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Intolerance all around

June 11, 2017

On Facebook, I recently made a plea to keep political dialogue respectful. It did not go well.

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The guy on whose timeline this exchange occurred then unfriended me. I’m saddened to think that the unfriending was triggered by my rather mild defense of nonviolent speech.

And while this is just one cherry-picked example, higher-profile examples of liberal intolerance are being reported too. Fareed Zakaria noted protests of commencement speeches by Mike Pence and Betsy DeVos. Frank Bruni described students’ hostility toward apparently-not-liberal-enough faculty at Evergreen and Yale. And then there was the Kathy Griffin debacle, of course.

I’m no fan of either Pence or DeVos, but do we really need to voice our dissatisfaction by disrupting every public appearance they ever make? Call their offices; write letters; ask them tough questions when they appear at policy forums (rather than ceremonial events). There is a time and a place for everything.

Well, almost everything. Speech that promotes violence, whether technically protected by the Bill of Rights or not (it varies, depending on the context), is virtually never in good taste and is virtually never necessary, no matter who is speaking about whom.

Liberal friends reading this may retort, “But conservatives’ intolerance is worse!” Yes — but “they’re doing it too!” is a lousy defense of childhood behavior, and an even poorer defense of childish behavior by adults.

5 comments

  1. I’m typically a conservative. Recently, due to liking neither side, I’m moved more to the middle. Not everything liberals do is wrong and not everything conservatives do is right. However, due to the vitriol from both positions, I’ve been shying away from politics, due to chest pains and stomach aches. There seems to be very little decorum. I no longer debate or have conversations about politics.

    Watching the Food Network is ever so much more pleasant and peaceful!


    • Elisa, thanks for the comment. I too am tempted just to ignore politics altogether, since the partisan sniping is so unpleasant…. Yet I believe that we citizens really need to keep paying attention, since — in my opinion — Donald Trump and his allies are doing great harm. Without meaning to sound as intolerant as those I am criticizing, I must say that I do not trust that man one bit, based on factors such as his history of not accepting what most of us accept as objective facts.


  2. Greg, I agree thoroughly. I would like to reduce the level of violence in not only blog posts but also foreign policy and entertainment. For some reason, guns are becoming a frequent component of comedic movies.


  3. I agree with you.


  4. It’s hard to have a discussion when any involved party is shouting instead of talking. This election and its outcome have given many people the chance to feel good about being assholes and that’s sad. On the one hand I am grateful that Americans have the right to assemble peacefully and protest whatever they want. It starts getting over the line when it treads on someone else’s freedom of speech, though. Our rabbi led a pro-refugee protest on our Capitol steps a few months ago which was fine until he and his compatriots started using their hats and any other item to cover up an opposing protester’s sign. The rabbi decided to man up and write an article apologizing for his behavior later that week, something I admire.



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