- By Paul Hughes
Ok, “you” is a bit direct. I’m really speaking more generally—I just thought the title was stronger in the second person. Anyway… The Oxford dictionary defines tolerance as “the ability or willingness to tolerate something, in particular the existence of opinions or behavior that one does not necessarily agree with.” We shall ignore the fact that the definition in fact uses the word from which it derives, and move forward hoping that we all have a suitable personal definition of the word “tolerate.” It is the second clause of the above definition with which I am most concerned, and the absolute requisition and misuse of the word by many Americans.
I come from a tolerant city and, even more largely, part of the country. We had people from all sorts of races, sexual orientations, and religions. Yes, I’m sure there are places with even more variety, but I can, with full confidence, say that I was raised to be tolerant of such varying lifestyles not only because of my wonderful parents, but also because of my generally eclectic surroundings. Everyone knew Santa Cruz was diverse and toler
ant, and everyone bragged about it. You could be whatever you wanted in Santa Cruz! Anything! Oh, except one thing: republican (ok, that’s an exaggeration, but not a huge one).
One of the things that make America (let’s not be unfair—most of the free world) great is the fact that we have people from vastly differing viewpoints. And yet, during the election season especially, I was constantly bombarded by militant and apparent hatred for those who were of a different opinion (those planning to vote for “the other” candidate). During the season, I even saw one person on Facebook defriending those who had liked Mitt Romney’s page—“yes, in real life too!” Are you kidding me? I don’t care if he had a problem with Mitt Romney. I’m not here to defend Mitt Romney. I’m not even here to talk about the blasted election—it was over months ago. I’m here to talk about this complete lack of tolerance (not just in liberals, mind you, even though my example was rather one-sided). I don’t care how strongly you feel about a topic—if you are not being tolerant of those who think differently, then you are not being tolerant. Yes, you may think that their beliefs fall under the category of “intolerant”, but nevertheless, you even have to be tolerant of that intolerance. No, I’m being unfair; you can do whatever you want. But don’t use the word “tolerant” to describe yourself if you are not such.
For some reason, this is a hard concept to grasp for many people. Here’s what it comes down to, I think—people who are “tolerant” still have trouble being tolerant of what they see as intolerance. I don’t mind that—honestly! I’m not here to lecture you about being tolerant. But the truth is, you’re not “tolerant” if you’re tolerant of many things. Until you are tolerant of the most different of your fellow citizens, you are not truly tolerant. So you need to stop abusing the word. Am I the only one who feels this way?