One of the major problems that we need to deal with, if we want a fair and just society in our country, is the intolerance that some of us hold for those who are "different." This intolerance can be to any number of things; dress, personal behaviors, financial situation, political affiliation, religious belief, race, sexual orientation; the list is long. In the United States of America, we have the expected freedom to be ourselves. This includes the freedom to think what we want and to believe what we want. We therefore have the freedom to have intolerant thoughts. Just because we have that freedom is not a"license" to undertake intolerant acts.
Our laws are supposed to protect us from harm by others. Actions resulting from intolerance, however, can and often do result in physical or financial harm to others. This can result in legal actions that are decided by courts, and in a larger context, by legislation.In these cases, the outcomes of intolerance become time consuming and costly for all of those involved, and a distraction from our need to deal with other critical problems.
There are many other types of intolerance that are subtle, insidious and difficult to "pin down." These types of intolerant expression and behavior, by individuals and groups against other individuals and groups, can harm the psychological well being, emotions, growth and aspirations of those assaulted. The result is not simply damage to those affected, but also damage to our communities and country. If we refuse to identify, confront and deal with intolerant thoughts and behavior within our own communities and country, we have on,y one way to go as a nation,and that is downward.
Instruction: Under each of the topics below, please make your contribution of a proposal to deal with the topic/problem, or provide a statement of unintended consequences. Feel free to comment on any contribution submitted by others.
The first two things that all of us should do is to think about whether or not we harbor intolerant thoughts, and if and when we discover or have them, immediately alert ourselves. These thoughts come from something within our being, whether we consciously "placed" them there or not. This self-examination is something we all should do, no matter who we are.
The next thing that we need to do is to take the time to deal with what we have uncovered. We have to accept the responsibility of developing a path that over time will lead to their extinction. They will not go away by themselves, and it is unlikely they will go quickly. To accomplish this, we will have to stop ourselves (interrupt such thinking) whenever we have these thoughts. This is not easy, and requires work on our part.
No one has the power to control our thoughts. Yet, we all know that in conversations or group situations, we can be drawn into a pattern of thought or speech that as a minimum would be uncomfortable because of the intolerance of one or more other persons in the group. In this situation, we have options. The easiest is to say nothing about the intolerant presentation, and hope or try for a change in the conversation. This presumably avoids any confrontation, and accomplishes nothing to end intolerance. Many of us do it, and we shouldn't.
The second option is to verbalize our displeasure with the intolerant expression. If our words are not respected, and the expression of intolerance does not stop, then we should stand up and walk away. The advocates of intolerance will continue to perpetrate the group think if they are not called on it. If they do not appreciate our speaking up against intolerance, so be it; it is they who are carrying on a disgusting and potentially harmful practice.