Saturday, September 11, 2010

Tolerance vs Respect

On this ninth anniversary of 9/11, we're reminded of both the good and the evil that still exists in our world. We remember the helpless panic watching the television during and after the attacks. We also remember the tremendous outreach and charity afterwards. We remember the families that live on today without loved ones. We remember heroes that bravely surrendered their lives to preserve life and comfort for strangers. In remembering the sacrifice, the sadness and the pain this date brings, we're reminded that we've once again forgotten one of the main virtues of living together in this human community. That virtue is respect.

I enjoy the definition of respect as it is given in its Wikipedia entry: Respect denotes both a positive feeling of esteem for a person or other entity (such as a nation or a religion), and also specific actions and conduct representative of that esteem.

For some reason today, be it elitism or because we live in such a politically charged climate, we've replaced this virtue with intolerance and political correctness in the name of tolerance. We're told that certain behaviors and beliefs are wrong and in the name of this new tolerance we should then be intolerant to their beliefs. I don't think this can last. We are poisoned by the lack of respect for certain standpoints now in the spirit of tolerance.

In recent debates, I see the decline of man. I see the continuing lack of respect for thought that does not adhere to a progressive or conservative standard. Differences of opinion are a big part of human nature and it's wisdom that we all learn to appreciate and respect different points of view. The missing ingredient is to respect the person that would disagree with my stance and worldview. For me to hold my hands over my ears and call people that disagree with my opinions as intolerant does not advance us at all as a people. That makes me the intolerant one. What a dangerous double standard and practice.

Calling someone with a different standpoint intolerant completely throws the spirit of tolerant belief. While still reading my original article above, I ran across this sentiment from philosopher John Rawls, "While an intolerant sect does not itself have title to complain of intolerance, its freedom should be restricted only when the tolerant sincerely and with reason believe that their own security and that of the institutions of liberty are in danger." How quickly this is forgotten now.

Let's bring back respect. Let's bring back respectful discourse. Let's bring back tolerance in it's truest form by respecting those that do not see the world the same way that we do. It is fine to disagree even vehemently with a point of view. It is how we respond to disagreements that will save us or destroy us.

A more respectful people will not need to fear the fringe and radical elements outside of our own safety. A respectful society will not shine a spotlight of attention on them, but will focus on living and learning and growing together even if we disagree. Respect, respect, respect.

I cannot demand this, that is the root of intolerance, but I can ask this respectfully of everyone and that is the root of freedom. It's not pie in the sky, it all begins and ends with me.