How Tolerance Really Works
If one lives in or meanders through or even just sometime dabbles in one of the multitude of fringe subcultures in society, be it Swinger or Kinkster or Gay or Bi or Poly, then one has encountered some form of intolerance. The degree of this intolerance varies, surely, but ask the average person how well s/he would react to learning that a school teacher is gay, or a swinger, or engages in BDSM practices outside of the confines of the professional environment and the overwhelming response will be one of negativity. Disgust, perhaps, or vitriolic speech will be the common denominator. Very often, the people reacting from a negative place espouse to live lives of public positivity; they claim hold of beliefs that teach of love and kindness not simply as ways of live but furthermore as embedded attitudes of being. Turn around yet afterward and ask these people on their thoughts on tolerance, and the refrain is automatic; love everybody, tolerate everybody, but teach and preach in hopes of homogenizing everybody to better align with the responder’s beliefs.
This is not tolerance. This is a guise, an imagery put forth from which platitudes may be issued and rote answers may be spewed. Underneath this facade is a dislike, a distrust, in fact a disavowal of any thought, philosophy, or practice that is not conformist to the established teachings of the hallowed institution. That institution may be religious, political, educational, ect. but they share commonalities in inspiring loyalty and conferring world views that are either blind to or ignorant of baseline facts about life outside the shelter of the group. There is safety in numbers; behold the flock of sheep.
True tolerance comes from breaking free of the mental constraints placed upon one by the institutions and striving for more. To look at another human being not as some unknowable and therefore irrelevant construct, but instead to look and see that common spark of purpose, personhood, and possibility within requires struggle, requires growth. Growth becomes painful when internalizing lessons that contradict our established suppositions. For a Republican, it may be learning that hard work and dedication does not always lead to better economic opportunities, or that the legal system is skewed in favor of those who’s skin contains a lighter shade of melanin. For a Christian, it may be learning that the bigoted claims put forth within the Bible are as inapplicable to modern times as the warnings against pork, or red meat on Friday. For a racist, it may be learning that one’s worth is not measured by skin tone but instead of actions in the face of harrowing obstacles.
Tolerance is seeing within somebody else the same pieces that make a person as exist inside oneself. Tolerance is learning of a sexual practice that one may not like, but another find exhilarating, and expressing positivity in the form of communication and, possibly, empathy. Being happy that one’s friend has found happiness at the end of a crop, or in the bed of a married couple, or in the arms of somebody of the same gender/sex. Tolerance is embracing the fluidity that exists among the human spectrum, recognizing all variations as equally valid, and allowing love or acceptance to form the base identity from which all human interactions begin.
What tolerance is not is allowing harmful behavior to continue. Tolerance does not allow for rapists, or abusers, or negligence. Tolerance, like the people who espouse it, seeks to serve the betterment of the community and the individuals alike. Tolerance is not hatred, nor an excuse to allow the practice of hateful, harmful behavior.
I yearn for the day when all people practice more tolerance.
Stay SINful, friends.