Call me crazy, but today’s tolerance doesn’t much look like it did when I was growing up.
Look, tolerance doesn’t mean that everyone parrots the same line or that you have to like what people are saying around you. It means that they have a right to live their life the way they choose even if that means believing some things that you don’t and that you don’t have to hold them as evil, call them assholes, argue points in an unreasonably personalized manner, or harass them just because of a disagreement. I say this as much to remind myself as to remind others.
People have always talked politics and I’ve always been politically minded, but what is happening today is moving so far away from a reasonable dialogue that I wonder how we are managing to hold together as one society.
Of course, reasonable minds understand that this version of tolerance stops when it comes to truly harming others. Advocating for a political position rarely rises to that level. I have no idea how that conversation started nor do I know how it escalated, but I do know that a chicken sandwich wasn’t worth the kind of fight that left one man re-assigned and all folks starring in their own little accidental reality show on all of the news sites.
What happened to the kind of tolerance where we actually manage to get along on a daily basis without someone trying to shout us down or tell us how vile and horrible we are for, essentially, not believing every little thing that they believe? I wonder if people see just how hugely damaging our over-politicized culture is becoming.
When everyone thinks that they have to take absolute stances on all of the issues of the day, when it comes to a place where it harms friendships and family relationships, and when it is so unyielding, how can anyone be surprised at the size of the wall we’re building between us? Of course, we’re a deeply divided country. Not only are we faced with hugely difficult problems, but we’re faced with an increasingly uncivil nation where folks are happily willing to demonize each other with little regard for the harm or hurts caused.
Whatever threads still bind together the fabric of our nation are being slowly unravelled by our own unforgiving nature.
Somewhere over the last three years (give or take a few months) someone changed the definition of “worked” and failed to inform me. That’s the only (polite) take-away from this:
“Just like we’ve tried their plan, we tried our plan — and it worked,” he added later in the speech. “That’s the difference. That’s the choice in this election. That’s why I’m running for a second term.”
Obama made these comments in Oakland, Calif., where the unemployment rate was 13.7 percent in May 2012. The national unemployment rate is 8.2 percent — up from 8.1 percent in May — for the second straight month.
If by “worked,” he means “successful,” then it would be tough to find folks to agree with his idea of success. Higher unemployment, lower job participation, higher prices, collapsed housing market, and rising energy costs certainly don’t feel like success.
Or maybe he meant “worked” as in “found jobs”– but that’s even harder to justify since “working” is exactly what many people aren’t doing these days thanks to a stalled economy and a sinking sense that America’s future under Obama’s stewardship hasn’t exactly been polished to a pretty, pretty shine.
“Because we’re leading around the world, people have a new attitude toward America. There’s more confidence in our leadership. We see it everywhere we go,” President Obama said at the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention in Reno.
While I’m sure that Russians and the Chinese are feeling more confident in “our leadership,” it wouldn’t be because they have American’s best interests at heart. That smile you see, that applause from those corners, would only be their cheering our economic pain from the sidelines. Citizens of this country are far less pleased by our leadership– and not just for President Obama, but congress is seen, rightly, as spectacularly toothless and untrustworthy. The congressional job approval numbers are staggeringly bad. Even the Supreme Court has taken hits recently.
As for the question of whether our country is headed in the right direction, we, the people, seem decidedly nervous.
In fact, if President Obama truly believes that things are going well, then it is one more reason to vote for someone else. If he believes that, he’s delusional. Don’t get me wrong: I’d like for our leadership to be positive about the potential for our future and a true believer in the potential of Americans. I just don’t want that positivity to come at the expense of a realistic view of our current circumstances in the same way that I don’t want a doctor to tell me that the unstaunched flow of arterial blood is a sign of how great things are.
Candidate Reagan was relentlessly upbeat about the future of the country, but his optimism was always delivered with an understanding that we couldn’t get to that shining city on the hill without changing course. Obama’s upbeat speeches are simply an attempt to ignore and deny his own abysmal job performance.
Which is why, when most of us are worried about jobs and the economy, so many of Obama’s surrogates would really rather talk about immigration, gay marriage, and Planned Parenthood.
I can’t speak for anyone else, but I can tell you this: my priorities are rock solid. I’m not forgetting that this election is about all the folks who can’t find jobs, the mountains of debt that just keep piling up, and the fear that four more years of Obama’s leadership will leave us in even worse straights.
For the record, this was a much braver step than anything Anderson Cooper could have said or done in announcing his sexual orientation. With Cooper, the reaction was predictable: he’s a white guy working in television and the son of Gloria Vanderbilt. His sexual orientation had been a matter of speculation for years. Not only was no one surprised, but there was very little danger in his admission.
Frank Ocean, on the other hand, is a black man whose industry (black, urban music) has been dominated by misogyny and homophobia. It was a real risk to his career to admit to having had same sex relationships.
Hollywood makes “brave” movies about sexuality and race all the time. They pat themselves on the back for their “bravery,” they give themselves awards to celebrate their bold statements, and never seem to recognize that there was nothing particularly brave about, say, Brokeback Mountain. It was a good movie, amazingly well-acted, and well-directed, but it wasn’t a risky career move for anyone involved. It was a play for awards and critical praise from the audience that mattered: the filmmakers’ peers.
Frank Ocean’s peers haven’t, in the past, shown such an open mind to homosexuality in their ranks. From AllHipHop.com:
I have to give Frank Ocean his props for coming out of the closet and announcing to the world that he’s a gay man. While he’s not a Hip-Hop artist as has been asserted in the mainstream, he’s an affiliate. With that said, he’s a representative of the ever-changing times in urban music and general music.
And, reading the comments in that posting, you’ll see the risk that Ocean has taken.
Me, I continue to not care at all about other peoples’ sex lives. As long as they aren’t abusing animals, abusing children, or abusing the unwilling, it doesn’t much matter to me who they sleep with. Generally, I think that these sort of pronouncements should be treated with apathy; if we all cared a little bit less about who other people slept with, the world would be a better place.
This time, though, I’ve got to give some credit to the gentleman for showing some real courage.
A quick postscript: The same folks on my Twitter feed who were making a big deal out of Anderson Cooper’s announcement last week are strangely silent about this. I would confess to disappointment, but I would first have to have been surprised.
I’ve talked the subject to death and even said that I was largely done discussing it. I’ve staked out my position– rather openly– but I don’t know that I’ve ever moved someone else even marginally on the issue.
So, for me, it’s mostly done. For opponents: I know your position, you know mine, and for the sake of harmony, I choose to leave it to the side.
But I do want to share this. The founder for the Institute for American Values, a man who has been staunch in opposition to same sex marriage, who has made intelligent and deep arguments against extending marriage to same sex couples has changed his mind and done so in a fashion that I find admirable. Now, I say this while admitting that many of his thoughts are the thoughts that have gone through my own head on my journey from opposition to advocacy (not a short trek), but his explanation is more convincing than anything I ever wrote on the subject.
I had hoped that the gay marriage debate would be mostly about marriage’s relationship to parenthood. But it hasn’t been. Or perhaps it’s fairer to say that I and others have made that argument, and that we have largely failed to persuade. In the mind of today’s public, gay marriage is almost entirely about accepting lesbians and gay men as equal citizens. And to my deep regret, much of the opposition to gay marriage seems to stem, at least in part, from an underlying anti-gay animus. To me, a Southerner by birth whose formative moral experience was the civil rights movement, this fact is profoundly disturbing.
I had also hoped that debating gay marriage might help to lead heterosexual America to a broader and more positive recommitment to marriage as an institution. But it hasn’t happened. With each passing year, we see higher and higher levels of unwed childbearing, nonmarital cohabitation and family fragmentation among heterosexuals. Perhaps some of this can be attributed to the reconceptualization of marriage as a private ordering that is so central to the idea of gay marriage. But either way, if fighting gay marriage was going to help marriage over all, I think we’d have seen some signs of it by now.
Please do read the rest regardless of your opinion on the subject. Even if you end up disagreeing with him on his new position, his thoughts remain lucid and compelling.