Thoughts on tolerance by Richard Bleil
Some of my friends are racists. I don’t think they’re white supremacist terrorist racist, but they’ve made clear that they believe that white men are (for some reason) the superior race. The fact that I have friends who are racist, though, doesn’t make me racist. The fact that I’m still willing to call them friends and am willing to listen to their opinion (provided it is respectful and not of a threatening nature) means that I am, I hope, tolerant.
One of these friends (who may not appreciate that I am applying this label to him if he reads it but believing in his superiority based on this race is, well, the definition or racist) raised a very interesting point one day. We were discussing a circumstance in which somebody expressed sentiment against another race, and the backlash was incredible. He pointed out that in our country, the concept of “freedom of speech” has somehow morphed into the concept of “freedom to say things with which I agree”. Well, his point was that it’s “freedom to echo the majority”, but either way it amounts to a form of censorship when people are not allowed to express unpopular opinion. This doesn’t include hate speech, threatening speech (which this incident actually included) or incentive to riot as those have already been decided to be exclusions from freedom of speech by the Supreme Court. But, if somebody wants a state specifically for white people, if they raise the idea as a concept alone, shouldn’t it be tolerated?
I’m not afraid to listen to opinions that are not the same as mine. I won’t put up with disrespectful comments, but I truly doubt that anybody could ever put together a coherent argument based on fact that would sway me to honestly believe that one group of people is better than another based on gender, color of skin, the name of their God (or Gods), where they were born, what language they speak or any other frivolous and accidental excuse.
I have friends who are Catholic, Methodist, Baptist, Evangelical, Mormon, and many other flavors of Christianity. I also have friends who are Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, atheist, Wiccan, spiritual as well as other faiths. I have friends that are pro-choice and pro-life, those who support the death penalty and those who don’t, pro-immigrant and anti-immigrant, friends who live around the world, of a multitude of skin color, of all ages, from all regions of the world, conservative and liberal, Republican and Democrat, Capitalist and Socialist and on and on and on and they’re all friends. The only people with whom I have cut ties are the ones that are disrespectful, narcissistic or otherwise toxic.
But I’m always willing to listen to opinion.
I mention this because, thanks to recent events, we will soon be hearing a lot of discussion from all directions. Some will be calm and respectful discussions, but I expect most to be angry and intolerant. I truly hope the angry discussions won’t go beyond disrespectful, but I also hope the respectful conversations help us to see who we are, collectively, as people.
Tomorrow, I plan to discuss Trump and his recent actions. My goal will not be to disrespect the president or try to paint him as incompetent, but I fear it will come across like this because, frankly, I rarely agree with anything that he does, and his events from this past week is no exception. None the less, I hope to describe my concerns and why I am worried rather with the goal of giving people, including his supporters, something to think about rather than to sway opinion. No doubt, I will lose readers for this, and that’s okay. But I hope that those who stay will do so not necessarily because they agree with me, but because they appreciate open dialog and respectful debate.
In the meantime, brace yourself. Remember that there will be a lot of anger, but I hope we all try to temper our anger and remember that we’re all in the same boat. We should all be of the mind to realize that we may, indeed, be wrong. We should all be willing to listen to opinions to debate with respect. Naturally, people who are stubborn and disrespectful are not worth the effort. Too many people are hard-headed, not because they’ve thought through the issues but because they refuse to be “wrong”. I don’t mind ignoring people like this (they are the “toxic” people), but I love hearing opinions of those who disagree and are willing to actually have the discussion. If we ever want to make real progress in our society, this is the way.