Monday, August 31, 2009

Behind the Facade of Tolerance

Tolerance is the talk of the West today. You can hardly go a minute without hearing a government congratulate itself on its "tradition of tolerance" or without hearing an agency lecturing others on the importance of tolerance. In the late 20th century and early 21st centuries, tolerance has eclipsed every other moral and social virtue. A child of the first world is far more likely to be taught tolerance, than the value of manners, decency, charity or chastity. And to grow up with very little moral values, except the firm belief that intolerance is a terrible thing.

Yet what is tolerance all about and what's wrong with tolerance? For one thing, tolerance is not equality. It is condescension. George Washington understood that over 200 years when he wrote in his "Letter to the Hebrew Congregation at Newport" that, "All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship. It is now no more that toleration is spoken of, as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people, that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent national gifts."

What Washington was saying back in 1790 was a truth that modern liberals have worked hard to blot out, namely that tolerance is a statement of inequality. You tolerate people who you do not believe can participate equally in their own affairs or yours, for your own motives. The people you tolerate are second class citizens.
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