Saturday, October 4, 2014


As a kid, did you ever wonder if maybe the way you perceive the world is fundamentally different from how everybody else perceives it?  Like maybe what you call red, someone else sees as what you call green, but you'll never know if they do or not because you both refer to the first color as red.  Or maybe when someone else eats a pickle, they taste what you taste when you eat cilantro, and that's the reason not everyone likes pickles.

I've had one of those questions floating around my brain lately, so I'm going to share it with you here and maybe you can tell me if I've got it wrong--or at least try, keeping in mind that you might only be able to see it as red and I as what you call green.

It's this: what with all the preaching of tolerance these days, it sometimes seems as if people are willing to tolerate anything except intolerance.  

Now, I'm someone who tends to be closeminded, self-righteous, and not infrequently judgmental.  It's the product of a perfectionist personality, I think: it can make one harshly critical of both oneself and others.  

However, logically speaking, self-righteousness and judgment of other people only make sense if I believe myself to be better than other people.  I would like to believe myself better than other people, but I am frequently, like at least once a minute, reminded that I am not better than other people.  Hence, self-righteousness and judgmentalism have no place in my life.

I don't know about tolerance, though.  It just doesn't seem like enough.  All the wonderful people who exist around me, my friends and my little brothers and the homeless guy in front of the grocery store, how am I supposed to just tolerate them?  They don't need tolerance; they don't deserve tolerance; they deserve love.  They need love.  Anything less than that seems more like an insult than anything else.  You tolerate a hangnail, you don't tolerate a person.  You smile at them or hug them or share your pickles with them, whatever you can manage each moment to show them that they have worth.

Now, having absolved myself of the need for universal tolerance and replaced it with the much heavier need for universal love, I'm going to unburden myself a little further.

Here goes:

I'm okay with tolerant people. 

I'm also okay with intolerant people. 

But I am deeply, deeply not okay with self-professed tolerant people who won't tolerate the intolerants.  It's one of those inherent inconsistencies that drives my little logic sensors up the wall.  

Bigotry, I think, is no more nor less than thinking oneself better than others, whether because of one's beliefs, race, gender, political views, or anything else you can think of.  

Which means that it's just as possible to be a tolerance bigot as to be a religious bigot, racist bigot, sexist bigot, political bigot, or any other kind of bigot.  

All it takes is thinking your tolerance makes you better than other people.  

On that note, would you care for a pickle?  I have red ones and green ones.  You might have to help me figure out which are which.


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  2. Is it also possible to be a bigotry bigot? I don't like your definition of bigotry. It is profoundly bigoted, for one. Why on earth would you think that no one is - and thus that no one has a right to think of herself as - better than anyone else in any way (in particular in the way of beliefs)? Bigotry is actually just holding too strongly to one's own beliefs. It has nothing to do with thinking that your beliefs are better than opposing beliefs.

  3. ...To put it another way: Your tolerance may make you better than other people, or it may make you worse - it depends on the details.