I left class on Friday feeling a bit displeased after the subject of tolerance was brought up. It seems that the majority of the class believes that America is a tolerant country. Yet, other countries are not. But is it realistic? Is America really a tolerant country? If so, then why are there so many issues, such as abortion, being argued in the political world? If we are tolerant, why can’t the pro-life group continue to support those who are pro-life and agree to the pro-choice group continue with their agenda? Why must illegalizing abortion be such an issue? What about missionaries going to different countries trying to implement Christianity on others? Is that being tolerant?
I disagree with the notion that America is as tolerant as many seem to think. I sense that tolerance only work when it is towards ones self-interest. It is only easy to be tolerant if an issue does not directly affect that person, or if it is an issue that that person is apathetic about. Once a person cares about a subject matter, that person loyalty to his/her argument will cause biased towards that certain view and he/she will find it hard to tolerate different viewpoints. Also, if a person is around people who have similar thoughts on one subject, it is easier to say that he/she is tolerant of the subject because that person position has not been tested nor directly confronted with opposing outlook. For example, many classes at Rhodes have very specific topics. Some of these topics might cause some controversy. However, if a class has only similar groups of student, and no one who disagree with the mass majority, it is hard to decide whether the class is being tolerant of the idea or simply because the idea has not been tested.
We have been taught to be tolerant, but we have also been taught to stand up for our beliefs. But aren’t those two ideas conflicting? I imagine these two are clashing point of views, and it seems that standing up for what you believe in usually always wins. When an idea isn’t complementing one’s self-interest, it is easy to deviate from the “tolerance” stand point. To stand up for ones beliefs and try to prove a point or persuade the other person to believe in the same views seems to be done more.
Saying that you are tolerant is almost as similar to being what Dr. Johnson often called a “lazy relativist”. A lazy relativist is a person that thinks that nothing is absolute and everything is right, therefore there’s no absolute truth, in turn saying that everyone can have their perspective and there is no need for arguments. Being tolerant means you have to respect other people’s ideas and that they can have their perspective and you can have yours without going into a fight. I feel that these two ideas are quite similar. Tolerance is just a nicer euphemism.
The idea of tolerance is a bit naïve in my opinion. It does seem like a great concept. However, to successfully put your beliefs aside and truly tolerate someone else’s without being somewhat judgmental is awfully difficult. I realized not all situations are black and white, however, after class on Friday, I felt like everyone made America sound like such a tolerant country, and I just wanted to point out, maybe, a different point of view.