Jan Losh: No tolerance for … tolerance
That’s right: I have no tolerance for tolerance. By every Merriam Webster definition, and from my life experience, I have learned that the word, and practice of, tolerance evokes a relational condescension: In my superiority, I will magnanimously, albeit grimacingly, endure your inferiority; the greater me will indulge the lesser you; my more excellent self will graciously allow substandard you to breath the same air. Today we see too many demanding tolerance for their views without reciprocating in the least.
Bottom line, the arrogance of tolerance is simply … intolerable.
And so, as I share musings in this column from time to time, please know that I have no intention of tolerating you, nor do I expect you to tolerate me. I do hope to establish a mutual and deep appreciation for thought processes and the communication of ideas on topics ranging from devoutly religious to irreverent, from spiritual to secular humanist.
My voice is that of one introduced to the Christian faith at the age of 12. I decidedly chose to become a Christian at the age of 13 in 1967. Over the years, while some have tolerated me (in the most arrogant sense of the concept) as a fundamentalist, others have denounced me (in an equally arrogant manner) by grouping me with “liberal losers.” No doubt a variety of readers may share additional assessments of my writings, and me, in the weeks to come.
But we should attain to something higher, something better in our writing and reading and interaction.
As Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) observed, “The only way to make sure people you agree with can speak is to support the rights of people you don’t agree with.”
Rather than sanctimoniously tolerating one another, I propose to raise the bar to challenge one another and encourage each other in energizing and enlightening exchanges.
Most everyone appreciates the concept of what is commonly referred to as The Golden Rule espoused by Jesus and understood as the simple principle to treat others as we would like to be treated. Further examination of Jesus’s teachings reveals that practicing The Golden Rule is the product not of a tolerant heart, but a loving one reaching out even to include one’s enemies.
Eric Hoffer, author and Presidential Medal of Freedom honoree, elaborates: “The remarkable thing is that we really love our neighbor as ourselves: we do unto others as we do unto ourselves. We hate others when we hate ourselves. We are tolerant toward others when we tolerate ourselves. We forgive others when we forgive ourselves.”
To carry that thought one step further…we reach beyond mere tolerance of others as we come to grips with humanity and recognize each other and ourselves as individuals capable of learning, growing, sharing and appreciating if not our differences, at least our right to have differences.
To paraphrase author Evelyn Beatrice Hall, who paraphrased Voltaire: I may disagree to the utmost with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.
That is not a flimsy tolerance model tendered to be politically correct. That is conviction with courage to match. Freedom of speech. We simply cannot afford to tolerate it. We much cherish and champion it.
Jan Losh lives in Dillon.
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