Why Not Tolerance?
Paulette Mahurin, author of
The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap
I’ve been writing about intolerance for the better part of this year, writing about bigotry, persecution, prejudice and hatred. For the sake of clarity, I want to define tolerance which is a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward those whose opinions, practices, race, religion, nationality, etc., differ from one’s own; freedom from bigotry. (http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/tolerance) The concept intolerance is not just the absence of, or opposite of, tolerance but unwillingness or refusal to tolerate or respect contrary opinions or beliefs, persons of different races or backgrounds, etc. (http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/intolerance)
What is at the root of this unwillingness or refusal? The truth is I don’t know, but in writing about it, looking at it, looking at my own heart and soul, I’m finding things about myself that are really creating some mental chaos. I find it interesting when someone judges another, “I don’t like gays or lesbians,” they say, and in the next breath, “I’m not judgmental!” I do that. Not about gays or lesbians, African Americans, Jewish people or any large class of peoples, religions, beliefs included, as long as they aren’t hurting anyone, but I do it when I judge something to be wrong or negative. Someone makes me wrong, disagrees with me in an unpleasant way, and I’ve got my script ready to fire and it becomes all about them, and not what their actions are-their words, but I label them, stupid, bigot, small minded, and in essence what I am doing is that very thing that I’m accusing others of, I’m judging, putting them down, because my frail ego has been nicked or worse, they just don’t go along with my agenda or expectations of what is tolerant, loving, compassionate.
I started to really see this in myself when I started writing my book, The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap, and it’s a good thing I did because I feel it afforded me a greater depth and sensitivity into the underbellies of the characters I wrote about. We all have shadows, per Carl Jung, darker sides, the part of the whole which along with the good, makes us what we are—human beings. We’re all human, with similar emotions, we don’t like pain or loss, love to belong and feel wanted, to feel good, and share many things in common, and yet we’re so at odds with our different beliefs, hate each other because of them, want to change each other, instead of embracing differences. I don’t understand why we can’t just agree to disagree and see the differences, instead of labeling and castigating another. Sure, on the surface I get it that we are raised with our varying belief systems, religious beliefs, the prejudices of our parents, etc. but we also have the capacity to think logically, so why don’t we?
My philosophy on life is pretty simple; do what you want just don’t hurt another.
I’ve no problem if your God is not my God, your skin color is not my skin color, my preference is not your preference, on and on but why hate me for it? You don’t have to like me but why turn your dislike on me and label me bad, irreverent, heretical, evil? I had a woman review my book a few weeks back. She used the term, “one of them” to refer to lesbians and gave the book a thumbs down because, “We don’t associate with them.” She also gave the book a thumbs-up because it was the best characterization of any story she’s read. All her other comments seems so coherent and logical, but this one. But in her mind, this is what her religion states that it’s evil to indulge in same sex relationships. I wonder how she really feels, inside her own heart and soul. I don’t fault her and was grateful for the honest comment because putting them into the sunlight allows a conversation to begin. I don’t know any other way to make inroads in hatred then to start with dialogue.
I don’t know of anyone who wants to be at the receipt end of a label that generates disgust and hatred and I also don’t understand why “we” lack the compassion to see that there by the Grace… My story embraces Oscar Wilde’s imprisonment for “indecency” which occurred in 1895, shortly after Britain had changed its laws to make it a criminal offense for a man to be with a man. Wilde went to prison for two years and was not allowed pen or paper, forced on a tread mill six hours a day, fed watery porridge and slept on a hard wooden board. For something he could no more change than we can stop breathing, than a dog can stop wagging its tail, or a leaf live without carbon dioxide, all things natural, occurring with as a part of the design of nature, and God if you will. The only thing that makes it wrong is what we believe, what we read or hear and buy into.
It’s hard to suspend our beliefs, especially if our lives are invested in going along with them, to belong to our family, our group, our jobs may depend on it, but were we to suspend our beliefs to view another as-is, then what? It seems to me that the mind can never comprehend what the heart already knows, of all that is possible. We learn this when dealing with patients with terminal illness or we encounter an inexplicable miracle, then all of a sudden everything changes. The kindness and capacity of forgiveness of the heart is immeasurable, it therefore seems accurate that it would gain an individual great inner growth and joy, to embrace a willingness to see another human being, who has differences from our own, for what it’s worth, different, and not bad.