Preface: I wrote the majority of this in a feverish haste and it quickly became far longer than a single blog post. Since I cannot help but feel that this topic is too important to ignore, I have opted to post this in two portions.
Tolerance is a dangerous word today. It’s one of the most charged terms in modern media. I have heard tolerance used and misused countless times in recent years, to suit a broad variety of agendas.
Dictionary.com defines tolerance in a variety of different ways, with the first being “a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward those whose opinions, beliefs, practices, racial or ethnic origins.”
Most people understand tolerance as the act of permitting someone to live as they please, so long as they keep to themselves. It’s not bad, but could use a lot of work. It is the kind of tolerance that many people believe should suffice for their lives. It’s the idea that they should be allowed to safely ignore things they don’t agree with.
A good example is that of a person who does not approve of homosexuality but would rather they “keep to themselves.” I would argue that this isn’t true tolerance, because it stems from a place of deep ignorance.
Tolerance is not just about ignoring the things that anger or frustrate us, it’s about learning to live with them. It’s not enough to permit homosexuality and block it out of one’s life.
That means that you need to learn to speak to people who are homosexual and treat them like human beings. If you would rather ignore them or limit contact with them, you aren’t truly tolerating them.
Now the flip side of this understanding is that people who have these ideas believe themselves to be justified in them, that they should not have to tolerate the person or group of people against whom they feel this prejudice.
Perhaps one of the greatest difficulties that people will face all their lives is making good moral judgements. Even that phrase is problematic – who decides if a moral judgement is good?
The good should be defended and is, perhaps, even agreeable. To define the good, though, is one of life’s greatest mysteries. There are a few things I want to go over in this regard, just to get you thinking a little more about your own beliefs.
First, and foremost is this quote “that’s how we’ve always done things”. It is possibly the most garbage justification for anything in life. While many traditions start for good reasons, they should be ruthlessly evaluated to see whether they continue to serve their purpose. Empty traditions are only harmful to future generations.
Second, many moral judgments are based on life choices. We judge killers, drink drivers and all manner of criminals based on their life choices. We even judge people for the value they place on nature, on books, on clothing, or any other number of things. Many of us agree, at least theoretically, that people ought not to be judged for something they have no control over.
If they should not be judged for something they cannot control, they should not be treated differently. This is also the guiding principal for those with disabilities. They may require extra help, extra patience and extra care, but these difficulties are not a life choice and so many believe they should not be penalised.
Therefore many of the greatest moral judgements are made based around the presence or lack of choice. It is commonly accepted that homosexuality is not a choice for human beings. It is not a ‘lifestyle’ or a ‘habit’. It’s a part of who someone is. Due to an extensive legacy of prejudice and discrimination, this acceptance is only a recent development.
Now many people do take issue with ‘gay pride’ and what is perceived as an offensively visible display of sexual expression. Many believe it is too confronting, that it is too disruptive. The reason that pride exists is because of a legacy of discrimination. I would not be surprised if pride marches were a historical footnote in a hundred years.
When an aspect of life becomes normalised, people often feel no reason to have pride over their presence within a particular group. If there is nothing to make it notably distinctive, it hardly begs much discussion.
Now, I could take this same approach with any other number of contemporary issues, but I will stick with marriage equality for now. It is one of the most hotly-debated issues of the day, with violent displays from both sides of the debate being a little too common.
This is a debate which should be about love, but this is a word that is frequently absent from the discussion. There is ignorance on both sides about what the major problems in the debate are. I’m not claiming to have the solutions here, of course, but merely to provide further exposition.
On the left, there is the major argument of equality. It starts with the idea that all love is created equal and that marriage, being one of the most powerful expressions of love, should be made equally available for all couples rather than only heterosexual ones. A strong part of this argument relies on acceptance for homosexuality, and legal equality between men and women.
On the right, there is the major argument from the foundation of the family. It defends the idea that children need a man as well as a woman in order to grow and develop normally and healthily. It states that the purpose of a marriage is to join a man and woman and that their relationship is unique because of its ability to produce children naturally. There are many people here that accept homosexual couples, but do not believe that they are able to enter into a marriage since the nature of their coupling precludes the bearing of children.
Now there are of course further implicit arguments behind many of these points. There are further arguments that could made, but I won’t delve further into them. Both sides of the debate have certain assumptions and underpinning beliefs.
Part two of this post will be here in a few days. Thank you everyone if you’ve made it this far. I really want to hear back from people on this. It’s only through talking to people that we can get anywhere here and, most of all, by speaking from a place of love.