Contributor Post Created with Sketch. More Tolerance, Please

 

The more significant the disagreement, the more important it is that something as easily settled as the meaning of the words we use not prevent us from having a civil discussion. There are many real and important things about which we differ; our words should not be counted among them.

The word “tolerance” implies disagreement. After all, we are never asked to tolerate something of which we approve. Rather, we’re asked to tolerate things that we don’t necessarily like. Approval and tolerance are two different things, and asking someone to approve of something is not the same as asking them to tolerate it.

For example, I don’t approve of people swearing in public, but I tolerate it.

What does it mean to tolerate something? I’ll offer this simple definition: tolerance means that you would allow something even if you had the practical authority to prevent it.

So, back to my example: even if I had the authority to prevent people from swearing in public, I wouldn’t use it. I am tolerant of swearing in public, even though I don’t like it.

Please note that I’m not talking about changing what people think, making them believe what I believe and so do what I’d like them to do. That isn’t something accomplished through authority, but rather through persuasion and the exchange of ideas and viewpoints. We must, of necessity, “tolerate” what people think and believe, because there is no authority, real or imagined, which can compel others to believe what we believe. Nor, I would argue, should there be, as that would violate our most private right of conscience.

I believe strongly that people should be free, free to express their ideas and to live their lives with a reasonable minimum of restriction, free to approve or disapprove of whatever they want. We all have opinions, and sometimes strong ones, about what makes sense, what is true, and what is good for people. We should be free to express our approval or disapproval. That isn’t the same as tolerating or not tolerating.

I tolerate expressions of approval and disapproval, even when I don’t agree with them.

Smoking, swearing in public, yelling at your kids in Wal-Mart, self-identifying as the wrong sex, hooking up, Gender Studies departments, cross-country skiing, bluegrass music, white-supremacist talk, black-supremacist talk, made-up pronouns, anti-semitic talk, Islam, decaf coffee, omitting the Oxford comma — there are a lot of things of which I don’t approve, but which I will tolerate.

I would like to ask my friends on the left to name a few things which they tolerate, but of which they do not approve. I wonder what they would answer. Because my impression is that many on the left use “tolerance” as a synonym for “approval.” And, when you tolerate only those things of which you approve, you really tolerate nothing at all.

There are 37 comments.

  1. Jim McConnell Member

    Exactly, Henry! Very well said.

    • #1
    • February 21, 2019, at 3:12 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  2. Basil Fawlty Member

    This post is unacceptable. Whatever that means.

    • #2
    • February 21, 2019, at 3:23 PM PST
    • 4 likes
  3. The Cloaked Gaijin Member

    Henry Racette:

    I don’t approve of people swearing in public, but I tolerate it.

    That’s (bleeping, expletive removed) crazy!

    • #3
    • February 21, 2019, at 3:24 PM PST
    • 1 like
  4. Gary Robbins Reagan

    I was with you until you got to omitting the Oxford comma. There are somethings we should never accept.

    • #4
    • February 21, 2019, at 3:40 PM PST
    • 9 likes
  5. Gary Robbins Reagan

    Actually White Supremacist talk, Anti-Semitism, and the “N” word cross the line with me. I will say something, or at a minimum shun the person saying it.

    • #5
    • February 21, 2019, at 3:44 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  6. Henry Racette Contributor
    Henry Racette Post author

    Gary Robbins (View Comment):

    Actually White Supremacist talk, Anti-Semitism, and the “N” word cross the line with me. I will say something, or at a minimum shun the person saying it.

    Gary, that isn’t intolerance. As long as you wouldn’t outlaw it or suppress it with force, you are tolerating it. I will speak up against quite a few things that I will tolerate.

    • #6
    • February 21, 2019, at 3:47 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  7. Gary Robbins Reagan

    If memory serves, after the Second World War, Germany banned the Nazi Swastika. After the deaths of 6 million in the ovens, and tens of millions of others, they don’t want to ever reopen that door. They also don’t have a First Amendment.

    • #7
    • February 21, 2019, at 3:52 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  8. Western Chauvinist Member

    Right up until that last paragraph, I was ready to say “You’re preaching to the choir.” 

    But, now that you mention it, I think we’ve been too tolerant of the Left’s intolerance, and we’ve let them use accusations of intolerance as an effective weapon against us.

    Also, I have a friend who talks smack to parents who bully their kids in Wal-Mart. She grew up in the foster system and knows their type all too well. I don’t think there’s enough of that in our society.

    • #8
    • February 21, 2019, at 3:54 PM PST
    • 4 likes
  9. Henry Racette Contributor
    Henry Racette Post author

    Western Chauvinist (View Comment):

    Right up until that last paragraph, I was ready to say “You’re preaching to the choir.”

    But, now that you mention it, I think we’ve been too tolerant of the Left’s intolerance, and we’ve let them use accusations of intolerance as an effective weapon against us.

    Also, I have a friend who talks smack to parents who bully their kids in Wal-Mart. She grew up in the foster system and knows their type all too well. I don’t think there’s enough of that in our society.

    Again, criticism is not intolerance. I believe in criticism, even in-your-face criticism. That is not intolerance.

    • #9
    • February 21, 2019, at 3:58 PM PST
    • 4 likes
  10. The Cloaked Gaijin Member

    Gary Robbins (View Comment):

    Actually White Supremacist talk, Anti-Semitism, and the “N” word cross the line with me. I will say something, or at a minimum shun the person saying it.

    The “N-word” is like a huge scam. I never heard that word growing up unless it was a movie involving Richard Pryor or something. Then rap music was invented which allowed that word to be burrowed into the subconsciousness of just about everyone.

    My mother who is about 80 and who grew up mostly in the city of a Civil War era border state told me that she didn’t hear that word until childhood or teenage years. She remembered the specific incident as she did not know what that word even meant. Now we are surrounded by that word. I say that it’s like a huge scam as black culture seems to introduce the word to white children to poison their subconsciousness.

    • #10
    • February 21, 2019, at 4:01 PM PST
    • 5 likes
  11. Aaron Miller Member

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    Gary Robbins (View Comment):

    Actually White Supremacist talk, Anti-Semitism, and the “N” word cross the line with me. I will say something, or at a minimum shun the person saying it.

    Gary, that isn’t intolerance. As long as you wouldn’t outlaw it or suppress it with force, you are tolerating it. I will speak up against quite a few things that I will tolerate.

    Something can be legally tolerated and socially not tolerated. Truly hateful comments don’t merit prison or fines, but do merit a sharp reproach and sometimes ostracism. 

    But the distinction between kinds of tolerance gets at a larger point: tolerance is not always good. It is not kind or wise to tolerate theft, for example. On the other hand, one might tolerate a young kid to steal a candy from a bowl, if not an expensive toy. 

    Tolerance can express different interests. It can be a purely practical way to remain at relative peace with neighbors of opposing customs and values. Or it can be an expression of love and mercy, overlooking or minimizing the significance of an error to make deeper connections possible. 

    In any case, there are degrees of tolerance. For example, I tolerate the crossdresser at my bank by talking to him like any other teller and not scowling or otherwise expressing my annoyance. But if there was ever a scenario in which I was expected to refer to him by a feminine pronoun or similarly pretend along with him, I would refuse. 

    Sometimes tolerance merits silence. Sometimes it doesn’t. Where to draw the line is often unclear.

    • #11
    • February 21, 2019, at 4:18 PM PST
    • 7 likes
  12. Mark Wilson Member

    Henry Racette: We must, of necessity, “tolerate” what people think and believe, because there is no authority, real or imagined, which can compel others to believe what we believe.

    Somebody tell the Left.

    • #12
    • February 21, 2019, at 4:26 PM PST
    • 1 like
  13. Mark Wilson Member

    Basil Fawlty (View Comment):

    This post is unacceptable. Whatever that means.

    It will not be tolerated!

    • #13
    • February 21, 2019, at 4:27 PM PST
    • 1 like
  14. Mark Camp Member

    I am with Henry. I tolerate people like him who turn down the Bluetooth speaker when Alison Krauss comes on . Even if I had the authority to prevent people from turning down the Bluetooth speaker when Alison Krauss comes on, I wouldn’t do it. 

    We have ways of making people stop turning down the Bluetooth speaker when Alison Krauss comes on, of their own free will.

    If they know what’s good for them.

    • #14
    • February 21, 2019, at 4:53 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  15. Henry Racette Contributor
    Henry Racette Post author

    Mark Camp (View Comment):

    I am with Henry. I tolerate people like him who turn down the Bluetooth speaker when Alison Krauss comes on . Even if I had the authority to prevent people from turning down the Bluetooth speaker when Alison Krauss comes on, I wouldn’t do it.

    We have ways of making people stop turning down the Bluetooth speaker when Alison Krauss comes on, of their own free will.

    If they know what’s good for them.

    I don’t know who Alison Krauss is, but I habitually turn down Bluetooth speakers, are the odds are pretty good that I’ve turned her down as well.

    Aaron Miller (View Comment):
    Something can be legally tolerated and socially not tolerated. Truly hateful comments don’t merit prison or fines, but do merit a sharp reproach and sometimes ostracism. 

    Broadly agree with your comment, Aaron. What interested me, and what was the impetus for the post, was the fact that those of us who believe in free speech and limited government necessarily tolerate a lot of stuff we don’t like, because we value freedom more than we value some of the things we might achieve by taking that freedom away. And I wondered what things progressives, with their willingness to use government to achieve their various social, economic, and political ends, would identify as tolerable even though they disagreed with them.

    Live and let live is, in America, a conservative tradition. It is not a progressive inclination.

    • #15
    • February 21, 2019, at 5:40 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  16. Mark Camp Member

    Henry Racette (View Comment):
    I don’t know who Alison Krauss is…

    That’s intolerable. She’s Bluegrass.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ml0BMwzPXkI

    • #16
    • February 21, 2019, at 6:59 PM PST
    • 1 like
  17. Henry Racette Contributor
    Henry Racette Post author

    Mark Camp (View Comment):

    Henry Racette (View Comment):
    I don’t know who Alison Krauss is…

    That’s intolerable. She’s Bluegrass.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ml0BMwzPXkI

    Not going to do it. Wouldn’t be prudent.

    • #17
    • February 21, 2019, at 7:04 PM PST
    • 1 like
  18. Mark Camp Member

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    Mark Camp (View Comment):

    Henry Racette (View Comment):
    I don’t know who Alison Krauss is…

    That’s intolerable. She’s Bluegrass.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ml0BMwzPXkI

    Not going to do it. Wouldn’t be prudent.

    Read my lips. Play it.

    • #18
    • February 21, 2019, at 7:09 PM PST
    • 1 like
  19. Henry Racette Contributor
    Henry Racette Post author

    Mark Camp (View Comment):

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    Mark Camp (View Comment):

    Henry Racette (View Comment):
    I don’t know who Alison Krauss is…

    That’s intolerable. She’s Bluegrass.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ml0BMwzPXkI

    Not going to do it. Wouldn’t be prudent.

    Read my lips. Play it.

    No sir, I will not. I’ve heard all the bluegrass I’ll ever need.

     

    • #19
    • February 21, 2019, at 7:13 PM PST
    • Like
  20. Randy Webster Member

    Henry Racette (View Comment):
    I don’t know who Alison Krauss is, but I habitually turn down Bluetooth speakers, are the odds are pretty good that I’ve turned her down as well.

    If you saw Oh, Brother Where art Thou, you have heard Alison Krauss, though you may not have known it at the time.

    • #20
    • February 21, 2019, at 7:17 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  21. Henry Racette Contributor
    Henry Racette Post author

    Randy Webster (View Comment):

    Henry Racette (View Comment):
    I don’t know who Alison Krauss is, but I habitually turn down Bluetooth speakers, are the odds are pretty good that I’ve turned her down as well.

    If you saw Oh, Brother Where art Thou, you have heard Alison Krauss, though you may not have known it at the time.

    I didn’t. I don’t much care for George Clooney, either.

    • #21
    • February 21, 2019, at 8:09 PM PST
    • Like
  22. Songwriter Member

    Great post. And Alyson Krause is definitely worth listening to. 

    • #22
    • February 21, 2019, at 8:10 PM PST
    • 4 likes
  23. MarciN Member

    Henry, try Alison Krauss and Yo-Yo Ma:

    • #23
    • February 22, 2019, at 4:41 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  24. Basil Fawlty Member

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    Randy Webster (View Comment):

    Henry Racette (View Comment):
    I don’t know who Alison Krauss is, but I habitually turn down Bluetooth speakers, are the odds are pretty good that I’ve turned her down as well.

    If you saw Oh, Brother Where art Thou, you have heard Alison Krauss, though you may not have known it at the time.

    I didn’t. I don’t much care for George Clooney, either.

    Then you probably didn’t appreciate this:

    • #24
    • February 22, 2019, at 5:31 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  25. Gumby Mark (R-Meth Lab of Demo… Thatcher

    I think you are correct the Left has lost the meaning of tolerance, now viewing it as the same as approval. In his August 1790 letter to the Hebrew Congregation of Newport, Rhode Island, President Washington spoke of tolerance in a different vein.

    All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship It is now no more that toleration is spoken of, as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people, that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights.

    That was a new concept at a time when most of the world viewed tolerance as something bestowed by the rulers, and revocable at their pleasure. If 21st century progressivism prevails we will return to that world, and it is why progressivism is a reactionary philosophy.

    We can see it clearly in the comparative complaints of Progressives and non-Progressives about news and social media.

    Non-Progressives: “Stop preventing us from speaking.”

    Progressives: “Don’t let non-progressives speak”.

    One wants to enter a conversation, the other to shut their opponents down.

     

     

    • #25
    • February 22, 2019, at 7:20 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  26. Gumby Mark (R-Meth Lab of Demo… Thatcher

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    Randy Webster (View Comment):

    Henry Racette (View Comment):
    I don’t know who Alison Krauss is, but I habitually turn down Bluetooth speakers, are the odds are pretty good that I’ve turned her down as well.

    If you saw Oh, Brother Where art Thou, you have heard Alison Krauss, though you may not have known it at the time.

    I didn’t. I don’t much care for George Clooney, either.

    And Clooney is very good in that film. The Coen Brothers have used him in three pictures, writing roles in each that make him look like a fool, and he is great at playing the fool.

    • #26
    • February 22, 2019, at 7:22 AM PST
    • 4 likes
  27. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… Member

    Gary Robbins (View Comment):

    Actually White Supremacist talk, Anti-Semitism, and the “N” word cross the line with me. I will say something, or at a minimum shun the person saying it.

    But black supremacist talk is OK with you? I ask because it was in Henry’s list, and you omitted it, so I presume that you meant to omit it (according to the old inclusion unius thing, though this is only a presumptive rule of construction).

    It strikes me as racist, technically, to object to white supremacist talk while not objecting to black supremacist talk.

    I’m also tolerant of anti-Semitism, or at least what is often labeled as anti-Semitism. Judaism should be subject to criticism, just like everything else. Israel should be subject to criticism, just like everything else.

    • #27
    • February 22, 2019, at 7:38 AM PST
    • Like
  28. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… Member

    Henry, about your tolerance of swearing. Is it appropriate to thank you for all of the money that I saved on sports event tickets? Because I did not take my kids to such events, due to the foul mouths of the fans.

    • #28
    • February 22, 2019, at 7:40 AM PST
    • Like
  29. Stina Inactive

    Henry Racette (View Comment):
    Again, criticism is not intolerance. I believe in criticism, even in-your-face criticism. That is not intolerance.

    This diminishes the whole point of your post. Your post did not solely focus on legal tolerance, but the expression of ideas contrary to our own. That is social tolerance.

    Either you tolerate it or do not. And as AP said, some things are ok to not tolerate.

    For the reasonable, it may be a sliding scale.

    • #29
    • February 22, 2019, at 7:55 AM PST
    • 1 like
  30. Henry Racette Contributor
    Henry Racette Post author

    Stina (View Comment):

    Henry Racette (View Comment):
    Again, criticism is not intolerance. I believe in criticism, even in-your-face criticism. That is not intolerance.

    This diminishes the whole point of your post. Your post did not solely focus on legal tolerance, but the expression of ideas contrary to our own. That is social tolerance.

    Either you tolerate it or do not. And as AP said, some things are ok to not tolerate.

    For the reasonable, it may be a sliding scale.

    I’m sure we can find all sorts of nuance in “tolerance,” Stina. My point in defining tolerance as what you would allow even if you had the authority to prevent it was to make an essentially legal distinction. Think of authority in this context as, say, the ability to pass a reasonably enforceable law.

    So I tolerate swearing because I don’t think there should be a law against it. (I don’t actually feel strongly about that one, and can see a local statute against extremes of obscenity.) I wouldn’t outlaw it even if I had that authority. So I tolerate it, but I don’t approve of it.

    In contrast, I would outlaw late-term abortion except in the most dire and real emergency: I don’t tolerate elective late-term abortion, in the sense I’m using the word. Nor do I approve of it.

    • #30
    • February 22, 2019, at 8:39 AM PST
    • 2 likes