The spirit of democracy is based on the value of the individual human person. To be intolerant of anyone based on our particular likes, dislikes, or even fears, is therefore a negation of that spirit. At the same time, we cannot tolerate acts of injustice and harm in our midst. But even in our intolerance of violence, we must be wary of recreating the very system and mindset it seeks to dismantle. The best way to navigate this is often the reminder that we are against the evil, not the person.
It must also be said that in the way of human relationships, the opposite of intolerance is not tolerance. Mere tolerance can connote a sense of superiority, opposition, of one group “allowing for” the existence of another. “I don’t like or support what you do, but I have to tolerate it.” The real opposite of intolerance is mutual understanding, the realization of our interconnectedness on deeper and deeper levels. This is why Gandhi wanted children to learn not just the facts of other religions; they needed the opportunity to do a “reverential study” of them. Think of how much bloodshed that would have saved!
Where do you see the spirit of intolerance in yourself? How can you channel it into an opportunity constructive relationship building?
The Metta Center for Nonviolence, PO Box 98, Petaluma, California 94953 707-774-6299 firstname.lastname@example.org