A Question About Tolerance

(Reed’s Playlist for the occasion: Carrion by Parkway Drive, Where The Sun Never Sleeps by Stick To Your Guns)

Hey all,

So I’m going to take a long weekend away from it all to be with family. I think I really need it at this point; I’m kind of exhausted (and I got sick too). That means, for the sake of my mental and physical health, I won’t be posting anything for at least the next three days.

Be strong until I get back. I believe in you ❤

I’ll leave you with one thing, though. It’s a question I’ve been asking myself quite a lot lately, and I want to know what you think about it.

Should we be tolerant of intolerant people?

The answer might seem obvious to you; it’s not to me. For a long while, I touted tolerance as one of the primary virtues a person should attempt to live by in life (see my post about my first tattoo). To me, tolerance isn’t just something you get to do towards another educated, intelligent, rational person whose views just happen to differ from your own; you have to muck about with the neo-Nazis and the true horrors society has to offer, and you have to offer them tolerance as well.

But I was reading an article the other day about librarians fighting back against the Trump administration’s attempted censorship of free access to knowledge. You can find it here if you’re interested.

Anyway, I was reading it and thinking hard about the nature of tolerance, and how it seems like we have a paucity of it on both sides of the spectrum. On one hand, some Trump supporters are clearly xenophobic and nationalist (and I’m going to try my hardest to be impartial here, so if you read any negativity in my words, please block it out if you can). But on the other hand, I’m seeing an increasing number of people on the liberal side of things who are belligerent if not downright hateful.

Here’s the problem. I’m a straight white male. According to a lot of people, I don’t get to have a say in this debate – and to some extent, I agree with them. How could I ever know what it’s like to be marginalized, oppressed by institutional prejudices that have been around for hundreds of years? I could never, ever understand such a thing.

But when I see people acting in such a feral, loathing way towards other human beings, be it on either side of the aisle, it makes me sad. I think to myself, Why can’t some Trump supporters recognize that not all Muslims are terrorists? But I also think, Why can’t the radical anti-Trump protesters recognize that not all Trump supporters  are complete monsters?

And then I see things that make me even more disheartened: in the comments section of the very same article I was reading, I learned that one of the librarians most involved in the protest against Trump (April Hathcock) is pretty staunchly prejudiced against white people. Apparently, she’s tweeted things like “White people, by virtue of their race privilege, are racist. All of them. Everyone.” I don’t know if I believe living under a racist system automatically makes someone a racist.

Can I condone her hatred of my people? Before I might have said no. Now I’m not so sure.

Does the middle-class white society need to be rudely awakened to what it’s like to face strong prejudices? Maybe it will help us learn. Maybe it will make us even more hateful of minorities. I honestly don’t know.

I’m starting to drift from my point. I guess what I’m trying to say is, I used to believe that tolerance is something you have to extend to everyone, even those who are intolerant. If you’re not doing that, you’re being just as intolerant as they are. But now, in the face of all this craziness, I’m starting to wonder. Do we need to be tolerant of people who want to commit acts of genocide and open prejudice? Is it actually wrong for a member of a minority to hate someone like me, simply because of the color of my skin?

It’s impossibly tangled. The child in me wants to find black and white; seeing none, he runs into a quiet corner of his life and takes shelter under the wings of his family for a weekend.

But I want to ask you, followers and general blog-reading public. What do you think is the answer here? Do we need to be tolerant of intolerance right now? Or do we need to strike back against it with a wave of hatred just as powerful?

If you don’t have the answers, join this slowly sinking ship and have a drink with me.

Yours in perplexed solidarity,

-R.R. Buck


One thought on “A Question About Tolerance

  1. If anyone else has been struggling with this, I can’t give you a definitive answer, but I did have a good conversation with my older brother about it. His view on the subject is when people threaten the fundamental rights of others, they relinquish their own fundamental rights. So when a person advocates for a kind of treatment of others that infringes upon their ‘circle of rights’, so to speak, that person gives up their own rights and can (maybe even should?) be treated in a way normally considered harsh or inhumane.

    It’s gone far from addressing all my questions or alleviating all my stress, but it’s a good place to start thinking.


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