A Culture of Tolerance: Or, Liberalism and North Carolina

photo: Mike Licht

So, I don't know if you guys know about Daily Om, but I regularly get their mailings and often find them uncannily appropriate to whatever is going on that day. Enter North Carolina and the amendment to their constitution banning gay marriage. Needless to say, I was outraged by this very public display of injustice and discrimination and I was well-armed with a clever barrage of anti-North Carolina statuses for my Facebook page.

Then, I got this in my inbox: "When we respect the beliefs and values of those individuals whose personal philosophies differ from our own, we do our part to create a widespread culture of tolerance. We ensure that others will follow our example and afford us similar acceptance, even if there is little hope of our ever seeing eye to eye...This liberal approach to interpersonal interactions can [demonstrate] that you do not support discrimination." Yup. Oops {quickly deletes witty and cutting remark geared towards NC on Facebook status bar}.

This is, after all, what we're working toward, right? A culture of tolerance, an end to discrimination (and that includes discrimination against those who preach discrimination). So, do we not have the right to be pissed off with the voters in NC? Yes, we absolutely have that right. We should fight for civil equality and justice anytime we have the opportunity. But, we will not succeed by matching hate to hate, discrimination to discrimination. We must always remember that anger and hatred stem from fear. I don' think I'm generalizing too heinously when I say that many Christians are taught fear from the very beginning: Satan, sex, and other stuff I'd be familiar with, were I a Christian. I do know that the Old Testament god is a scary guy--very judgmental. But the New Testament? Jesus? From what I've read, he's pretty accepting...even of people who don't agree with him, even of people who want to hang him up on some wood and pound nails into him. This does not sound like a guy who would ban civil liberties from a select group of people. Nor does he sound like the kind of guy who would hate people for hating people.

Photo: BayerNYC

So, when is Liberalism not Liberalism? When we propagate a culture of hate and discrimination (by ostensibly fighting hate and discrimination) and work to flout those whose opinions offend us and differ from ours. The hardest thing to do, in my experience, is to accept and embrace those with whom I strongly disagree. I get riled up pretty easily, rail against injustice, and readily open up my big mouth, often without forethought. But, hey, no one said this path toward enlightenment was easy, right? If we're feeling anger (not matter which side of the civil liberties debate we fall on), then that's a pretty clear sign that we have something to learn from the experience. Surely, at the very least, the Venn diagram of our existence must overlap somewhere. When we find that mutually shaded part? We start there, then move outwards. We can only educate through compassion and through a common language. The culture of tolerance can only be achieved when we decide to look beyond outrage and make the slow and steady move toward compassion.


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