Saturday, June 17, 2006

The Toleration of Intolerance...

How does one show tolerance for intolerance? Or, to phrase it another way, how can a society that wants to promote and live in a tolerant society also include free speech and religious views?
Case in point: I received a e-mail from the American Family Association telling the story (and this time it isn't fiction!!!) about how an employee was fired for his off-the-clock views against the "homosexual lifestyle." Now, Robert J. Smith was a high-public official in the governor's office in Maryland. He was on a local cable talk show, and asserted on a local cable talk show that homosexuals lived a life of "sexual deviancy."

Now, I'm all for free speech. I agree that he should be able to say whatever he wants to say whenever he wants to say it. But what Smith, the failed Republican for Congress, didn't realize is that, as an employee of the governor, anything he states in a public forum, whether on-the-clock or not, is a direct reflection of the governor and the rest of the administration.

The Republican governor fired him, saying, "Robert Smith's comments were highly inappropriate, insensitive and unacceptable. They are in direct conflict to my administration's commitment to inclusiveness, tolerance and opportunity."

As another high public official, the governor, Elrich, apparently felt he had to make an example of Mr. Smith, citing "inclusiveness, tolerance, and opportunity." But wouldn't an administration in favor of "tolerance" simply brush aside Mr. Smith's comments as simply another view in the diverse group of people in his administration? I suppose he could have, but what if Mr. Smith's views caused disharmony and uncomfortable working conditions for fellow people in the governor's administration? It is apparently openly acknowledged that another board member of Maryland's department of transportation has a gay brother. What if Mr. Smith was causing issues where, on a board of public transportation of all things, homosexuality shouldn't even be a factor?

We don't know the whole story, but Mr. Smith certainly isn't the only person to be fired by the governor. From the article in the paper:

"In early 2005, former aide Joseph F. Steffen Jr. was fired after acknowledging that he spread rumors about Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley, a political rival of the governor's, on the Internet. In May of last year, the governor fired the head of an Eastern Shore judicial nominating committee after the official used a derogatory term for Mexicans in his personal Web log."
This does indeed sound like a governor who doesn't put up with any shit, whether it would work in his favor or against. So Mr. Smith isn't some martyr for Christians, he is simply another person who crossed a line the governor had already made very clear.

But does this show hypocrisy on the side of the governor? Does not being tolerant of intolerancy result in hypocrisy? Or is it simply a price to pay in aiming for a utopia?

Tolerance defined is

  1. capacity to endure pain or hardship : ENDURANCE, FORTITUDE, STAMINA
  2. A. sympathy or indulgence for beliefs or practices differing from or conflicting with one's own
    B. the act of allowing something : TOLERATION
    • the allowable deviation from a standard; especially : the range of variation permitted in maintaining a specified dimension in machining a piece
    • A. (1) : the capacity of the body to endure or become less responsive to a substance (as a drug) or a physiological insult with repeated use or exposure [immunological tolerance to a virus] [an addict's increasing tolerance for a drug]
      (2) : relative capacity of an organism to grow or thrive when subjected to an unfavorable environmental factor
      B. the maximum amount of a pesticide residue that may lawfully remain on or in food

    Specifically, in part 2 of the definition, it states "sympathy or indulgence for beliefs or practices differing from or conflicting with one's own." Indulgence would be the key word, I suppose. But when it comes to a public forum, a political body supposedly for the people by the people, can dissension be tolerated by the so-called "tolerant"?

    Of course, there are degrees of dissention, such as "I think we should do this as opposed to that." But talking specifically in regards to the voting populace, which of course would include the homosexual population, can a right-wing fundamentalists even hope to pretend "tolerance," as Dancing Monkey Bush does, or is it all simply a charade?

    Coming from a strong Christian background, I understand some of the in's and out's of people who disagree with my so-called "lifestyle." My parents are counted among those, as well as a few siblings, maybe all of them. But it certainly doesn't prevent us from getting together for holidays, just-because occasions, or birthdays. But can a government wanting to promote a diversity of tolerance really allow for dissention when it comes to "tolerating" a minority the government is supposed to protect constitutionally?

    I am unsure if it can. I certainly wouldn't want any of the provisions in the Constitution or the Bill of Rights to be repealed or stricken. The right of religious expression and speech are fundamental to what makes this a great nation. My Christian parents certainly show a level of tolerance unseen at the national right-wing level, who constantly tout the "level of intolerance expressed toward Christianity."

    I know I certainly show intolerance for the right-wing. But, in my intolerance, do I wish to silence them, or take away their right to say or believe what they want? No, for that would go against societal tolerance. I simply want them to respect boundaries. Respect for boundaries are what keep a pluralistic society running. I respect their right to call me deviant, diseased, and a pervert. I respect the right to not be one, and I also reserve the right to call them full of hooey. What I expect from the government is to be is fair and tolerant of the rights of everyone to enjoy the protections and joy of civil marriage (and other rights), and not force any religion to marry same-sex partners if they wish not to do so (and of course they would not be required to do so under the freedom of religion clause in the Constitution).

    I guess it boils down to the respecting boundaries and beliefs, and the right of us all to express and believe in those beliefs and boundaries. Tolerating Christianity's right to call me deviant is one thing, but I simply cannot tolerate the fact that they want their beliefs codified into law to prevent other's from enjoying freedoms. Tolerance is a two-way street. One side tolerating an intolerant side claiming to be the victim of intolerance is, if I may say, intolerable. (Hehehe, I just had to!)

    Mr. Smith is entitled to his views, but he crossed a line as a public servant, a line he knew existed from previous episodes in this same administration. Tolerance cannot abide intolerance if it is the antithesis of a tolerant society's goal.

    It short, a tolerant society which wishes to respect all forms of tolerance and intolerance needs to make sure that certain levels of intolerance, specifically intolerance on a level which suppresses the goals of the society, cannot be tolerated. The government is in the job of allowing all to believe and live the life they are garunteed by the constitution, as well as the rights of others to be intolerant of others not wanting all people to practice those rights, while still allowing all access to those rights.

    Am I making sense? Do I need to clarify any points? Thoughts, suggestions, and opinions are welcome.

    7 comments:

    Ergo said...

    Jason,

    I think you should completely reject the notion of "tolerance" because it is a concept that has been dangerously corrupted in modern interpretations...

    Everything that you talk about in your article can be properly expressed and argued on a logical basis from the foundation of individual rights (and the violation thereof).

    Therefore, one *should* not be tolerant of racists--it would be immoral to tolerate them--because they violate fundamental human rightgs. Yes, the racists idiots that *speak* and express their opinions all they want (and that is NOT out of our tolerance of them, but out of their own *right* to free speech). However, they CANNOT engage in racism with any other person that includes force-- that would constitute a violation of rights.

    Similarly, whoever wishes to speak out against homosexuals have the right guaranteed to do so (free speech). However, the moment they act out their hatred against homosexuals directly by the use of force, it is not intolerance to fight them back or arrest them or shoot their heads off--it is the moral thing to do.

    And everyman has the right to freely associate with whomsoever he wants. Thus, the Governor you mention has no obligation to be *tolerant* of anyone or any views. He can fire the guy rightfully... it is not hypocricy... it is the proper exercise of one's rights.

    So, just ignore this whole junk about "let's all be tolerant and just get along." No. I don't wish to be tolerant of irrational religious people (christians and Islamic)... nonetheless, I will not violate their rights. yet, I will insult them, and condemn them, and ridicule them, all as much as I can. I refuse to tolerate their idiocy.

    Rodolfo said...

    I really enjoy your writing. I'm a regular reader at Agnosticmom.com and this is I the first time I posted on a different site. My brother is gay and he's afraid to be himself because of jesus christ. He's diagnosed with a mental disorder because of it. I'm fed up with organized religion and their negative brainwashing. I hope its not too late for my brother to escape his religious prison.

    Jason Hughes said...

    Rodolpho: I think your brother needs to realize the differnece between what he thinks God says and what he thinks people say god says. Huge distinction... Until he comes to terms with the church and it's many false teachings and lies, he will never be free from self-hatred...

    All you can do is let him know you love him regardless, and hope he sees the church he attends for what it really is. Ask him to do an in-depth stufdy of every time "homosexuality" is mentioned in both the old and new testaments, study it contextually, and he will realize the error of what the church teaches...

    DaBich said...

    I realize this is late, I'm catching up. Personally I feel homosexuality is unnatural. However, I will defend your right to practice it and live the lifestyle. It's no one's business but your own.
    Did the governor cross the line? No. Any public servant has a responsibility to act in a manner suited to protect everyone's privacy.
    Fire away!!

    Jason Hughes said...

    Hey, Dabuch, better late than never, right? Or is that, better late than pregnant? LOL!

    DaBich said...

    YIKES! lol I'm too old for a baby! :X

    Ergo said...

    Jason,

    I think you should completely reject the notion of "tolerance" because it is a concept that has been dangerously corrupted in modern interpretations...

    Everything that you talk about in your article can be properly expressed and argued on a logical basis from the foundation of individual rights (and the violation thereof).

    Therefore, one *should* not be tolerant of racists--it would be immoral to tolerate them--because they violate fundamental human rightgs. Yes, the racists idiots that *speak* and express their opinions all they want (and that is NOT out of our tolerance of them, but out of their own *right* to free speech). However, they CANNOT engage in racism with any other person that includes force-- that would constitute a violation of rights.

    Similarly, whoever wishes to speak out against homosexuals have the right guaranteed to do so (free speech). However, the moment they act out their hatred against homosexuals directly by the use of force, it is not intolerance to fight them back or arrest them or shoot their heads off--it is the moral thing to do.

    And everyman has the right to freely associate with whomsoever he wants. Thus, the Governor you mention has no obligation to be *tolerant* of anyone or any views. He can fire the guy rightfully... it is not hypocricy... it is the proper exercise of one's rights.

    So, just ignore this whole junk about "let's all be tolerant and just get along." No. I don't wish to be tolerant of irrational religious people (christians and Islamic)... nonetheless, I will not violate their rights. yet, I will insult them, and condemn them, and ridicule them, all as much as I can. I refuse to tolerate their idiocy.