The Formula for (In)Tolerance

In the wake of our most recent election, a time of great emotional upheaval for most of America on both sides of the election results, I’ve finally begun to make an effort to break down how I see the world today.

I began by talking about how this election should have never happened, followed it up by suggesting how it’s time for individuals to rise up.  I noted that a vote for a man who *might* be evil doesn’t make you evil yourself.  I even suggested Donald Trump *might* not be the worst outcome of this election.  And after a brief break to tell you how you shouldn’t get your hopes up, I finally came to the conclusion that we shouldn’t believe everything the news tells us about our politicians (I can’t help but noting that the Oxford Dictionary proclaimed post-truth as the word of the year the day AFTER I posted this one.)

This all, of course, was really just bits of background in order to lead up to the big item.  The Step One of beginning a New America.

The Self-Reflection.

The Apology.

Brief recap of that week’s worth of posts:

The most important first step each and every one of us can take in situations where we think the world has gone wrong, is to see if maybe we’re the ones at fault.

Now it’s time to begin Step Two.  Because an apology is never enough.  Just like when you were a little kid told to apologize, it is much more important for you to know WHY you are apologizing.

With all that lead in…I’d like to focus today’s article on a single word which is tossed around a lot today:


Tolerance is a stupid word.  There is really very little difference between it and Intolerance, except that when you’re being tolerant, you’re being quiet about your intolerance.

I recently attended a presentation aimed at stopping prejudice in the workplace.  The lady in the video said, (paraphrased quote) “Sometimes you’re just prejudiced against some people, whether they’re black or white or have green mohawks.  But in the workplace, you have to own your prejudice.  Realize you just don’t like working with those people but do it anyways.  Get whatever needs to be done done, then go on your merry way.”

That’s tolerance.

And it’s not an acceptable way of dealing with prejudice.

If you applied this concept to the Civil Rights movement, this would be equivalent to saying, “Fine, you can use the same bathroom as me, but you’re still not worthy.”  It’s a version of “Let’s agree to disagree”, but being said about something that, in general, shouldn’t be disagreed about.

We should not simply tolerate women in the workplace, but know that they are equally skilled and as capable as men.  (Accounting for knowledge and education, I suppose.  I mean, I’ll admit a man with a medical degree is probably more suited to be my doctor than a woman who graduated as an Art History major…maybe.  The important part is that genitals shouldn’t be a part of this particular discussion.)

Tolerance is not a changing of the mind, but a changing of the actions.  A change of actions is definitely important, but until there is a change of the mind, of the heart, we’re never going to move forward as a nation…or as a world, for that matter.

However, there are times where intolerance might actually be necessary.  If, for instance, you have been wronged and can’t get anyone to listen.  Not only that, but everyone refuses to listen.  Then you must become intolerant.  You must speak out.  You must ensure you have been heard.

If the Civil Rights leaders of the 1960s had not been intolerant of those who insisted they must drink from certain water fountains, they would probably still be drinking from those water fountains today.

But that intolerance came from intolerance.  Because hate breeds hate.

There is one more piece to take into consideration here.  Generally, people who are being intolerant are completely unaware of such.

So, I’ve developed a handy little formula which could assist you in determining whether you yourself have been or are being intolerant.

Ga != Gb = (In)Tolerance

Put into English, if you believe Group A is not equal to Group B, you are being (in)tolerant.

Now, I’ll admit, there could be some loose definition going on here.

For example: Based on this formula, one could determine that Packers and Vikings fans are intolerant of each other.  If you listen to the vitriol which crosses between these two groups, you might end up agreeing that these two groups honestly believe that the opposite group is not as great as they are.  That the group who supports the “right” team is better.

Actually, you could use this formula to apply to many of our daily interactions and personal thoughts.  I, for instance, really despise Apple consumers and Marvel fanboys.  They’re just so…self-assured and crap.  I mean, seriously, how can they honestly say that Captain America: Civil War is better than Batman v Superman?  Seriously!  Did they see the extended cut?!?  And shut up about Suicide Squad already.  It’s not like Iron Man 3 was all that great either!

Of course, the majority of these conversations between opposing fan bases are nothing but playful ribbing.  Packers and Vikings fans can watch the game together with rarely a scene.  There are infrequently words of true hate sputtered between DC and Marvel fans when they sit down after a movie screening to discuss the film.  For the majority of people connected to these examples, they’re friendly rivalries, not actual intolerance.

Not anywhere near what you would expect to see should a KKK member and a Blood sit in the same room.

Of course, for those two groups, intolerance would be a fairly petty word to attach to their emotions regarding the other party.

Getting away from the extremes, perhaps it would be best to look somewhere in the middle.

I think it’s fairly obvious that our current political climate has become quite intolerant.  With an election season where both parties were declaring the other evil, with the constant need to equate a politician to Hitler, with how often we’re just incapable of discussing “politics” with each other, even if we agree, without sounding like we’re arguing–  If there’s one thing politics is not best for, it’s polite conversation.

Which is, of course, where the old adage “Don’t talk politics or religion in mixed company” comes from.  Heck, today it gets difficult to talk it in non-mixed company.

That old adage was a promotion of tolerance.

And, like I said before.  Tolerance IS a stupid word.

We should not merely tolerate each other.  Republicans shouldn’t *tolerate* Democrats, nor vice versa.  But neither, do I believe, should they be intolerant of each other.  At least not with where the “conversation” is today.

You see, many of those who support either Republicans or Democrats, do so in a manner very similar to those who support the Packers or the Vikings.  It’s is a heartfelt dedication to the cause of those groups.  They have specific real reasons, definitely, but there is a certain home team spirit that comes long with it.

Yet, Republicans and Democrats can’t sit together and watch an election.  Not generally speaking anyways.  And definitely not with our most recent election.

Now, don’t think I don’t see the evil side of insert-evil-party-name-here.  I firmly believe insert-evil-party-name-here has some terrible policies they support.

But the question is, does insert-righteous-party-name-here have all perfect policies?  Is it possible that you’re willing to overlook some evil policies on your side of the debate while focusing solely on the evil ones across the aisle?

In other words, is it possible that insert-evil-party-name-here isn’t actually any more evil than insert-righteous-party-name-here?  Is it possible that those who support either party, at their heart, actually hope to achieve similar ends, although they might be through different means?

Obviously those questions are a great cause for debate.  I’m not looking to answer them here.  My point is, what if there are times where we become too quick to judge, simply because of the label attached to that group?

Sure, maybe insert-Hitler-esque-politician-name-here is going to destroy this nation, but maybe the reason his supporters follow him are for something completely different than we envision at the forefront.

Maybe all Republicans really are greedy power mongers and maybe all Democrats are truly sneaky thieves.  Or maybe, just maybe, we’re working against each other because we’re on different teams, but both actually want the same things to happen?

Maybe, because we’re stuck in a two party system, we only see the “other team” for the policies that aren’t so great, while being blind to the ones “our team” have that we also don’t agree with.


I’m not making conclusions here.  I’m asking questions.

What I am saying is that just like with racial/religious/gender prejudice, we need to seek out an understanding of the perception of those who think differently than us.  Because honestly, we are all the same.  We are not all Hitlers.  We are not all evil.

Now, I mean to apply this concept to all forms of intolerance, I really do.  And I highly suggest you review the above formula and following discussion for your interactions with any other groups.  But, since the series of posts I’m currently working on are focused on the concept of bringing together our incredible divided nation, I’m going to finish this by continuing with the example we’re already on.

Because the bipartisan process in America has made us completely incapable of discussing how to best move our country forward.  We have been taught to villainize one side or the other.  It’s not just that we disagree with the other team, it’s that they are evil, and so are all those who subscribe to their politics.

I’d like to offer an alternative perspective:

In this battle of conservatives vs. liberals, someone is winning.

And it’s not the American people.

It’s the politicians who pit us against each other.  The media who use such amazing feats of yellow journalism not seen since Pulitzer and Hearst.  It’s those men and women who are in power and want to stay in power, and will as long as we are busy fighting amongst ourselves and not requiring them to actually do something worthwhile.  Not requiring them to effect positive change.  Not requiring them to do anything else but “politics as usual”.

The number one thing keeping our country on its current path today is that we, as the American people, are incapable of working together to keep our politicians honest.  To keep them working toward the greater good.  To have them caring more about what the American people want than what the lobbyists want.

We’re can become so focused on this team mentality, that we often shut down the actions of the other team before even attempting to understand what they’re about.  What they might do. How we might be able to reach a compromise which could positively effect both sides of our divided nation.

And with all that being said, I now (finally) offer up Step 2 of creating a New America.

After you have used Step 1 (and the formula I provided today) to determine that you should be pointing at least one finger at yourself, then you need to actually strike up a conversation with someone from the group you identified as Group B.  Those you disagree with or think less of or maybe have uttered a phrase similar to “I just don’t understand how Group B can insert-action-here” to.

Facebook debates about who is right do not count here, folks.

By conversation, what I actually mean is that you need to get them to start talking about what they think about things and then LISTEN.

Listen to them about the things they feel most dearly about, about those things they are shouting about at the top of their lungs.  About those things that they think are wrong with this country or other people or whatever.

But don’t go into the conversation planning on pushing your side of the debate.

Even while they’re telling you how the Irish are what’s wrong with this country, you NEED to stay completely focused on what they’re saying.

Ask them follow up questions like, “Why the Irish?”, but don’t turn around and say, “Actually, if you look at the history books, you’ll find that the Italians are far more worse, or even the Polish.  The Irish are simply looking for food!”

Give them their opportunity to explain themselves fully.

Because this isn’t about proving them wrong.  This is about hearing them out.  About learning what makes them tick.  About getting an actual idea of what basis they have for the thoughts in their mind.  Even if the logic appears completely absurd to you, hear them.  Take it in.  Reflect on it later.

Don’t be prepared to berate them with your own thoughts on the topic.  Let them own the conversation.  If, perhaps, they finally say something along the lines of , “So, that about sums me up, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject”, even then don’t succumb.

They don’t need to come out of the conversation feeling right.  They just need to feel heard. And, more importantly, you need to have heard them.  To have fully attempted to understand what it is that causes them to be different.  To attempt to realize that maybe they actually aren’t.

Whether you’re intolerant of conservatives or liberals, people of color, Muslims, Christians, or Marvel fanboys, just for now, for this precise moment, let them tell you how they feel.

Let them have their say.

Be that listener.

For just this one moment.

It won’t be easy.  But I firmly believe it will be important.  Especially when it comes to Step 3.



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