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Let's coexist, shall we?

Or maybe not.

This is how tolerance is often depicted in these parts:
 
 
And a popular colorful poster states, "Tolerance is appreciating and respecting differences in people." Who could possibly be against tolerance?
 
Like many things, though, it's not quite that simple.  
 
St. Paul listed the major theological virtues as faith, hope, and love. They are ends, or goods, in themselves. There are several minor virtues, including tolerance. Being a virtue, you might think that tolerance is automatically a good thing, but actually tolerance depends on the nature of what's being tolerated for its moral goodness--or lack thereof--and on whether what is being tolerated inherently requires intolerance of the opposite.
 
So unlike the major virtues, minor virtues are not ends in themselves, and there very definitely can be too much of a good thing when it comes to a minor virtue...such as tolerance.
 
In the current cultural milieu, the rationale for giving the societal heave-ho to those judged intolerant seems to come down to one thing: how likely is the person being shunned or punished (or just plain told to sit down and shut up) to react violently?  Think about it.  Here is a recent example, from CA…the victory (for now) of the "heckler's veto" over free speech:
Rejecting free speech arguments from parents, Republican lawmakers and conservative groups, a federal appeals court on Wednesday refused to reconsider a ruling that found a South Bay high school had the legal right to order students wearing American-flag adorned shirts to turn them inside out during a 2010 Cinco de Mayo celebration.
 
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals let stand its February ruling in favor of Live Oak High School administrators, who argued that a history of problems on the Mexican holiday justified the decision to act against the American flag-wearing students…
 
...9th Circuit Judge Diarmuid O'Scannlain, who wrote Wednesday's dissent, may have provided fodder for conservatives on the Supreme Court to consider the case, calling February's ruling "regrettable."
 
He warned that the decision opened the door for schools to stifle speech for any threat, saying, "The demands of bullies will become school policy."
As many have pointed out since this incident occurred, if school were in session on Independence Day--which may be the case soon enough--the opposite would likely not be true, i.e., students wearing Mexican flag t-shirts would not be forced to remove them or turn them inside out. Unless this decision is overturned in the Supreme Court, cowardice will have become official school policy. Tolerance is often a one-way street resulting from the tyranny of a majority, or a loud and obnoxious minority; it ends up a bumper-sticker slogan that is invoked by intolerant people as an excuse for eliminating certain topics and people from the public square.
 
Eventually, though, the masks slip; those who try to portray themselves as the very soul of tolerance have a cat-outta-the-bag moment…like NYS Governor Andrew Cuomo, earlier this year:
Their problem is not me and the Democrats; their problem is themselves. Who are they? Are they these extreme conservatives who are right to life, pro-assault weapons, anti-gay? Is that who they are, because if that’s who they are and if they are the extreme conservatives, they have no place in the state of New York, because that’s not who New Yorkers are.
 
We on the right make easy marks…we're often unwilling to strike back but have been more than willing to allow ourselves to be silenced into compliance. We're unwilling to publicly criticize POTUS, the Attorney General, and others for fear of the race card being played. Similarly, we've allowed debates over good and evil to be stifled by opponents playing the tolerance card as though it's trump by definition. We don't have the spine of abolitionist Charles Sumner who was nearly beaten to death on the floor of the US Senate by a fellow member of Congress incensed by Sumner's anti-slavery speech in 1856.
 
Because tolerance may be good or bad based on the nature of the thing being tolerated, playing for a tie is a losing strategy. We must not tolerate things that we are morally opposed to--some things in life are simply non-negotiable. In certain instances, tolerance is not the goal. We want an acknowledgment that right is right and evil is evil.
 
We ought to fight for this in a moral way and refuse to use despicable tactics--but fight we must.
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