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I’m Tired of Self-Righteous Intolerance

Our modern times make us witness to a lot of ugliness. Much of it is enacted in the guise of self-righteousness. The president and his supporters claimed that “the law is the law” and it is their duty to uphold it, even when it resulted in cruelty and harm to children and parents because it led to separating families. They said they were doing what was necessary to protect our border and “a country that cannot control its borders doesn’t deserve to be called a country.” The evangelical right claimed victory when the Supreme Court ruled that a merchant can refuse service to a customer if by serving them, he or she violates his religiously based moral precepts. 

Liberals and progressives have been appalled by the president’s immigration policy and the Supreme Court’s enshrinement of what they consider religious bigotry over the rights of gay people (and who knows who else if the principle is extended further). Then Sarah Huckabee Sanders was refused service at a restaurant because, according to the restaurant’s owner, “people have to make uncomfortable actions and decisions to uphold their morals.” Liberals cheered and conservatives were appalled by the restaurant owner’s decision. Soon after the Huckabee Sanders episode a woman in San Francisco was videotaped threatening to call the police on an 8 year old who was selling water without a permit in front of her apartment house. The video went viral and viewers, who noted that the woman, who was identified, was white and the child biracial, objected, including making death threats toward the woman for her “bigotry and intolerance.” This morning I read an article in the New York Times by a philosopher who argued that “The Ignorant Do Not Have a Right to an Audience.” He provided examples of three people, two of them university professors, who espoused right-wing opinions he said were not supported by facts and who should not be allowed to speak in the national media.

Separating families, refusing service to customers because their behavior or lifestyle outside your establishment violated your moral standards, death threats, deeming some opinions so ignorant that those who espouse them shouldn’t be allowed to speak? The family separation does the most harm, but otherwise, I see all of these instances as symptoms of the same disease that has affected our country. We have wrapped our hatred in the clothing of self-righteousness and decided that our moral convictions allow us to treat other people in ways we would never want to be treated ourselves (and ways that, usually, our own moral codes forbid). We can employ a double standard with regard to a decent response to what we disagree with because we think that we have morality on our side. We can suspend our treatment of other people as valuable human beings because in our opinion, their behavior or their ideas have made them less than human and not deserving of being respected as human beings. We engage in name-calling, sick jokes, say “there’s a special place in hell” for those who disagree with us, or that the child of someone we hate “should be put in a cage with pedophiles.” We use our moral indignation as an excuse to behave without moral reservations when speaking or acting against those with whom we disagree. 

Both sides of the political debates going on in our country act similarly. Ultimately we in the United States, in the world, comprise a community. Our survival depends upon following rules of decency that we apply to our own behavior, first and foremost. We’ve seen what happens when communities give in to between-group hatred, to mob mentality, to the license of the majority to walk all over the rights of the minority. We’ve seen what happens when we start treating each other as less than human. Such behavior is always viewed as moral by those who engage in it. We’ve got to find a way to see and value each other as human beings and to behave accordingly. 

Reader Comments (1)

You seem to have missed the last twenty-five years of cultural shift. The rights of the minority have run roughshod over the rights of the majority. Set-asides, racial and gender quotas, pro-black and pro-Hispanic college admissions biases, transgender bathroom rights that negate hundreds of years of consensus regarding privacy, segregated dorms and graduations......all of these are examples of where minority rights supersede those of the alleged majority.

As for people exhibiting intolerance, I’m all for it. I remain a free speech absolutist. I’d rather that people feel that they can express themselves without fear of physical retaliation or threats than mince their words or curb their lawful behavior.

June 26, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterMark Wheeler

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