Changing Meaning of Tolerance, and Its Lack
Joseph Epstein points to the opinion that “racism isn’t systemic, but the absence of fathers in African-American families is,” as one of those views that “the tolerant absolutely won’t tolerate” (“The Tyranny of the ‘Tolerant,’” op-ed, Oct. 10). So true, but aren’t conservatives similarly at fault when it comes to the same view? They almost reflexively blame teachers and teachers unions for bad African-American educational outcomes, while confidently offering up vouchers, tax credits and other government solutions as fixes. But isn’t the real problem once again one defined by an absence of fathers? More than conservatives want to admit, they too aren’t very tolerant of views that don’t square with their deeply held view that the poorly educated are victims of teachers as opposed to victims of mistakes made within their own families.
I couldn’t agree more with Mr. Epstein’s condemnation of how the so-called “woke” insidiously torque the concept of tolerance. But George Washington went even further in a letter he wrote in 1790 to the Touro Synagogue in Newport, Rhode Island, in which he stated: “The Citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for having given mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy: a policy worthy of imitation. All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship. It is now no more that toleration is spoken of, as if it were by the indulgence of one class of people, that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights.”
F. Harvey Popell
Words have meaning, and there is no point to continue to call the hard left “tolerant” even if it is in an ironic or satirical way. The hard left never truly embraced the concept of tolerance as a universal truth. Tolerance as a concept was simply a tool of the left to weaken the Judeo-Christian power structure in the post-World War II half of the 20th century, as that church power structure was for a long time a bastion of the right.
Appealing to tolerance as some kind of universal truth isn’t going to disarm the hard left, and it isn’t productive either, as there are some things that a civilized society should not tolerate. Political violence in the name of “staying woke” is one such thing that doesn’t deserve our tolerance.
Mr. Epstein illustrates a pernicious ploy frequently used by postmodernists. They have hijacked the word “tolerance,” a word of good reputation, and now insist that it means the opposite of what’s in traditional dictionaries. When the unenlightened use the word, they are tricked into appearing to support opinions with which they disagree. The word itself becomes a source of confusion rather than clarity. Our basic ability to communicate is undermined.
Those of us who have been cut off by family, for what they believe our views to be even if we don’t impose or express them, know first hand just how intolerant one side is.
Studio City, Calif.