This is an overly-long post that is decidedly unfunny. I needed a venting space (within the rules of this blog) to “think-out-loud” a few things. I get it if you’d rather not get bogged by serious shit: feel free to come back tomorrow when I’m back to normal smartass fun.
Tonight, I left behind a person I used to know, because said person’s beliefs have become so blatantly intolerant and judgmental I simply can’t see myself interacting anymore. I haven’t blocked or drastically called public attention to that person: I simply unfollowed from all social media and backed away. It was not the first time this happened recently.
For the most part, I’ve remained out of the tolerance/intolerance debate flying about on my social media pages. Maybe that’s because touchy subjects are, in my experience, more easily understood by either party when the aftereffects of a hateful comment are immediately visible on someone’s face. Interestingly, there appears to be a misconception of what the word “intolerance” actually means. People who appear to wish to exclude others from their public universe (and therefore SHARED universe) often accuse “liberals” of “intolerance” of “conservative” views. Let’s review those terms, shall we?
Tolerance (as pertains to ideas, not physical limits):
1) a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward those whose opinions, beliefs, practices, racial or ethnic origins, etc., differ from one’s own; freedom from bigotry.
2) a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward opinions, beliefs, and practices that differ from one’s own.
3) interest in and concern for ideas, opinions, practices, etc., foreign to one’s own; a liberal, undogmatic viewpoint.
Intolerance (again, excluding definitions regarding physical limits):
1) lack of tolerance; unwillingness or refusal to tolerate or respect opinions or beliefs contrary to one’s own.
2) unwillingness or refusal to tolerate or respect persons of a different social group, especially members of a minority group.
Now, I have difficulty accepting the definition of a word that begins with “lack of” the definition of the opposite, but it’s dictionary.com, not the Oxford English.
We ALL have personal things which we cannot or will not tolerate. I’ve seen examples of gross intolerance from all sides of the health care debates, politics, marriage equality, gender equality, economic equality…: the moment the argument becomes any variation of “if you aren’t with us, you’re against us” there is no longer tolerance. I find myself intolerant of laws created specifically to allow discrimination against any group of people in public space. I am emotionally vested in and intolerant of actions which seek to reduce my ability to participate in public life simply because I have a vagina. I have to think HARD about my reactions to some issues because of the emotional value they have for me…I am decidedly not immune.
But in all the debates a-ragin’ about gay marriage, religious persecution, liberal and conservative social beliefs, health care, “isms”…people seem to be forgetting that these aren’t cardboard cutouts they’re attacking: they’re other people. People who have as much right to a strong opinion as anyone else.
Personally, I may think you sound like a jackass if you say things like “Yoga is Satanic” or “Loving someone different from what MY (insert religion/culture/upbringing here) says is ok makes you evil,” but hey, go ahead and believe in hate and exclusion if you want. YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO BELIEVE WHATEVER YOU WISH. You can encourage others to agree with you. You can express your distaste for another’s beliefs.
You are not, however, protected from the consequences of expressing those opinions in a public forum. Public space is public space, and is defined by the group. Society’s norms are (contrary to popular belief) ever-changing. If you don’t think so, please feel free to review the actual wording of the Constitution, noting that people who aren’t white men (vagina people and black people are both specifically mentioned in amendments) weren’t recognized as fully HUMAN (ie people who can vote, participate in society, work together to make this country what it is, HAVE A VOICE) until quite a long while after the document was written. The Constitution has changed over time. Society has changed over time. Public opinion changes over time. Sticking your neck out publicly to say you won’t serve gays pizza and receiving social backlash doesn’t make your situation “poor me, I’m persecuted for my beliefs.” It makes you a person who discovered a large chunk of the public forum no longer supports your opinions.
Let me be clear: if you believe it’s dangerously evil to practice yoga, have sex with your own gender, meditate, surf, study languages, watch horror movies, read smut, travel and experience other cultures…well…you certainly get to opt out of any of those activities. You just don’t have the right to try to force ME to opt out. And you certainly don’t get to pull the “I’m trying to save you from the horrors of hell in the afterlife” argument. That presumes sure factual (provable) knowledge of said hell and afterlife…and I’d have to challenge the presumption with demand of proof before I’d take that argument at any value.
To my mind, tolerance is the acceptance that there is no one way to any truth, but many, and I think everyone is welcome to theirs. Intolerance is attempting to force someone else to YOUR view of the truth. And truth is not the same as fact…it’s malleable and sometimes squishy, and that seems to terrify some people.
I think it’s sort of fascinating how people either grow more repressed, restrained, hidebound, intolerant with age OR more tolerant, accepting, inclusive, and free. What’s really interesting is that I seem to be reaching an age when people in my loosely-defined generational group are showing inclinations one way or the other, like plum-bobs swinging on a pendulum. I have yet to actually unfriend/block someone from my social media for increasing fundamentalism or intolerance. I have and will continue to remove them from my news feeds, if necessary…because if I can’t have a rational discussion about why I disagree and only receive fundamentalist responses, I see no reason to engage at all. But you never know when something will change, and my door is still open if adult conversation is possible down the road.
I’m starting to think Someone in the universe is laughing their butt off at me, because this week has been a series of “practice what you preach, bitch” tests in tolerance and compassion, and what exactly I’m going to do when confronted with people unwilling to debate or discuss at all and would rather try to force me to their way of thinking.
Boy, I really do not do “forced” anything well at all.