In praise of tol­er­ance

The Hamilton Spectator - - OPINION - Paul Ber­ton

An omi­nous and sin­is­ter wave is rolling across our com­mu­ni­ties, en­gulf­ing our lives, drown­ing our moral­ity. It be­gan as rip­ple and threat­ens us with a tsunami. Its name is in­tol­er­ance.

Anti-Semitic graf­fiti dis­cov­ered in Hamil­ton this week. Van­dal­ism of a Jewish ceme­tery in Mis­souri last week­end. An at­tack on a Que­bec City mosque that left six peo­ple dead last month.

The news is rife with in­ci­dents of racism, sex­ism, ho­mo­pho­bia, xeno­pho­bia and the ap­par­ent in­abil­ity or un­will­ing­ness of hu­man­ity to un­der­stand, ac­cept and ac­com­mo­date our dif­fer­ences, the very thing that has made us the most “suc­cess­ful” species on the planet. The daily litany of In­ter­net trolling, school bul­ly­ing, work­place ha­rass­ment, po­lit­i­cal dou­ble­s­peak, hate speech, abuse, an­tag­o­nism, big­otry, prej­u­dice and evil here in Canada and around the world, is enough to make us all weep.

Un­for­tu­nately, too many of us tol­er­ate it, even cel­e­brate it. This plague is not unique to one group; it in­fects ev­ery com­mu­nity, in ev­ery walk of life, across ev­ery sec­tor of the po­lit­i­cal spec­trum.

Don’t be fooled by those think they are above it all and sim­ply ac­cuse oth­ers; we are all com­plicit be­cause we tol­er­ate in­tol­er­ance.

Many are tar­geted: Asians, blacks, First Na­tions, peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties, immigrants, the LGBTQ com­mu­nity, Mus­lims, Jews, Chris­tians, women ...

Iron­i­cally, they them­selves are guilty of the same tres­passes that are vis­ited upon them. Such prej­u­dices are more ev­i­dent in mul­ti­cul­tural so­ci­eties, but they stretch across the planet, as they have for mil­len­nia.

De­spite many cen­turies of mis­ery, death and de­struc­tion due to this very scourge, we still see our dif­fer­ences are ob­sta­cles rather than op­por­tu­ni­ties.

Politi­cians should be lead­ing the charge to defuse this sim­mer­ing time bomb, but too many are in­stead help­ing to su­per­charge the evil ma­chine for po­lit­i­cal gain. They should be ashamed of them­selves.

Only a gen­er­a­tion ago, their pre­de­ces­sors reg­u­larly found com­mon ground for the ben­e­fit of all amid an en­vi­ron­ment of healthy par­ti­san­ship. Elec­tion losers were celebrated as “the loyal op­po­si­tion” with use­ful ideas rather than crit­i­cized for be­ing “stub­born ob­struc­tion­ists” re­stricted by ide­ol­ogy.

Po­lit­i­cal ac­tivists have no ap­par­ent in­ter­est in con­sid­er­ing al­ter­na­tives or com­pro­mises. Op­po­nents feel they shouldn’t be al­lowed to speak at all. We don’t try hard enough to un­der­stand or ex­plore alternate views, per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ences or un­der­ly­ing causes.

And politi­cians, again, in­sult us all with sim­ple­sound­ing so­lu­tions to com­plex prob­lems.

It is time for com­pas­sion, em­pa­thy, con­sid­er­a­tion and kind­ness to fi­nally erad­i­cate an­tag­o­nism, hos­til­ity, op­po­si­tion and an­tipa­thy.

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