After spending a week with my 12-year-old grandson, I am convinced that we Americans are a naturally tolerant people. One often hears of kids his age getting involved in humane efforts like collecting food and clothing for the poor as well as save-the-environment efforts. Our conversations were sprinkled with not only tolerance for ‘the other’ but egalitarianism as well. Apparently, intolerance must be carefully taught to children, otherwise they would continue with  liberality throughout their lives.

As we rode the South Shore commuter train to and from Chicago both days, he experienced many types people riding along side him- people of many ethnic and economic backgrounds.  It truly was a mini melting pot of Americana as it stopped to load passengers from every socio-economic neighborhood along the way.

Hegewisch South Shore Line Station

There has been a recent spate of intolerance in our land, especially towards those who practice the Muslim faith.  President Obama was severely criticized this weekend by the right-wing for his message of freedom of religion. For those critics, the First Amendment apparently needs to be amended, just as many of them are calling for limits to the Fourteenth Amendment. Naturally, many in the Republican Party are demagoguing for political gain, but that tactic, the criticism of the freedom of religion for Muslims, is both troubling and explosive.

What does that say to the world at large about the fundamental ideals of America? It clearly mocks the Ezra Lazarus poem on the Statue of Liberty. Further, it reminds one of those ugly religious wars fought on the blood-stained soil of Europe.

What possible political advantage do those on the right-wing expect as they carp against the building of a mosque near Ground Zero? Do they expect that most Americans will respect them for their stand against religious tolerance?  Do they expect a few more votes in November? Is that their goal?

As I type this, tens of  thousands of American military men and women are standing on Muslim soil fighting for America.  Many say that we are ‘fighting for freedom.’ We Americans like to toss that freedom word around as we head into yet one more foreign military operation.  Operation Enduring Freedom is the official Pentagon name for our war in Afghanistan. Operation Iraqi Freedom was word-smithed by the Pentagon for the war in
Iraq. Apparently, the word ‘freedom’ mollifies deployment of our troops in foreign lands.

Freedom and tolerance; they fit together like glove.  You can’t have one without the other despite what political operatives want us to believe.


9 thoughts on “Tolerance

  1. If democrats can’t counter attack on the issue of the mosque then I don’t know if they are politically competent to do anything. When attacked by a republican / tea partier – all the democrat has to do is read the constitution, and then ask the lunatic if he supports the constitution or not? And why does the lunatic slather at the mouth about the constitution – to the point of bringing guns to political events – but doesn’t support the constitution when it is inconvenient to their issue de jur. I think the president – by taking a stand and spelling out his position, and handed democrats the ball, with a free lane for a point break. All they have to do is run with “defending the constitution and freedom of religion”, and then attack the republicans on their inconsistency.

  2. I’m frightened of the past
    I’m frightened of the future
    Now, I’m nervous…
    That was my Haiku of the day.

    I’d like to believe that defending the constitution was a logical no brainer way to win an election, but we are living in extremely illogical times when the constitution can be twisted the way biblical scripture has been twisted to mean what ever the twister wants to screw into the addled brains of the fear crazed xenophobic masses they are trying to manipulate.

    Some children are naturally tolerant.
    Some children are conditioned by fear.
    We are all products of the conditions around us. Behavior is a transmitted set of responsives to our conditioned environment. Sure, we have natural altruistic tendencies, but Intolerance is taught, the same way tolernace must be taught. It is those who instill the values and inspire us which shape us as children.
    Children rarely do what they are told because they are told to behave a certain way. They imitate and emulate.
    If your nephew is a kind and tolerant child, then his parents must be doing something right!

  3. If your nephew is a kind and tolerant child, then his parents must be doing something right!

    Grandson, actually, and YES they are perhaps because his mother is our daughter.

    Steve- beats the hell out of me, too. It’s like watching a slow-motion death dance.

  4. slow motion death dance!
    who’s leading? who’s following?
    I wish Obama could just make a strong stand and then stick with it!
    His statement about the Cordoba Center and “this is America” was pretty good. In fact it was what was needed to be heard by the editorialists here in France who want to show Sarko that pandering to hate is not leading!
    But, as usual, I was disappointed as Obama seemed to back off his position and start hedging his bets.

  5. Joe Scarborough has shown more courage on this issue than Harry ( The RagingTower of Jello) Reid! Bah! I think I’m becoming intolerant of him!

  6. And why does the lunatic slather at the mouth about the constitution – to the point of bringing guns to political events – but doesn’t support the constitution when it is inconvenient to their issue de jur.

    Or realise that the BoR grants a fair amount of rights to criminals.

    But that was an aside.

    I’d like to think that Americans are a tolerant and progressive people, but I have serious doubts when I pay attention to US media. Talk radio hosts who say nothing except hateful speech and intolerance.

  7. There has been an interesting contradiction in US culture which has existed from the beginning: Slave owners could talk about liberty and freedom.

    Thomas Jefferson wrote that all men were created equal, yet he kept human beings as property. Likewise, Henry Clay could talk about freeing slaves, yet be a slave owner.

    Americans want ther freedom to do what they will, yet they want to control others.

  8. Laci- you always bring up salient historical points that cause us Americans to have the deer-in-the-headlights look. Perhaps we Americans are just plain dumb compared to other cultures. Surely many would balk at such a statement, but it deserves to be examined more closely before dismissal.

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