I encountered a mini-van while on the way home from the grocery store with a Bush/Cheney bumper sticker along with another sticker stating in iconic form that marriage is solely between a man and a woman. As my irritation increased, it got me to thinking.

Why is it that people think they have to tell other people how to live their lives? What is it that makes a person think that it is they who have the right answer. While I can accept that the answer might be right for them, it certainly may not be the right one for others.

This intolerance wears on me. I’m sure that some of these folks are well meaning, it’s just that they have absolutely no clue about differences in this world of ours. And religious intolerance is particularly insidious in that over the centuries this intolerance has slaughtered, and continues to slaughter a lot of innocent people.

How about you live your live and I live mine?

Let’s all try to get through the day finding space for each other while we work, raise our kids, and do good for others. Maybe if we show a little respect and a lot of love, we might find we can all get along.

Or, to quote a conservative, decidedly Republican friend of mine, “Why can’t we all just get along?” Right, Steven?


3 responses to “Intolerance

  1. Steven H. Blackwell

    Neal, this line of reasoning won’t hold up. Strongly-held or strongly-stated views don’t equate to intolerance, any more than mildly-held ones equate to tolerance. While any viewpoint on any issue can be driven at base by intolerance; that isn’t the only factor driving strongly-held views.

    This, however, is a better question:

    “Why is it that people think they have to tell other people how to live their lives?”

    People with strongly held views, driven by self-interest, by moral conviction, by religious belief, by political belief—by whatever force—typically seek to advance and to advocate those views. This has been true in America since before the birth of the nation; it remains true today as well.

    Where problems and conflict begin to occur is at the line separating advocacy and imposition of a certain decision on the body politic. In modern, liberal (with a small l) societies this process of deciding public policy, of enacting into law certain preferences and beliefs or of not enacting them, is a function of civil society. Much of the controversy about so-called “hot button” issues stems from disagreement about what organ of civil society makes the decision: executive, legislative, or judicial. Whether it’s same-sex marriage, abortion, or eavesdropping on suspected terrorists, to name but a few, much of the controversy focuses on who decides as much as on the substance of the decision itself.

    But what is distinguishing is that these are civil decisions, not autocratic or religious ones. This is what distinguishes modern, liberal societies from anti-modernist, theocratic ones. In the United States the Constitution, statutory and case law, state constitutions and laws, local ordinances, and the general political climate all combine to form the arena in which the battles are fought and won or lost or finessed. It’s a messy and convoluted process—intentionally so. “Interest must be made to lie against interest,” as Alexander Hamilton observed. Fearing concentration of power in government generally and in one branch of government to the exclusion of others particularly, the Constitutional architects made their best effort to diffuse power. For 217 years, it’s worked pretty well, I’d argue.

    So if the bumper sticker had read “Kerry-Edwards” or “Clinton-Obama” or “Pelosi for Speaker” and if the representation had shown rainbow iconography, the results would have been the same. Not intolerance; rather, it is a free expression of a strongly held viewpoint.

    The late Harold D. Lasswell, the great political and social theorist of the second half of the 20th Century, once observed that “…politics is about who gets what, how much, and why.” That’s why we have elections. That’s why we have a Constitution. That’s why, as Hamilton advocated, interest lies against interest. I wouldn’t have it any other way, and for the past 45 years of active observation of these trends—and of occasional in-the-arena participation—that is the way I’ve had it.

    Steven H. Blackwell

  2. As usual, Steven, your comments are thoughtful and from a long and carefully considered perspective. Even if you do tend to run around on the “dark side” of the political spectrum.

    Maybe this issue of intolerance comes into play when a line is crossed from the civil realm over to the religious realm. Our society works as a democracy rather than a theocracy, therefore it seems to me that our government should be keeping their decisions based upon those issues rather than those of a truly religious nature.

    The United States is a diverse nation of people of different ethnicity, values, backgrounds, lifestyles, affluence, etc. It seems to me that our government becomes intolerant when it makes laws that obstruct the “life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness” to certain individuals. It seems to me that laws against same sex marriage might be a good example. The more we step over that line, the more we deny these rights to our citizens.

  3. alwayssaynotoracism

    Can you believe someone opposing racism adopting Mahatma Gandhi’s techniques of Satyagraha. This guy did. He was also inspired by RP and MLK

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