As I watch the news about recent events, I keep hearing jubilant spokesmen telling me that I must be tolerant of their cause and their victory or I’m an evil, backwards, despicable person. Since when is holding to differing opinions or beliefs the definition of evil? When did tolerance become a weapon to be used against people who think differently?
Tolerance is not forcing everyone to agree with your opinion. Tolerance is not forcing other people to give up their own beliefs. Even though that’s what tolerance has come to mean lately, that is not the meaning of the word.
Tolerance is believing that everyone has the absolute right to his/her own opinions and beliefs; that everyone has the right to speak his/her opinion or belief freely without fear of negativity, ridicule, or verbal attacks from those who hold differing opinions or beliefs. Tolerance is about defending the rights of others to have opinions and beliefs different from your own. Tolerance is standing up for people who believe things that make your blood boil in opposition and making sure that no one else tries to take away their rights to have and to speak their own opinions and beliefs freely.
Tolerance is about protecting the rights of ALL people. It is not about trying to take away the rights of people who disagree – no matter how many people have differing opinions and beliefs. It is not about forcing people to agree. It is not about making people give up their opinions or beliefs. It is not about making people change their minds. It is about defending a world where we all have the right to our own opinions and beliefs, and we all have the right to express those opinions and beliefs safe from abuse and harm.
Until we learn what tolerance is and start standing up for the rights of those with whom we strongly disagree, there is no tolerance. There is only intolerance and hate. If we don’t want to wake up one day and find our rights to our opinions and beliefs under attack, we’d better start defending the rights of others to have different opinions and beliefs. It is only when we all defend the rights of others with whom we disagree that we will have a tolerant society where each member of society is truly free to think and believe as his/her conscience dictates.
If someone expects me to be tolerant of his/her opinions and beliefs, he/she must be equally tolerant of my opinions and beliefs. If someone expects me to defend his/her rights, he/she must defend my rights. If people who live one lifestyle want their rights defended, they must defend the rights of people who live different lifestyles. If people of one religion want their rights defended, they must defend the rights of people from different religions. If non-religious people want their rights defended, they must defend the rights of religious people. Taking away the rights of others is not tolerance and is not the principal upon which this country was built.
Tolerance is not forcing everyone to believe the same thing. It is allowing everyone to freely have different beliefs and opinions. It is celebrating those differences, rather than condemning those differences.
There is little tolerance left in the United States today. We need it back if our society is going to survive.