Intolerance No Longer Tolerated

We often speak of tolerance as if it were a virtue or a weakness. It is neither. It is a preference. If we choose not to tolerate certain things, actions, or people, we can expect to bring on ourselves some degree of intolerance as a result. If that is an acceptable result then it is a reasonable course of thought.

On the other hand, if we choose to be tolerant, we cannot expect by virtue of that attitude toward others to receive that same tolerance toward us or our views. On the contrary, we are likely to be despised by antagonists on all sides of us for our failure to join them. We might have to become quite tolerant of intolerance itself or seek shelter from the crossfire.

In either case, tolerance is not something we should or should not do. It is one of several equally legitimate ways to cope with the reality that humans have different preferences, beliefs and even convictions. Other solutions include separation or seclusion, persuasion and even coercion. None of which is a moral requirement. They are simply different ways to live.

Coercion, however, is not recommended except in the rare case where the highest of powers is in complete agreement with the nature and direction of that coercion. Since possession of that power is rare and agreement is seldom the case, we generally recommend one of the other options.

Those who believe tolerance is a moral imperative have most likely rejected separation and persuasion leaving a false dichotomy between coercion and tolerance. Then recognizing the dangers of coercion they are left with no option but to concede that intolerance is intolerable.

These are the saddest of all people. They feel compelled to coerce into seclusion those who have chosen persuasion, persuade into confrontation those who would choose seclusion, and alienate those who truly understand and practice tolerance.

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