Tolerance has become the buzzword of the 21st century. Its presence in politics, religion, and social norms is undeniable and profound. From tolerance comes the concept of political correctness. But despite how surrounded we are by this mystical tolerance, do we really know what it is? Do we honestly have a firm idea of what being tolerant really means?
According to the dictionary, tolerance is “the ability to accept, experience, or survive something harmful or unpleasant.” This is the definition that was understood through most of the 1900s, but it’s not the definition we know today. In our current society, tolerance is the idea that we ought to be open to and respectful of every other person’s beliefs, traditions, and ideas regardless of our personal beliefs. On its surface it sounds like a very pleasant notion, but like so many ideas, the reality of this trend has had some deleterious side effects. For starters, we are such a tolerant society that everyone walks around on eggshells for fear of offending everyone else. We have evolved into a society where everyone takes offense at everything and no one possesses the self-confidence to simply ignore these perceived offenses. The other side of this coin is that, in our attempt to be perfectly tolerant of everyone’s beliefs, we have collectively lost our willingness to point out others’ unethical behavior, lest we offend them. The end result is that we are better off avoiding anything religious, political, ethical, traditional, and familial unless we want to be publically humiliated for opening our mouths.
As Americans, we have become so determined to please everyone that we end up pleasing no one. While driving through my city yesterday, I saw public workers busily hanging a sign for Christmahankwanzadon. This “holiday” is an abhorrent combination of Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza, and Ramadan designed to include everyone of every conceivable religious holiday tradition. Ironically the most vocal proponents of this holiday are the atheists. But if this isn’t enough to make you cringe inwardly, perhaps consider another angle from which tolerance is adversely affecting our society.
As I mentioned before, we have collectively become unwilling to point out our fellow Americans’ less than moral activities for fear of being called bigots, haters, or prudes. We see this every day in the current fight over abortion. A few months back I read a survey that suggested that nearly 75 percent of the country still held traditional Christian beliefs. The same survey concluded that nearly all of the respondents were opposed to abortion, but they didn’t want to impose their beliefs on anyone else. This, dear reader, is what happens when you preach and embrace tolerance. We have a HUGE portion of the American population who hold cherished beliefs but who are not willing to stand up for them out of fear they may make someone else uncomfortable! Can you imagine if, as a nation, we had applied that same standard in the 1940s when Hitler was murdering the Jews?
I cannot even begin to express my disgust at how spineless we have become as a society. If you truly believe in something, then stand up for it! Don’t let others push you around or dictate how and when you apply your beliefs. Be strong, be bold, be courageous. Otherwise you may as well say goodbye to your freedom of speech and belief as they are swept away in the name of tolerance.
I’d like to leave you with one final thought from a brilliant world leader:
“You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.” – Sir Winston Churchill, prime minister of England during WWII.