Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Slave owners who wanted to be free...

Yesterday, one of my friends wrote an interesting post on Facebook.  She's made her post public, so I'm going to paste it here.  In the interest of maintaining her privacy, I won't post her name unless she sees this and wants me to credit her.

I had someone tell me recently that they "don't tolerate liberalism". Aside from my initial what-does-that-even-mean reaction, it just struck me as everything that's wrong in this country, all rolled up into 3 words.

Whether it's tolerating "liberalism" or conservatism or someone else's love life or way of dressing or way of speaking or country of origin or religious affiliation or a host of other differences, tolerance is a fast-disappearing American trait. And with it, goes the entire foundation of what makes us Americans. We're one giant melting pot. It stands to reason we'd have millions of different points of view based on different backgrounds. 

Our Founding Fathers created a government designed to handle the many points of view that exist. But instead of respectfully disagreeing and working towards a compromise, a multitude of our highest ranking lawmakers all the way down to average citizens on the street have decided to just stop tolerating alternative points of view. And that lack of tolerance is what is causing events like the shooting in Orlando, the shooting in the church in South Carolina and so many others.

People say, "God is missing from America." No, He's not. He's trotted out as a justification for the behavior of some of the most intolerant people in our country on an almost hourly basis. God is everywhere. What's missing are people emulating Jesus' behavior and lessons. The ones that teach tolerance, respect and acceptance.

Does it really hurt so much to say, "That's an interesting point. I don't agree with it, but I'm glad I listened."?

I actually agree with most of my friend's comments.  I do think people need to be more open-minded and respectful when it comes to hearing other peoples' viewpoints.  However, when someone mentions our "Founding Fathers" and what kind of country they were hoping to create, I always remember an old George Carlin routine.

Our country was founded by slave owners who wanted for be free...

So whenever I hear any platitudes about our "Founding Fathers", I can't help but realize that they were basically a bunch of rich white men who wanted to run their own country, free from oppression by the British.  And maybe they did want "freedom", but they really only wanted it for people who were like them.  So basically, they wanted freedom for their fellow white men, not freedom for women, people of color, homosexuals, or people with disabilities.

Indeed, George Carlin once said this:

“Think of how it all started: America was founded by slave owners who informed us, "All men are created equal." All "men," except Indians, niggers, and women. Remember, the founders were a small group of unelected, white, male, land-holding slave owners who also, by the way, suggested their class be the only one allowed to vote. To my mind, that is what's known as being stunningly--and embarrassingly--full of shit.”

Aside from that, I don't like the idea of trying to force people to be tolerant.  People should be tolerant because they want to be, not because they are required to be.  I think that's the height of freedom.  You should be able to say and do what you want to do, as long as what you say and do doesn't infringe on another person's rights.  As to "rights", I'm not sure we're clear on what they really are.  Does a person have the "right" to act like an asshole?  If we're talking about being free, I think they probably do.  Would it be nice if fewer people acted like assholes?  Yes, it would be nice, although even then, the jury would be out as to what really constitutes "asshole" behavior.

I have posted this clip before, but I think it bears repeating...

Here intolerance will not be tolerated...

I think there's a fine line between encouraging civility and tolerance and trying to force people to think a certain way.  Also, as I have mentioned before, it takes time for people to change their perspectives.  Most people who have grown up distrusting people from certain groups don't just suddenly wake up someday and change their minds.  It usually takes a major shift in thinking for them to do that.   Simply telling them their thinking is wrong is not likely to get them to change their perspective.  In fact, it will probably just make them feel defensive.  Maybe a better approach is to be a good example and focus on yourself and your own behavior.     

No matter what, there are always going to be people out there who behave badly or have "offensive" viewpoints.  But real freedom of thought and expression means that everyone has a right to be heard.  I think my friend basically wrote that in her post, except in her post about intolerance, she's expressing intolerance toward the people whose views she abhors.  If you value freedom of expression, you have to value freedom for everyone, even the intolerant jerks who say things that are ugly.     

Actually, Voltaire didn't say that... but it summarized his attitude nicely.

I suppose I could have posted my comments on my friend's post, but I can see that a lot of people liked what she had to say.  I don't want to spoil the mojo.  ;-)  

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