Love and Tolerance

It is never wrong to try to see all sides. It is called empathy, and empathy is not equivalent to condoning immorality. On September 11th, 2001 I was one of many people asking, “Why did they do this?” And I continue to ask that question. What would drive a terrorist to that level of hatred, to fly a plane into a building, to kill thousands? I seek to understand their story, their history, how they came to their view. That does not mean I approve of their tactics. What they did was evil. But let us strive to understand in order to help heal and prevent it from happening again. Likewise there is nothing wrong with attempting to understand the mindset of people who would march in the name of “White Nationalism.” Empathy is neither a sign of weakness nor indifference. It is the courage to listen to that which you abhor.  To see all sides does not mean you endorse, agree, or condone their actions. It only means you are attempting to reveal the elements which have brought them to their current level of fear. And make no mistake, it is fear which drives their vitriol, violence, and intolerance.

NonTol QstnWe must not tolerate intolerance! On the face of that statement, I agree. Yet what does that mean? What is an act of “not tolerating” intolerance? Speaking up when someone makes an offensive remark? Good. Refusing to invite a homophobic couple over for dinner? I would not want them at my house either. Boycotting a business run by self-proclaimed Nazis? Indeed, you have every right to do business, or not, with anyone you choose. You even have the right to show up and counter-protest. Although that seems counterproductive to me. Loud counter-protests only bring more attention and energy to the demonstration in the first place. Which is what they want. The best strategy I can think of is to either ignore that Alt-Right rally, Klan march, etc. Or find a creative positive manner of counter protest without seeking a direct confrontation. Direct and violent confrontation is what the Antifa movement tends to do, regardless of whether they have a right to show up seeking a fight, it is not a productive method.

I also find it unproductive to tell someone they should or shouldn’t see both sides. There are many more than just two sides. (Which is why I started from the top with ALL sides.) Claiming that if you don’t want to ban racist speech you must therefore be a racist is a false dichotomy. This is a form of gas-lighting, trying to force someone to choose between either YOUR opinion or a blatant evil. It is similar to the topic of Global-Warming. You either agree with their prescription or you are a climate-change denier. The issue is more complex and there are many questions to explore. What are the causes? What can be done about it? What role, if any, should government play? What can I personally or my community do? Rather than trying to make it a simplistic binary. Those same questions can and should be examined when it comes to topics such as confederate statues and hate speech.

punch chartSo, WHY HATE? Why do people denounce hate with as much vitriol as the haters? I would guess part of the reason is tribal identity. Saying you want to punch Nazis distances you from those bad/fringe/intolerant people, and helps confirm your identity with the acceptable/enlightened/in-crowd. But when one uses the opinions and thoughts of others (not actual violent acts) to justify their own initiation of violence, that is extreme tribalism. It is exactly what those violent and intolerant groups do. And it only leads to more of the same.



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