The Height of Tolerance
I prefer myself. I can’t help that. It’s why I’m able to climb out of bed every morning. If I thought anyone else had it right, I’d already be just like them and completely incapable of writing a piece like this. I prefer my way. Who I associate with. What I eat and drink. When I won’t back down. Where I go. How I live. My life.
Yet, no matter how perfectly I think I pass the time, the world continues. Like I don’t even exist. It changes too. I’m floored a dozen times every day by something astounding. It no longer scares me. I’ve learned to identify it. Take it in. Run it through the filter of my existence and evolve.
Yet, I am human and God do I fail. By the minute even.
Anyway, I genuinely believe in what I am. At least until it runs me into a wall and I’m forced to find another way. It’s not easy. Sometimes it’s devastating.
So I will never fault anyone making an honest attempt to stumble through this world. No matter where they started. No matter where they are. Because they’re willing to listen and learn. And there’s nothing more exciting than that. Nothing more necessary for real change.
But for those who are unwilling and seemingly impossible to reach, the answer is not exile. By driving them away we remove all chance for redemption. We immediately condemn both sides. We grant that which we attempt to extinguish a permanent place in our society, however small. For how can we educate what we cannot find? And unchecked, how will it not grow?
We condemn ourselves too, as intolerant. And rob ourselves the opportunity of mercy. The quality of which “is not strained” and “is mightiest in the mightiest.”1
There may be evil. There may be men and women beyond hope. But it’s not a place I’m willing to start. Or an assumption I’m willing to make. Ever. Instead, I will invite them in at every opportunity. And I will treat them like I hope you’ll treat me. As a terribly flawed human in need of a community and a little understanding. I will keep them as close as possible. Partly to protect myself. But mostly, because when you invite someone into the group they feel like they’re part of something. And when you feel like you’re part of something, you let your guard down. And when you do that, you allow people in. And ideas. And values. And truths. And you change.
There are things that the vast majority might call best. Or at least better. But fleeting certainty in this world comes more with faith than knowledge. And it is no crime to admit that we just don’t know.
Consider yourself under different circumstances. You, them and them, you. It’s not that far from reality. For we are all human. They are the reflection of what you might have been. Of what you’re capable of being. Of what you might be right now.
We travel to and explore the darkest of caves and the dark side of the moon and the darkness of the ocean floor. And we do it to earn knowledge. To get closer to the truth. We do it in the hope that there are lessons to be learned. And out of the fear that they can only be learned in that specific way. Is it so absurd to pursue the truth that may come from honestly exploring the darkest recesses of humanity? The darkest recesses of yourself? From accepting them? From modifying them?
They are us. We are one. And ignoring the problem never works.
Though, many say they will not meet intolerance with tolerance. Beyond argument, the height of tolerance is the unconditional acceptance of intolerance. “Savages we call them, because their manners differ from ours, which we think the perfection of civility, they think the same of theirs.”2
If they’re not willfully running into walls, then how can you blame them? And if they are, then how can you stand by and watch it happen?
1. Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice.
2. Ben Franklin, Remarks Concerning The Savages of North America.