Sunday, July 19, 2015

Tolerance is a two-way street

By Scott Cavanagh
It’s been a great couple of months for people on the left side of America’s political landscape. From Supreme Court decisions legalizing same-sex marriages and protecting the Affordable Care Act to the removal of the Confederate Battle Flag from the Statehouse in South Carolina, events of 2015 have made it good to be a liberal.

As an advocate of progressive causes, I take great pride not only in the winning of these cultural battles, but in the way most on the left went about doing so. While many conservatives attacked with insults, demagoguery and name-calling, progressives more often than not responded with facts, reasoned arguments and compassion.

Recent years however have brought us a new form of debate--one waged in 30-second sound bites and 140 character opinions. The rise of FOX News as essentially a conservative propaganda network hellbent on scaring the crap out of anyone who might be the slightest bit leery of change, led to the creation of the overtly liberal MSNBC.

The information age has also led to the creation of thousands of websites steeped in an ingrained culture—either right or left—that indoctrinate often young readers with a certain take on local and world events before they have had even the slightest bit of exposure to other trains of thought. This “us or them” form of debate produces nothing of value. It is intolerant of differing opinions and degrades everything people with open minds have spent decades fighting for.

In recent weeks I have been both shocked and saddened by much of the vitriolic garbage coming out of the mouths and keyboards of supposedly progressive people.

Any person of faith that disagrees with a liberal stance is vilified as a fool who “worships a man in the sky” or “believes in some Bronze Age superstition.” Nice tolerance there, huh? Would they have said that about Dr. Martin Luther King? JFK? Malcolm X?

In just the past week, I’ve seen people called bigots and homophobes—or worse—because they had the temerity to suggest that a female college basketball player battling terminal cancer at the age of 20 might be more deserving of a sports courage award than a 65-year-old millionaire reality star that hasn’t been involved in sports in 40 years.

These types of reactions are no more tolerant (or creative for that matter) than a racist telling an African-American that detests police brutality to “go back to Africa.” It’s the dumb guy’s response and it’s incredibly frustrating to see anyone on the left react in such a way to people who think differently.

Just yesterday, the former governor of Maryland was shouted off the stage at a liberal rally because he made the “offensive” statement that “white lives matter too.” This comes only weeks after Hillary Clinton faced the same reaction by saying that “all lives matter.” Remember Hill—we are following a script these days—don’t deviate—or the torches come out.

Not long ago, a good friend of mine reposted an opinion piece on Facebook from an African-American scholar discussing his unwillingness to talk to white people about race. It was a very good article and made some great points. When I commented that I agreed with some of his opinions and disagreed with others—particularly the recent PC mantra that all white people are born inherently racist—like some form of original sin—I was told by other readers that I did not understand the article and was probably part of the problem. As a kid who grew up poor in NYC with more close friends of color than white ones, I found those responses not only offensive, but comical—particularly coming from white Midwestern suburbanites whose only exposure to black people was probably The Cosby Show.

Many Progressives expect a 65-year old Baptist woman in Alabama to be tolerant and understanding of a man that dresses like a woman, who is not yet a woman, but identifies as one--yet they call her names and make fun of her if she messes up the “he” or “she” when discussing her. This is the very behavior that fuels knuckleheads like Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck and makes it harder on LGBT people to gain acceptance—not easier. You see, people generally don’t like other people making fun of their grandmothers.

Things are going well these days. Walls are coming down and barriers are being broken. Let’s try to be humble, engaged and compassionate—not a bunch of snarky judgmental know-it-alls.

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