To the Sullivans of the world
Dan at >AndrewSullivan.com
When gays and lesbians express disgust or contempt for, say, the Pat Robertsons of this world, we’re accused of being intolerant—and isn’t that hypocritical of us? After all, isn’t tolerance what we’ve been asking for? How can we refuse to tolerate Pat Robertson?
But as Manji points out, being intolerant of intolerance is not the moral equivalent of being intolerant.
Yes it is.
Open-minded-ness is a value of the Enlightenment that we must hold dear.
Look, I rather live in the West because it is more intellectually open-minded than other regions, and that is both a cause and result of greater economic development (another reason to live in the West). But it is the open-mindedness that is good; it hasn’t magically imbued something on the West that makes it a better place forever and ever. If you remove that tolerance, then you are removing what is good and thoughtful.
There is a cleavage in the world, in very crude rough terms, between the first-world and the third-world, which we are fortunate enough to fall on the more open-minded and tolerant side of. Within the first-world, in America, there is another cleavage between open-minded Westerners and intolerant Westerners. And in the Democratic party, there are crazy liberals who hate all Christians, and there are open-minded liberals who try to see the Republican perspective and the Islamic perspective and all other perspectives when the situation calls for it.
The neo-conservatives are not some unique defenders of liberal democracy, willing to use the dark arts of intolerance so that the rest of us don’t have to live under it. They are simply the reflection of the “evil intolerant Moslems” they see on the other side.
Acknowledging the grievances of the Palestinian people, or removing military bases from the Mideast will not “show weakness” and cause further invasion. It will respect them as human beings and make peaceful commerce and negotiation possible. Why do I believe this? Because I am open-minded and tolerant. And I think that attitude is the right one, when you look at the development of successful and liberal societies (a point that Euro-centric neo-cons are always so quick to make).
This post is not to say that Democrats are always right, or that the West has a monopoly on tolerance. It is to say that open-minded-ness is always the right choice, and the factors that make us proud of it in one area, mean it should be followed in all areas.
(As for then “how do we respond to those defenders of Pat Robertson”, well it’s pretty easy: gays and lesbians aren’t being intolerant. They are against his opinions and are happy to let him live the lifestyle he likes. They do not have the desire nor the power to make laws or punishments against him. And those that do seriously advocate harm or danger to him, are intolerant, wrong, and in the very very small minority.)