Tolerance. I find the word confusing these days. It is preached in our school systems and media, yet I rarely see tolerance in practice in these places. In the name of tolerance, I’ve witnessed some of the most intolerant behavior.
Definition of Tolerance
The ability or willingness to tolerate something, in particular the existence of opinions or behavior that one does not necessarily agree with.
Let’s play a game. I’ll give you a scenario and you tell me if the behavior exhibits tolerance or intolerance.
- A high school student refuses to bow to Mecca with the rest of the class during an Islam demonstration and is threatened with suspension for not participating.
- An ROTC cadet in uniform is spat at by other students while walking to a college class.
- Rosa Parks won’t give up her seat to a white person and go to the back of the bus.
- A debate coach prepares an interpretive speech that makes a mockery of Christianity for students to perform in a public bookstore .
- Kids talking about hunting during school are threatened with expulsion for using the word “gun.”
What was your assessment? I would argue that all of them represent an intolerant behavior, but in different ways. In scenario #1 the teacher was trying to teach tolerance for other cultures, but one of the students refused to comply. He would not go against his own beliefs to show “tolerance” for another’s beliefs. Tolerance doesn’t mean you have to believe what other people believe or act the way they act. While trying to teach tolerance, the school was actually being intolerant to someone else.
In example #2, the only tolerant behavior is that of the ROTC cadet. The other students were intolerant of his decision to support the Army. Ironically, the freedom of speech they used in the form of spittle, is the very thing that cadet is defending each day.
The third example is a famous example of intolerance. Rosa didn’t need to give up her seat. She didn’t have to tolerate that kind of behavior. She had a right to that seat as much as the next person.
The fourth example is probably more insensitive than anything . But, now imagine if the performance was making a mockery of Islam, how would the bookstore crowd or school react? My guess is that they would be horrified and outraged.
Now for scenario #5. The “zero tolerance” policy is very poorly named. In the name of tolerance and peace, the school has zero tolerance. Students can’t talk about guns in any context at school. Even seemingly acceptable contexts, like hunting.
Sadly, all of these scenarios are events that have happened. And all but one, happened to my children. (Thanks, Rosa, for letting me borrow your example.)
What is going on? When did this idea of “tolerance” become tyranny?
We are now approaching my least favorite season – election season — where no one listens to each other. Please, let’s take a step back and really listen to each other this year. Let’s ask people with different opinions from us what they think and why. Dig deep. Be kind. And remember, that fun buzz word “tolerance” only goes so far. We don’t have to tolerate being hurt or pushed around or abused. We don’t have to tolerate injustices. Rosa Parks didn’t tolerate sitting in the back of the bus. And we don’t have to tolerate any person of any race, religion or political party being mean, rude, unkind, or disrespectful. We don’t.
Don’t spit on me. Don’t let people spit on you. And, to whomever you are out there doing it, please stop spitting on my son.