And the word of the day…

20 01 2010

Tolerance.  When you’re a screaming knee-jerk left-wing Birkenstock-wearing liberal like me, tolerance is part of the deal.  As liberals, we like to think it’s our defining characteristic.

Until we find ourselves looking at the election results in Massachusetts, and listening to the various pundits saying “What happened?”  And then we start getting the messages on Facebook from our various conservative friends, with whole variety of “Neener neener… paybacks are hell” postings.  And with that comes the resurgence of “Massachusetts now, the country next!” along with the usual tired assortment of comments about Obama. 

I’m not going to get into the politics of all of it.  I’m not qualified to do any kind of political analysis about what happened.    But I am qualified to tell people to knock it the hell off with the gloating. 

I can be as guilty as the next person.  I felt like I came through the Bush years with my head down, counting the minutes until it was over.  And when Obama was elected, I felt relief, like I could breathe for the first time in eight years.   I’ve used all sorts of uncomplimentary terms to describe the religious right.

But ultimately, if you really believe in tolerance, it doesn’t just mean an abstract acceptance of universal diversity.  It isn’t enough to say you’re cool with gay marriage, or you have friends of different ethnicities, or you accept different religious beliefs. 

It means that, when the person across from you has radically different views from your own, you accept that the person has the right to those views.  That holding those views doesn’t make them stupid, or backward, or insane, or retarded, or any of the other pejoratives that are so easily thrown around.  It means that you understand people often have good and well-thought-out reasons for believing what they do.

We very often talk about “those people” – the people who are told what to think, who govern their opinions by sound bites, the willing tools of this or that political persuasion.  I’d guess there are even some people like that.  But put it into perspective: of all the many people you know, are any of them “those people”?  Do you know anyone who doesn’t think about things?  Maybe they don’t think the way you do, but they do consider.   If  “those people” do exist, their numbers are small. 

So this is my commitment to tolerance – to understand that conservatives are rejoicing in Massachusetts, and to let them do it without comment from me.  Where I’ll push back is when I see the gratuitous and ad hominem attacks, because those are inexcusable under all circumstances.  The neenering?  I’ll try to let it pass until someone decides they have to turn up the volume.




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