Heather Ijames

Saturday, Jul 28 2012 12:00 PM

HEATHER IJAMES: Tolerance, meet the paradoxes of life

By Heather Ijames

Between my husband putting the brakes on a lighter piece I wanted to write, tentatively titled, "Charles vs. the home-invading ants: The ants won," and the fact that I'm seeing a lot of hate speech these days, I wanted to philosophize.

Mainly, about the so-called intolerance of intolerance. At least, that's what I presume I should call it, even though it hurts to utter such an oxymoron. When groups start drawing lines and say, "Hey, in this bubble, where we call the shots, and where we all agree, this is what we call tolerance. You, you are not in the bubble. You vote the wrong way and you support the wrong things. We hate you."

I like to see things in black and white, a yes or no, and on some occasions, all or nothing. So, if someone wants to tell me they practice tolerance, accepting all walks of life, I typically want to smirk. Everyone? Yeah right.

If one practices total tolerance, by the word's very definition, the person would have to be a veritable pushover, apathetic to anything worth taking a stand. There would be no room within themselves to nurture a belief that in and of itself would require the mind to exclude all other possibilities. Thus, when the mind does exclude other options, or when the heart takes a stand for one thing and against all others, even for something as simple as the superior preference of creamy peanut butter over chunky, welcome to the world of not being an apathetic pushover. Welcome to the world of intolerance.

There are things in this world we don't want, which trump the need of all this pretend tolerance. Hatred of others is a top no-no on my list. Yet, in the sake of so-called tolerance, hate is thrown around as some sort of self-perceived ammunition to bombard your opponent. It's that whole, "I hate you because you don't agree with me" mentality. If you start dismissing people because they don't share the same beliefs you bear, make sure you realize you just entered the paradox: You are now intolerant, yourself.

In some regards, intolerance is in our very natures because it at least shows maturity in knowing where to draw lines on one's own convictions. You know, I have some areas of intolerance, myself. You may have guessed this a couple of paragraphs ago, but I think chunky peanut butter is bad. I'm intolerant of it. I even shake my head at people who buy it and then want to ask them if peanut chunks get caught under their tongue, or in the back of their throat. I also don't care for belligerent people; people who think trash cans are optional; people who let doors slam on you when you're only a foot behind them; etcetera, etcetera, my list is long and it gives me a twitch. I go as far as being intolerant of certain behavior -- inasmuch as I wouldn't engage in it myself -- but I won't be hateful. That goes too far.

I'm aware there are graver things to practice tolerance on, more so than peanut butter and annoying people. However, my point is it's not as simple as defining someone as intolerant before adjudging him or her a waste on society. A truer measure in dismissing someone is if they're unable to hold a vicious tongue in the midst of disagreement.

Let's face it, we all think we're pretty clever and informed, thus I'd imagine we'd all be intolerant of checking our belief systems at the door so we can make someone else's day. Perhaps, therefore, we should scrap this label of intolerance and focus on what the real problem is: Stop acting like angry, fit-throwing babies because someone is going to vote different from us this November.

Everyone has their opinions, and everyone has their convictions. Simply because another's convictions don't align with yours doesn't mean they're stupid and you're the poster child of acceptance. I don't want to be found bad-mouthing people because they lead different lives than I do. I don't want to be found spewing death threats based on moral convictions, and I don't want to be found cutting someone down because I want to intimidate them and force feed them my standards.

I mean, is this the new tolerance? Bullying people into submission because you're willing to bring brass knuckles to afternoon tea?

Nah, I pass. I don't want it. Some people bug me, frustrating me with opinions that seem adverse to the way I choose to live my life, but I don't hate them. I won't attack or berate them; I won't write them off simply because we disagree. That would be the real act of wrongdoing here.

-- Heather Ijames is one of three community columnists whose work appears here every Saturday. These are the opinions of Ijames, not necessarily The Californian's. You can send email to her at heatherijames@hotmail.com. Next week: Inga Barks.

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