Saturday, September 8, 2012

The Intolerance of Tolerance

Is anyone else getting really concerned about the polarization of society lately? I'm not talking only in the political sense, but the way people treat each other in general.

Clearly, we're not going to agree on everything. But, everything seem so be a hot button issue.

The most heated example surrounds the debate on homosexuality and same sex marriage.

Most people are familiar with the Holy Bible. Perhaps not the contents, but at least by name.

Leviticus is the third book of the Bible, and can be described as a Conduct guidebook. Some consider Leviticus 18 and 20 as specifically addressing same-sex relationships.

This blog entry isn't to tell you which way you should think. People believe what they believe, and I'd hazard a guess that most people are tolerant of others having viewpoints that don't jive with theirs. But, then there are groups like the Westboro Baptist Church.

WBC goes out of their way to practice a form of extremism in professing their beliefs, and are eager to offend those who don't share those beliefs 100%. I guess the hope is that shock value will make people change.

WBC's intolerance is obvious in their actions. But, what about the opposing side where the most common goto statement is to label anyone in opposition to the same-sex lifestyle as being full of hate regardless of whether they really do hate them, or not.

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Look at the political climate in the United States.

Since the early to mid 1800s, most Americans have been in one of two major parties, the Democratic and Republican. (it may surprise you to know there are currently five major and 33 minor parties nationwide; along with all sorts of regional parties.)

It's fair to say that Democratic and Republican controlling interests have polarized this country to a point not seen previously in our lifetime.

Four years ago, Barack Obama was elected President. He is the first African-American to ever hold the post. Obama is also a Democrat.

Within a week's time we started seeing distasteful things like Obama Monkey and Moo-chelle Obama. Clearly those have overt racial implications and were aimed at the first family because of their race.

In 2010, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) famously proclaimed,  "The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president." It's one thing to say that after codifying social issues that would lead to how that would be accomplished. However, more than once, it was stated as being the top priority, and seemingly the only priority, with anything else happening along the way being gravy.

There's no denying that many comments were only because of the color of Obama's skin, but I think it can be said that much of the anti-Obama behavior can be summed up as a lack of respect for the man, with no consideration for his position.

It's become more important to tear down those in the opposition than it is to support your own position.

During the recent political conventions, actor Jason Biggs lashed out with a string of vulgar tweets about Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, and their wives. Not to be outdone, commentator Ann Coulter followed the next week, smearing Bill Clinton and Sandra Fluke.


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Even deep within the heart of liberal and progressive Northern California, our little community of Albany isn't immune to the intolerance of tolerance.

We have a small core of people that regularly comment on things. One of the vocal individuals is Ulan McKnight. (In full disclosure, Ulan and I graduated from high school in the same class, though we didn't run in the same circles.)

Over the past couple of years we've had two very contentious issues make their way to the forefront of local politics; a proposed medical marijuana dispensary and the development of the University of California's Gill Tract.

Ulan was very vocal on the pro-dispensary side during the VitalGen application, and I think it is fair to say he agrees with the Occupy the Farm movement. While he and I may have been on opposite ends of the spectrum in many of our comments on Albany Patch articles, I've never felt the need to personally attack him.

Unfortunately, that cannot be said for some others who seem to relish any opportunity to disparage him by bringing up things from the past, which have no connection to the topic at hand - even to the point of belittling him based on his choice of clothing captured in a Patch photo.

* * *

Recently, I experienced this myself.

On a photography forum I sometimes visit, someone started a thread about the need for photographers to be more conscious about labeling some of their photos "NSFW," the acronym for Not Safe for Work. It's usually used as a warning for images where there's a good chance someone somewhere might find something objectionable.

I supported his argument because, as of late, there seems to be more and more photos with less and less clothing in them.

Many of the comments were along the lines of, "It's fine for my workplace" or "why were you surfing a photo gallery at work anyways?"

If those were the only comments, I'd ignore them. Unfortunately, there was someone feeling the need to start labeling people as babies and whiners. Then, when I said it was sad about the comments being left, I was told I was seriously lame. Yes, these are childish, but when said over and over they are obviously meant to be hurtful.

* * *

I'm not suggesting we should all sit down around the drum circle, bang on the bongos, and sing Kumbaya. What I AM suggesting is that it should be OK to have differing views, and to feel free to express them without resorting to Over the Top behavior, or being subjected to it. People MUST think about HOW we treat each other when expressing those feelings, no matter how distasteful we may find them.

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