The tolerance club

One of the central values behind Civil Politics is tolerance, the idea that we can disagree without being disagreeable.  We hope that plays out on the show every week, but the concept extends far beyond a few conversations.  Tolerance is about our ability to share the planet with the billions of others who also live here.  Part of making that happen is accepting that other people value things that we don’t: they enjoy stories that annoy us, play sports that bewilder or bore us, songs that sound like tuneless clamor, and care about the stupidest things, like whether Kim and Kanye will split up, whether the Sox will go all the way this year, or whether the holy trinity are three separate entities or one and the same.  

On a planet of more than 7 billion people living in 195 countries speaking more than 6000 languages, finding ways to get along is a constant necessity.   I could write a short piece about it any week, or every week, and it would always be timely. Nevertheless, I’m moved to do so this week because of two stories in the news that remind me that too many people actively reject the very idea of tolerance.

First, of course, was the terrible bombing attack in Brussels on Monday.  Daesh, al Qaeda, and people in similar groups explicitly hate people who think differently so much that they murder people at random in hopes of getting us to stop.  (It sounds stupid when I say like that, doesn’t it?)   Our government, and others across the world, are going to great lengths to find the terrorists and capture or kill them.  It’s depressing that violence is necessary, but in this case it truly is.  The great ongoing project of living together peacefully demands it.  

The second piece of news followed Monday’s atrocity, when senator Ted Cruz suggested that we needed “to empower law enforcement to patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods before they become radicalized.”  Obviously, this a man expressing ideas, not mass murder, so it’s nothing like terrorism.  Furthermore, while Senator Cruz and I differ on many issues, we share a commitment to the rule of law, and a belief in the excellence of the US Constitution.  I don’t want to give the impression that I’m equating him with Daesh.  Nevertheless, in calling upon the police to single out the three million muslims in the USA for special attention simply because they are muslims, Ted Cruz falls prey to the same fallacy as Daesh.  

To be tolerant, one must extend the same basic rights to everyone, including blacks, gays, Muslims, or Yankees fans.  As tolerant people, we cannot accept when someone wants to exclude people from equal access to our shared public life, whether it’s Ted Cruz decrying Muslims, Donald Trump calling Mexicans rapists, or the state of North Carolina outlawing local measures to prevent LGBTQ discrimination. Tolerance is an easy club to join–all you have to do is acknowledge that everyone else gets to belong, too.  It’s easy to leave, too.  If you can’t accept that everyone else gets to be part of the conversation, then you can’t be part of it yourself.  I hope Ted Cruz, Donald Trump, and others like them remember this quickly, because their chipping away at the social edifice Daesh wants to blow up.


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