Friday, February 12, 2010

Of Tolerance and Intolerance

Life is filled with many paradoxes today, though I feel that since the last election they have only grown starker. With calls for Universal Healthcare to dealing with Climate Change/Global Warming, we have become more and more polarized. The fact that the current president of the United States is black/African American only increases this, with some people being afraid to say what they wish for fear of being called racist and others eagerly calling those who disagree with the President’s ideas out as racists.
Daily, we are bombarded with the idea that we must accept people, that we must be tolerant. We are told not to hate people because they are black, or Hispanic, or GLBT, and that these people are owed the rights that have been kept from them over the years. Fine by me, the more freedoms we have the better. Over the years I have gone from a person who was freaked out by the idea of Gay people to someone who views it as just another part of the world. As for that ever so lovable topic of Gay marriage, marriage was a social contract long ago, an oath before Gods and Men (this including their female counterparts in both the divine and mortal). If Gay people wish to be married, let them.
Yet, there is a rather shocking element to modern Tolerance: Intolerance. Try protesting Gay marriage or homosexuality and you’ll be called a Homophobe, if not worse, and often face allegations that you are secretly gay and that’s why you’re so hateful to The Cause. Personally, I find the idea rather laughable, mostly because I believe a person is fully capable of hating something without secretly wanting to be it, but more on that another time. I admit to being a little weirded out by Gay men, but I freely admit that is mostly because I’m a rather blunt person and if one hit on me I can’t promise I’d be politically correct. I’ve been informed that this is not something I have to worry about as Gay men don’t hit on obviously straight men. Beyond that I have the attitude of live and let live. Lesbians are cool in my book. Bisexuals I can actually understand. I personally, am straight.
Back to the topic marriage, namely who can and can’t be married. For example, raise the idea of polygamy and see what happens. I once wrote a paper on the subject and in my research discovered that it wasn’t people like the Mormons who are on the frontier of the Polygamous movement, but rather Bisexuals. It makes sense, when you like both sexes, why not have one of each for a life partner/spouse. I actually hold that entered into with the proper mindset and understanding, polygamy is possibly a more stable form of marriage than monogamy. My research, though old now, indicated that this had presented the Gay community with a paradox: Support the widening of marriage to include polygamy, one of the most hated forms of marriage, or stand with the traditionalists and insist that marriage should be between only two individuals. I don’t know if this has been resolved in the years since then, but I haven’t seen anything to indicate that it has.
Probably the most relevant and dangerous subject of this concept though, is Race. Nowhere else are people so polarized, so demanding, so judgmental, as in the area of Racism. Let’s be honest, there is a great deal of power to be had in Racism. Now, I do not hold with Racism, it is a stupid way to judge people and divide them. I prefer measuring a man or woman based on their character, accomplishments, and their strength. This is a rather Pagan way of doing things, but then I am rather Pagan. I am an Ethnicitist, thought that means believing people should take pride in their Ethnic backgrounds, regardless of skin color.
Yet here is where the intolerance lies strongest. If a Black person speaks of White Oppression, that White’ control all the banks, all the corporations, and so on, while calling for a change in power from Whites to another racial group that is being oppressed, no one declares them a racist. This has actually happened in front of me, in a civil rights class. It happened in other classes I’ve have which dealt with racism. We are to be tolerant of all men, but I’ll admit I’ve faced intolerance because of my race. While it is true that there is a majority of Whites in positions of power, one must realize that it is simply an effect of Whites having had access for longer. Give it another hundred years at most, without messing with the system, and you’ll probably see an fairly even ratio of all races. Heck, we have a black president, so Whites can’t have all that much power, or at least be using it to keep the minorities down. Studies have been conducted to show that Whites will soon be a minority in this country. Make of that what you will.
It strikes me as so strange that in an age of tolerance, people can be so intolerant. What makes it stranger for me is that I am a rather intolerant person. I despise weakness, I have no tolerance for people who whine about the oppression of decades or centuries passed. I find things like Hate Crimes and their laws abhorrent. I’m not really a fan of affirmative action. Yet, I ask, before you angrily click away, you permit me to explain.
Every race, ethnicity, creed, or ideology and its followers, has been oppressed. My own people, the Norse, had our culture, our gods, and our holy places destroyed by a group of religious fanatics who wanted to “Save our Souls.” It is only in the recent past that people have been able to reclaim our lost ways. Yet every day, we face people saying ours is a false religious, not worthy of the rights of Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, or Judaism. Sometimes, we are called racist, because a few misguided souls.
I hate racism, because of what it does to people of all colors. The reason I don’t like things like Hate Crime Laws and Affirmative Action, is because it carries on the idea of racism and promotes it. Affirmative Action was meant to give minorities, namely Blacks, a chance to get into places that they had previously been barred from, like universities and businesses. It was noble idea and one that was needed in some ways. Yet over the years it has been used to give people jobs not based on merit, but on skin color. Hate Crimes create special classes of protected citizens, in effect creating racial and sexual elites. Few people complain about this because the “Elite” of today is the inverse of the “Elite” of yester year. I side with those who declare all crimes acts of hate and don’t see why we need to specially declare something a hateful crime.
While the words of the law may not discriminate, their use does. I have yet to hear of a group of black people tried for committing a hate crime against a white person, though I have read of cases where it is clearly deserved. Nor have I heard of a case where GLBT individuals were charged with a hate crime against a Heterosexual person. Our society functions on the idea that all people are equal. This means that everyone is equally capable of hatred as they are of love, malice as well as kindness, regardless of skin or gender. To say otherwise is to indicate that there are people who are racially or sexually superior to others.
The irony or our day is this. We are an Tolerant Nation that practices Intolerance. The irony of myself is that I and a rather Intolerant person, who lives a life of Tolerance. I judge, when the world says I shouldn’t and I don’t judge, when the world says I should. Maybe this makes me a bad person, maybe not. That answer is not for me to decide. However, before you decide for me, know that in judging you may be violating the very principle of tolerance you are taught to live by.

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