My co-worker is giving me that look again. What intolerant thing did I say? Oh . . . I was talking about abstinence.
I have to remember that some people might be offended with my beliefs. I have to remember to keep my views to myself.
But wait . . . this is America, isn’t it? Don’t I have the freedom and right to proclaim my beliefs? Homosexuals do, feminists do and Muslims do, so why can’t I? Why do I have to be tolerant of everyone else, but I cannot expect anyone to be tolerant of me? Why is it that when my values clash with another’s, I am intolerable?
Let’s examine the word tolerance. The original definition is to accept the right of another person to hold differing views to yours and to respect those people. Under this definition, we are free to live our convictions out loud — to even see our way as the only way — but still understand that we must respect one another. This has allowed most of our communities to co-exist relatively peacefully.
However, over the years, a new, deadly definition of tolerance has slithered into our society.
To be tolerant in today’s world, you must accept everyone’s ideas and lifestyles as equally valid as your own. Furthermore, you must endorse and praise those differing beliefs! If your convictions keep you from doing that, you are therefore intolerant and consequently intolerable.
This mindset is reflected in how our nation became more tolerant toward what used to be viewed as absolute wrongs. According to the National Gallup Poll, 59 percent of Americans viewed premarital sex as morally acceptable in 2007, up from 45 percent in 2002. Also, homosexual relations have grown in acceptance from 40 percent in 2001 to 47 percent in 2007.
If we continue to fail pointing out right and wrong in the name of tolerance, it will lead to a nation without a sense of personal responsibility.
Embracing modern-day tolerance will force us to stand on the premise that there is no right and wrong. Therefore, we have nothing to stand for and fight for. Life is meaningless.
I don’t know about you, but I can’t accept that. I do believe that there is a right and wrong. Being able to find the truth and spread the word is a unique privilege this nation offers.
Tolerance has taken many under its wing, and is silencing those who have “intolerable” convictions. Unless we see that today’s definition of tolerance is intolerant to our primary values and free speech, we will become entangled in a web of fear — the fear of appearing intolerant. Can we reject this poisonous view of tolerance before it’s too late?
Sarah-Jane Fawcett is a 12th-grader at Niskayuna High School.