Viewpoint: Lack of Tolerance Is Frightening

by Sue Pascoe

A member of the American Legion told me he was disowned because he admitted he had voted for Donald Trump. He said he did not particularly like everything about Trump, but that the previous administration had ignored the beheadings of Christians.

In Iraq, it is estimated that in 2003, there were 1.5 million Christians, but now only an estimated 275,000. The decrease is attributed to genocide, flight and forced conversions at the hands of ISIS jihadists. Mosul, once home to a thriving Christian community, was overrun by ISIS, and Christians were purged.

North Korea leader Kim Jong-un, who sees Christianity as a Western-based mass delusion, has imprisoned nearly 70,000 of the estimated 300,000 Christians in that country in labor camps.

Of course, the Obama administration did not ignore the beheadings of Christians, as Breitbart News and other similar outlets profess, and it remains to be seen whether Trump’s administration will be more or less effective with its policies in stopping these atrocities.

However, my point is not the efficacy of either administration, but rather the danger of refusing to engage with alternate points of view. I spoke to Pacific Palisades Chamber of Commerce Director Arnie Wishnick, who told me his wife had been at a bridge club and one member said she had voted for Trump. Another member immediately stood up and left—quitting the club for good.

Some Clinton supporters in other regions of the country have also experienced similar reactions from Trump devotees. The total number of hate groups across the U.S. now numbers 917 (double the number in 1999), according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. 

So much for tolerance and the freedom of differences.

These groups, who seek a world without differences, and the antipathy exhibited toward people who have a differing political or religious view are part of the same problem.

Yet, the history of our country is based on conflict and opposing points of view. The Constitution and the development of the three branches of government were a compromise. The number of senators and representatives that make up the legislative branch was a compromise.

Our founding fathers did not get along. Alan Taylor in an October 2016 New York Times opinion piece wrote, “Political partisans and journalists shot one another in duels over insults. A South Carolinian noted, ‘Three-fourths of the duels which have been fought in the United States were produced by political disputes.’

“Hamilton’s death from Aaron Burr’s pistol shot in a duel in Weehawken, N.J., was unusual only in its mortality. It was considered better form to shoot a rival in a leg rather than through the heart. The early Congress was full of limping gentlemen.”

Essayist Ron Chernow wrote in a 2010 Wall Street Journal piece, “The Feuding Fathers,” that Thomas Paine denounced George Washington, saying that during the Revolutionary War, “You slept away your time in the field till the finances of the country were completely exhausted.”

Washington initially chose his cabinet, which included Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson, based on merit, not fully understanding the hostility between the two men. “Jefferson recalled that at cabinet meetings he descended ‘daily into the arena like a gladiator to suffer martyrdom in every conflict.’”

When the U.S. government was formed in 1789, most newspapers were neutral, but Chernow wrote they “evolved into blatant party organs. Printing little spot news, with no pretense of journalist objectivity, they specialized in strident essays.”

Journalist James Callender exposed Hamiliton’s affair with a woman, which led him to pay hush money while serving as treasury secretary. Jeffersonian Republicans gloated over the story, but they were later silenced when Callender exposed Jefferson’s affair with slave Sally Hemings.

By his second term in office, Washington was being attacked by the press, which accused him of figuring ways to prepare for a new monarchy. According to Chernow, journalists dredged up tales of Washington’s supposed missteps in the French and Indian War and called him inept in the Revolutionary War. “To Washington’s credit, he tolerated the press attacks and never resorted to censorship or reprisals,” Chernow wrote.

William Deresiewicz, in a 2017 essay in the American Scholar about political correctness wrote, “When the latter (students who shout down a speaker) are accused of opposing free speech, they invariable respond, ‘How can we be opposed to free speech? We are exercising it right now!’ But everyone is in favor of their own free speech (including, for instance, Vladimir Putin).

“The test of your commitment to free speech as a general principle is whether you are willing to tolerate the speech of others, especially those with whom you must disagree. If you are using your speech to try to silence speech, you are not in favor of free speech. You are only in favor of yourself.

“True diversity means true disagreement.”

I may not like someone’s point of view or speech. But, in order to preserve our country, we need to defend different opinions and the right to express them. If not, we move towards totalitarianism in which dissent is branded evil, and political differences not permitted.

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