Sunday, July 12, 2015

The Liberal Ethos of Intolerance

Indulge me for a moment and imagine me wanting to be friends with someone who voted for Obama. If you know me, you realize it's insane, because nothing is more important to me than Israel.


And to me, voting for Obama was akin to signing Israel's death warrant. Especially in light of the Iran agreement just signed.

Yet, that didn't stop me from looking up an old friend from childhood whom I knew would have voted for Obama, because growing up, she was the ultimate liberal. She was passionate and feisty and cared about society.

I remembered these things about her and wanted to reconnect. I liked these things about her. I didn't think our political differences would much matter were we to reconnect, because I didn't expect someone like her to really understand my perspectives on Israel or on other issues. And I didn't think I had a chance of making her understand these things.

And that was fine with me. There was still plenty left for us to base a friendship on. We both loved music and photography. We were (I thought) both basically kind and decent people.

The rest was chaff, or so I thought.

One Blip

We did reconnect and things were fine. There was one little blip where we spoke about politics and things went south. But we agreed we'd keep politics out of our friendship and all was well, until she dropped off the face of the earth.

Just stopped corresponding.

Finally, I asked, "Did I do something to offend you?"

Ann Coulter??

And she said she'd made the mistake of reading some of my blogs. That not only am I a racist bigot, but a racist bigot along the lines of Ann Coulter.

At first I tried to deny her accusations. And I told her to remember our friendship and how our hearts still speak to each other, as friends. But I soon realized she'd closed the door. She relished letting me know why she was cutting me loose and how she felt about me. That was the passion in her I was seeing: the passion that I had always liked in her. This time, the strength of her feeling had ME in the spotlight and not in a good way.

I didn't have the strength to fight. I didn't see the point. But now, several days later, I just can't stop thinking about this schism, how unfair it is, how wrong it is.

I want to prove to her that I am not that racist bigot. And the truth is, I really AM NOT a racist bigot. Take for instance, a certain Facebook note I reissue from time to time, when people who really ARE racists, get too free and easy with their epithets on my wall. Here is the text of that note, which I entitled My Ground Rules:
This short note is intended for sharing with new friends and to serve as a reminder to old friends that I appreciate respectful debate, but that I do not care for hate speech of any kind. This includes derogatory nicknames for people in office, and for those of different colors, religions, or political parties.
I don't like this sort of speech and feel it is unnecessary. If you do it at home that's your choice, but please don't do it on my wall.

I get that sometimes it's hard to know where to draw the line. In general, vulgarisms are unacceptable. If you must, use asterisks. I don't like explicit talk on my wall, either. I have children who peek in on occasion. Keep it clean. Don't use nicknames that distort the first syllable of the First Lady's name into the sound an animal makes. I just don't see why this is necessary. It's disrespectful of her station and an American institution. I don't like her. We won't be BFF's. I may even think she is evil. But the nickname is still unnecessary.

About Islam: I get that we need to draw the association between Islam and terror. Believe me, I get it. But I still don't appreciate people trashing Muslims in general on my wall. Criticize the ideology.
People, listen up! I live surrounded by hostile Arabs in disputed territory. I have had friends killed or maimed by Arabs. I have had friends whose children were murdered by Arabs.

I am also well aware of what it says about Jews in Islamic texts, though I consider this a learning process. Still, I dislike hate speech. It's just rude. And it adds nothing to our bank of knowledge.

I may warn you once or twice if you fall into hate speech, but not thrice. If it continues, I will have to unfriend you, something I don't wish to do over poor word choices.

Of course, some of this is subjective. Sometimes a friend will object to a phrase I find perfectly acceptable. We can always talk about this and arrive at some sort of understanding.

The fact is, I miss polite debate. I think of my wall as my "salon" where we can all exchange views respectfully and with intelligence, each according to his or her own perspective.

I love that and it's the reason I spend so much time on Facebook.

Please respect my wishes and don't make me warn you.

Seriously. Does that sound like something that comes from the keyboard of a racist bigot? I'm dying to send her that. Let her read that and know the truth about me. I want to send it to her and say, "Note the date."

I want to defend myself.

And I keep going over it in my head, all the arguments I would use to defend myself, if only she would listen.

But that's exactly the point. She won't listen. And this is what bugs me about the liberal ethos.

Now note that I did not say, "This is what bothers me about liberals."

No. My objection is not with people, but with an ideology that divides people into two camps: Us and them.

This friend and I had warmth and a connection. She could have used this to try and reeducate me, if she really thought I was this terrible racist bigot (which I am not). She could have used our friendship to contribute to healing a social ill.

But she preferred to hate me. She preferred this to be about her and those who think like her, against those who don't.

Now that smells an awful lot like intolerance to me. And that is what gets me so upset.

I don't think about the world in terms of Us and Them or Republicans and Democrats or CNN versus Fox News. That's a LIBERAL construct. I think about the world in terms of all of us are humans with the same basic equipment and feelings.

I think of my job as connecting to others and being a force for good. I want people to tell me when I'm totally off-base, but I want them to give me a chance to improve, instead of writing me off.

Unless a person is truly evil, I think all people deserve a chance, when they ask for a chance. I don't understand why my friend thinks she is superior to me, so superior that she must cut me off and hurt me. And I feel like this damages something in the cosmos, this sort of attitude and behavior.

I am not going to play a game here and prove my tolerant "creds" by telling you about this or that Muslim, Lesbian, or Black friend. Because in the end, this is immaterial.

What matters is that she didn't listen to me, or to her heart. She didn't avail herself of an opportunity to make the world a better place by teaching me how to be a better person (if she thought I was a wretched miserable example of a human being). She just wanted to hate me. Took great pleasure in the act, in fact. Loved me asking her what was wrong so she could tell me how horrid I am.

I do not admire whatever it is that makes humans behave this way. Especially not when the Liberal Ethos includes the idea that those who espouse this ethos are tolerant.

In my experience, those who adopt that ethos are anything but tolerant.

Perhaps not every person who bows to the god of liberalism prefers divisiveness and hatred of the other to doing the real work of healing the world by talking to people and making them see a different side of things. I hope so. I would be happy to be proven wrong.

Meantime, I am hurting inside, left stuttering, "But, but, LISTEN."

And with a gleam in her eye, that passionate gleam I know so well, she refuses.

Point blank.

UPDATE: After I discovered that this piece caused offense to the anonymous person about whom it was written, I decided to take the piece out of circulation. But then I had second thoughts. I think the message is too important to suppress for the sake of someone who chose to be my enemy instead of working things out with me and accepting that people have differences. All these years later, it's a good solid piece, it's thesis still unfortunately valid.

1 comment:

  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.