Tolerance is a virtue. But to be a positive force in a nation, or a community, it must be applied universally, not selectively. Definitionally, it denotes not only forbearance of behavior, but of opinions that are disagreed with. Yet the degree of intolerance shown to those who oppose the radical homosexual agenda is immensely disturbing, especially coming from those who are such ardent advocates of toleration.
Those who oppose the leftist agenda are often subjected to threats, obscene anonymous phone calls, character assassination, and disturbing mischaracterizations in social media for having the courage to express their opinions.
A courageous couple, Ralph and Rochelle Lillig of Pocatello, ID, have felt the wrath and intolerance of the radical left. And what is the heinous injustice the Lilligs are guilty of? They have the chutzpah to suggest the citizens of their town exercise their right to vote on whether to accept a proposed “anti-discrimination” ordinance that criminalizes any perceived discrimination against homosexuals or transgenders. Encouraging democratic involvement is fundamental to the American tradition. The Lilligs should be lauded for advancing the notion that their community should actually have a direct voice in the laws the citizens are beholden to, rather than just leaving it in the hands of elected officials, some of whom have proven susceptible to coercive pressure from a small yet vocal minority.
There is a local group that calls itself 2Great4Hate, which is supporting the ordinance. They are exercising their freedom of speech to advance their agenda. They are not being vilified for doing so. So why do they display such intolerance to the Lilligs for exercising their freedom of speech? It would appear that the left’s version of tolerance is very selective and exclusive. I was unceremoniously ostracized from their Facebook group because I failed to comport with their selective concept of “tolerance.” Apparently it’s not enough to simply oppose any form of discrimination, but one must accept the entirety of their narrow, codified version of it, regardless of the unintended consequences.
The left’s version of tolerance obviously excludes social conservatives who have the temerity to support the nuclear family, and broad exercise of freedom of speech. This was made painfully clear by their reaction to Chik-Fil-A last year when the company CEO revealed they were supportive of the traditional nuclear family. The left’s reaction evidenced a selective tolerance disorder, where it’s not enough to merely advocate treating others the way you want to be treated, but you have to buy into their precise agenda of forced acceptance of aberrance, deviancy, and codified enforcement.
As a principle, and a characteristic to be aspired, tolerance is antithetical to ideological conformity. If tolerance is publicly demanded of behavioral and ideological aberrance, it should likewise be extended toward people of contrarian values. Freedom of speech and expression should be absolutes for all citizens and groups, not proscribed for those who believe differently. Applying a common aphorism, if it’s good for the goose, it’s good for the gander.
It’s disconcerting when the primary means of advancing a particular agenda is verbal guerilla warfare of intimidation and personal attacks against those who have the audacity to disagree with them. It smacks of a fascistic tyranny of the minority by attempted intimidation of nonconformists.
I was critical of Attorney General Eric Holder when he claimed that we’re a “nation of cowards” for not addressing racial issues to his liking. But it’s no wonder we’re becoming a nation of cowards, since whenever someone has the courage to exercise their First Amendment rights of free speech and it doesn’t conform with the left, they get vilified and publicly excoriated. That doesn’t seem very “tolerant” to me.
Christopher Hitchens, the secularist and author of “God is not Great” said in a New York Post interview, “More and more I find that those people are the real enemy intellectually. There’s no dishonesty like liberal dishonesty, just like there’s no intolerance like liberal intolerance. There’s nothing they won’t excuse and no excuse they won’t deploy. Their piety is a big aspect of that.”
The ultimate hypocrisy is to claim adherence to a standard of behavior yet fail to hold oneself accountable to that standard. If tolerance is a noble virtue to which our society must aspire, it must be applied universally, not just demanded of those who believe differently by those who have so little to spare. The bigotry and churlish behavior exhibited by the left on these kinds of issues should be sufficient to give any sentient person cause to spurn not only their conduct, but their agenda.
Tolerance is “the ability or willingness to tolerate something, in particular the existence of opinions or behavior that one does not necessarily agree with.” It doesn’t mean we have to agree, but it does require civility and mutual respect, in spite of perceived differences. It’s a worthy virtue to aspire to collectively as a society. But to have any collective efficacy, it must be applied universally, not selectively.
AP award winning columnist Richard Larsen is President of Larsen Financial, a brokerage and financial planning firm in Pocatello, Idaho and is a graduate of Idaho State University with degrees in Political Science and History and former member of the Idaho State Journal Editorial Board. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.