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by Clint Roberts
Equality is a defining concern of our age. If there’s one thing people today never tire of saying, it is that everyone should be treated equally, and not just in the old fashioned sense that people deserve equal courtesy and respect. Today’s demands include equalizing disparate incomes, and giving all couples (or “throuples” or whatever) equal legal status under marriage laws. Equality is a big deal.
Meanwhile, one of our culture’s cardinal sins is intolerance, which is loosely defined today as non-acceptance in some form or another. This definition is diluted in the way that popular culture specializes in watering things down.
The Meaning of Tolerance
The true meaning of tolerance is not agreement, personal acceptance, or celebration of a particular way of thinking or acting. It is merely putting up with it. It is letting it exist or continue despite my disagreement.
In the following paragraphs, to be consistent and avoid confusion, I will be using the word “tolerance” to refer to the relatively new and contemporary understanding of the word, which, again, means to agree with and/or affirm another’s view or behavior.
A Problem We Must Address
This brings us to a concern that cannot continue to be ignored. I am speaking of the problem of intolerance inequality. We know that intolerance is bad, and we know that we all do it sometimes. We all fail to agree with someone’s point of view; we all fall short of giving support and endorsement to certain of people’s choices; we all, at times, withhold our affirmation or celebration of the sexual or spiritual identities of those around us when they declare them.
In this way we are all equally human. After all, who can be tolerant 100% of the time? But, in the interest of full equality, all human beings deserve the dignity of being judged intolerant on those occasions. In other words, the circumstances of intolerance being the same, why should some—on the basis of nothing more than race, gender, or sexual preference—be denied equal treatment?
A Deeper Explanation of the Problem
The unequal treatment of people and groups, that our society must work to overcome, involves denying certain people or groups the opportunity to achieve certain labels, however negative they may be.
If we deem all persons fundamentally equal, then the same moral principles apply…
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