So finally, so what? What is the big deal? Who really cares? Well, if you are a Trump supporter you likely care as this helped a great deal in getting him elected. He basically, and pardon my graphic description for a moment, gave the tolerance paradox a rather large middle finger over and over. Some talk about PC culture and the like, but all that boils down to this. If you don’t want four more years of Trump, you should care because if it keeps up, and intensifies as it seems to be doing, it will likely happen again. If you care about civil discourse you should care because it is killing that too. If you are a person of faith you should care, because it is ripping us apart. Really, if you are a human being in America you should care.
The paradox of tolerance requires a moral superiority to function. Without it there can be no intolerance of that which is not tolerant. When discussions start from this, they take on an immediate adversarial tone and position. When one speaks from being “tolerant” they have immediately set themselves up as being morally superior to you should you disagree with them. In the form we have now, it has gotten to the point where it is not even about ideas, but specific ways of enacting those ideas. I dare say that there are times that an idea is indeed morally superior of course. For example, if person A were to say “feeding the poor is a good and decent thing to do” and person B were to say “nope, let them die”, person A clearly has a morally superior idea. We should all be able to agree upon that. This is an example of the tolerance paradox that is not only useful, but good and healthy.
For an example of the tolerance paradox being used poorly, let us look to the Nanci Pelosi statement I used earlier as it is both a perfect example and also a recent one.
“Question: But how do Democrats who have the right policies economically. in their minds, how do they reconnect with a middle America who feels like sometimes they are looked down upon because of their faith or their values?
Pelosi Answer: Well, thank you for asking that question because the cultural issue, and especially when it comes to rural America, the isolation that some people feel there, plus they don’t think that Democrats are people of faith, when the fact is that we are. And I say, this will be a little not in keeping with the spirit of the day of unity, but I say they pray in church on Sunday and prey on people the rest of the week, and while we’re doing the Lord’s work by ministering to the needs of God’s creation they are ignoring those needs which is to dishonor the God who made them.”
In this statement Nanci Pelosi makes assumptions about a large swath of America that she can not back up, accuses them of being predatory, and then further claims that they dishonor God…all of this because of the paradox of tolerance. She has turned a simple and reasonable question into an accusation against anyone who disagrees with her view of things. Notice that she didn’t actually answer the question, nor did she do anything to try and reconnect, she simply, empowered by her own moral superiority based upon the paradox of tolerance, shut down that which she must be intolerant of by rather nasty means even.
This is how more and more conversations start and end. Being of the libertarian bent, I have no issue with refusing service to any one for any reason. There are many reasons for that and I’ll happily explain them to anyone who asks. That is a conversation. Name calling, accusations of bigotry (that are unfounded) and the like are a direct result of the paradox of tolerance however as they immediately assume a moral superiority and must then decry my opinion, no matter it’s rationale, as intolerant and invalid. We see this if you believe that homosexuality is a sin, if you happen to think that a repeal of the ACA is in order, even if something is to replace it and potentially work better, if you dare question some of the assertions and language used at the recent woman’s march, if you dare to be pro-life, and really if you dare to not support abortion on demand for nearly any reason at any time, etc. Conservatives are not immune to this either. Try to suggest that nor bombing ISIS is a good idea to someone who staunchly supports it and see what happens for example. Often it is the same sort of thing. It is however much more prevalent on the progressive end of things, and on a much larger variety of issues I think. I could be wrong on that, but that has been my experience. On a personal note I dared suggest that I could be supportive of women’s rights without needing to endorse the foul language, nasty insinuations of incest, and out right lies, given in a speech at the woman’s march. Nearly immediately I was a misogynist. Why? Because the person claiming such, convinced of her own moral superiority, simply has to somehow label as intolerant anything that gives even the slightest push back. It’s funny as I agree with about 90% of what was being marched for if the website is to be believed. Want to support women’s issues? You must be for abortion on demand and apparently be ok with calling the president incestuous and telling lies about the vice president. 90% is not good enough, the paradox of tolerance, taken to it’s end point, simply does not allow for it.
We are locked into a repeating cycle of accusation and defense due to this. We are now on our fourth president in a row that has been in one way or another labeled illegitimate, all based upon this paradox. How long before that fire has enough fuel to be violent? We are now facing the very real possibility of separation of the largest protestant denomination in the US, again based largely upon the paradox. We are now, more fractured than ever as a society, based largely in this paradox. How much damage does it have to do, before we finally use the paradox to be intolerant of the greatest intolerance of all, and cause it to collapse upon itself so that we can return to reasonable discourse? I pray it will not be to much longer and that there will be enough good will remaining so that healing can take place.