The Case for Intolerance

— by Barry Bub

Though I’ve lived in the USA for almost 40 years, my blunt South African roots sometimes show. Take for example some recent dinner party prattle.

“What do you do?” I asked her.

“I work for an agency that promotes tolerance” she replied.

“Is tolerance really such a good thing?” I blurted. “For example, do you love your husband or do you tolerate him?”

She walked away.

Tolerance has its limits. Nor, for that matter, did I ever receive an answer.

But of course, there is something worse than tolerance, and that’s intolerance. I was reminded of this by the allegation that the Republican nominee for president, Mitt Romney when a teenager, led lead a group that attacked an effeminate boy brutally cutting off his bleached blond hair. Romney has offered no denial but claims he cannot recall the incident.

More after the jump.
At Shabbat dinner that week the conversation slipped from talk of mitzvoth and joyful embrace of the Sabbath to politics and Mitt Romney.

“Obviously he cannot be held accountable for his actions as an eighteen year old. It was just a prank”, said our neighbor. Heads nodded in agreement. Our friend was not to know that he was dangling bait before a hungry South African mackerel. I bit down hard.

“Think of all the eighteen-year olds sent to war. The ‘old man’ on a WWII bomber flying over Germany might have been all of twenty-two. Plenty of accountability then, no?”

I was just warming up.

“After this so-called teenage prank, some of the perpetrators claimed to have felt great remorse. Romney, with his entire adult life to reflect and repent, instead simply forgot the incident. That is, if you believe his statement — which I don’t. Speaks volumes of his character, no?”

How easily do we tolerate those who relish intolerance.

Since then Romney has gone on to pledge his opposition to same-sex marriage. North Carolina has banned it. Immigration reform is dead. Health care reform awaits the axe in the Supreme Court. Minorities are being disenfranchised in Florida. Women once again stand to have their reproductive rights controlled by men and the Catholic Church. Most of our Jewish friends are in anguish at this state of affairs, but others are content to support the party and candidates that they believe “is good for Israel.”

Somewhere in New Jersey is a young man waiting sentencing for his actions as an eighteen-year old. He crime was that he recorded his roommate kissing another boy and then circulated the tape on the Internet. Disastrously, his actions led the roommate to commit suicide. At time of this writing this now twenty-year old faces a lengthy prison sentence and possible deportation.

My earlier statement needs modification.

How easily do we tolerate those who relish intolerance, hypocrisy and injustice.

But the news is not all negative. President Obama has been ‘outed’, perhaps by Vice President Biden’s expression of frank support for same-sex marriage. His position has evolved, he says. He has moved from tolerance to understanding to support. Now, with no small risk to his re-election he has stood up and expressed his support for same-sex marriage.

Tolerance is sometimes necessary as a holding state but if we are to enjoy freedom as citizens of this country, sooner or later each one of us must make the decision to jump off the fence. On the one hand — to learn, understand and support difference when it is healthy. On the other — to be absolutely intolerant to those that practice and preach intolerance — even if they proclaim their ‘support’ for Israel.

The Bible is clear on this. Justice, justice shall you pursue.  

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