To Blazes with “Teaching Tolerance”

Practice Tolerance. Teach Tolerance. Tolerance is the American way.

No. To blazes with that.

I’m not saying intolerance is good – I’m saying that when we talk about Tolerance, the instant we use that word, we’ve accepted the bigot’s mindset, and we have just agreed to play a game that we can only tie or lose.

Here’s an example:

ME: They don’t have Dark City, so let’s rent The Matrix, which isn’t nearly as good, but will do.

YOU: Oh, I liked the Matrix better than Dark City.

ME: Wow. What an idiotic thing to think. You are clearly incompetent when it comes to choosing movies. It probably means you aren’t very bright in general. But you know what; we’ve been friends for a while. I will tolerate your presence in my home.

Now – your response?

(a) Thank you for tolerating me. You are a good friend.
(b) Go to hell.

I hope that we agree that if you say that you will not Tolerate gay people living in your country, you are an asshole. But I’m saying that if you say “I WILL Tolerate gay people living in my country,” you are still sounding like an asshole to me. Why? Because you are still making the assumption that this judgment is yours to bestow. Look at you, sitting there, deciding who you choose to allow or not allow into the country as if this is your decision to make.

Here’s another example:

YOU: Hey, Doug! Bob proposed and I said “yes!” I am so happy!

ME: I will tolerate your marriage. I will come to your wedding to show support for your parents.

Again, your response?

(a) I am so glad you are tolerating my marriage. That’s why I told you, because I sought your tolerance.
(b) Ummmm… thanks, I guess?
(c) Go to hell.

This one may not be as clear cut. I’d say your probable answer would be (b) or maybe (c), unless I am your father or your tribal Elder. In fact, a fun way to be rude is to give someone permission to do something when they weren’t asking you for it in the first place.

Example of me deliberately annoying you:

YOU: I am going to buy some cheese.
ME: I will allow it.
YOU: What the hell, Doug?
ME: Why are you upset? I GAVE you permission.

As soon as I get into the game of which religions, races, or belief systems I will or will not “tolerate,” I’m buying into the concept that my opinion should matter. And it doesn’t. I don’t get to “tolerate” or to “not tolerate” gay people. If you are right now, in your head, framing the reasons why I’m wrong, picture this one:

Another example for you to imagine:

YOU: I would like to join your Scrabble club.
ME: Okay, great! Let me get the Registry of Membership… I see that your favorite letter is T… oh, no, wait. That’s a cross around your neck. Are you a Christian?
YOU: Why, yes.
ME: Oh. Well, this is a very liberal, tolerant club. You can join us even though you are a Christian. We will tolerate you.


(a) Thank you for tolerating me. You are a very open, broad-minded club.
(b) Go to hell

And when you pick (b), should I say, “Why are you upset, Eucharist-muncher? I SAID we would tolerate you!”? But, to be honest, I can’t imagine that last example. Nobody “tolerates” the dominant culture. Tolerance is a gift dominant people bestow on the lowly. If I, as a Jew, start talking about “tolerating” Christians in America, it would be taken as funny, cute, obnoxious, or even hateful, depending on the context. But nobody would seriously believe that it was a moral option for me. So should we teach Christian children that Tolerating Jews is even a choice they get to make? This is the United States. Our national motto is E Pluribus Unim – From Many, One. [It is, look it up.]

When you Tolerate something, you are inherently saying it is bad. I Tolerate the draft in our house. I Tolerate the crappy job our dishwasher does. But I would never say that I Tolerate your presence in my house. You would be insulted if I said that. It is a put down.

Try it and see:

YOUR LOVED ONE: I love your smile.
YOU: I can tolerate your eyes.
YOU: Kiss me.
YOU: But I SAID I can tolerate your eyes. I could also tolerate the way you kiss. So, shall we?
YOUR LOVED ONE: No. I am insulted about what you said about my eyes. It was a put down.

Anyway, that’s my take on it.