our discourse where this simple fact has been forgotten. I have seen with increasing frequency those who claim to be tolerant being quite intolerant. This has been going on for many years, but has really become a major issue since the presidential election. I have said for years that no one is less tolerant than a leftist, and they are showing it to be true. I can’t understand how anyone could vote for Hillary Clinton. But I accept that some people felt like she was the better option. This single fact does not change my opinion of people who I know personally. If we were friends before the election, your vote isn’t going to change it.
Unfortunately, I have not seen the same level of tolerance from the left. I should be used to it, since it’s nothing new. I mean, we’re supposed to tolerate all religions, but Christians can be insulted at will. We’re supposed to tolerate so-called alternative lifestyles, but anyone who simply supports traditional marriage is attacked and labeled as a bigot or homophobe. We’re supposed to celebrate people of different cultures, but those of us who are proud of our Southern heritage, warts and all, are labeled as ignorant racists. Gun owners are called a litany of names. All of this is perfectly acceptable to so many “tolerant” individuals, because they don’t have to tolerate that with which they do not agree. As aggravating as this is, it has gotten so much worse since the election. I have been called everything but brother, only because of the way which I voted. The pure hatred which spews forth on social media from the left is disturbing. It is coming from people whom I thought were more mature than that, people who have been outspoken but respectful in the past. It sent people who were already intolerant right over the edge.
There are many things which we should never tolerate: racism, sexism, religious persecution, etc. But attacking people’s intelligence and moral character over their vote is really just shallow and immature. It smacks of sour grapes. In closing, I’ll say this: if you’re going to yell and scream about tolerance, you better check yourself and make sure you’re being tolerant. You don’t have to like it or agree with anyone, but you do have to accept their right to an opinion. You never know, they might be right.