Friday, June 24, 2011

On tolerance

"Intolerance is just plain old dumb." -- Jeremy Gloff

(An innocuous comment I got from somebody I like and respect a great deal inspired me to write this. I'll apologize right up front if it's too soap box-y. Beyond that, I ain't apologizing for nothin'.)

I'm a heterosexual, Caucasian dude and I have a diverse group of friends, with just about every possible racial and/or gender classification represented, but I'm not a fanatic about that. I couldn't tell you how many gay or black or Hispanic friends I have because that's not the reason they're my friends. My friends are my friends because as far as I'm concerned, at least one thing they have going for them is that they aren't assholes. I don't like assholes. In fact, I hate 'em and I enjoy that.

So for what it's worth, I completely understand the appeal of hating people. Honestly, I do. I can see how hating people could be a lot of fun. Especially when it's a big group kind of deal, with one group of like-minded individuals getting together to hate another one. Then it's a social activity! You get to make and carry signs, wear matching tee shirts and mindlessly chant rhetoric. Plus, there's fresh air and sunshine. I can totally see where people would really enjoy that kind of thing. It's just that for me, well, I prefer to focus my hatred on individuals who are actually a pain in my ass (apply pun as necessary). When it comes to large scale hatred of groups of people who are different from me yet not actually having a negative impact on my life, I don't care. And I don't mean "I don't care" in a high-minded, 'look at me as I pound my fist on a podium, screaming I DON'T CARE in the hope that somebody notices how passionately tolerant I am and gives me a shiny gold medallion with Martin Luther King Jr. on one side and Harvey Milk on the other' way. I mean I just don't care. Let me give you an example. I don't enjoy infomercials on television. But I could be lying on the couch on a Saturday afternoon when some boob comes on to talk about how he's invented the ultimate vacuum cleaner. If I can't reach the remote, I will just lie there and watch him suck up all manner of items that may or may not ever have a chance of being spilled on my carpet until the next time I absolutely have to get up (circumstances that involve at least two of the following: getting food, going to the bathroom or a grease fire). Now, if I'm not willing to put forth the effort to squelch something that's actually annoying me in my own home, what makes you think I have any interest whatsoever in what my neighbors are doing in the privacy of theirs? I guess what I'm saying is that hatred on that level seems like an awful lot of extra work and I'm just too lazy, disinterested and self-centered for it.
Let me give you another example:

(KNOCK! KNOCK! KNOCK!) "Hey Clark, come with us downtown. We're going to protest the homos!"
"Uhhhhh...what time is it?"
"It's like 5:30 in the afternoon. Why aren't you dressed?"
"Uhhhhh...I am dressed. There's an infomercial about vacuum cleaners and..."
"Why don't you have any pants on?"
"Don't judge me."
"Look, just come on. These dirty homos, they want to get married to each other and teach our kids in school and join the military. We're going to yell and carry signs, maybe even get arrested! Here's a tee shirt. Put on some pants and let's go."
"Wow, that sounds like a whole...thing. And I'm not sure I'm into it. Let me ask you this: on what level will this impact me, as an individual?"
""Well, it's more that we feel that their existence is threatening our beliefs and our way of life..."
"Yeah, I'm not sure what that means. Are you trying to change their minds and make them turn straight? Do you want them to move back to Mexico? Do you want them rounded up and kept in concentration camps? I don't think any of those things will happen. Also, none of the things you just mentioned would seem to have me ending up in bed with some other dude and that's really the only concern I have. Is the expectation that if they aren't 'stopped' from doing something or other or whatever it is you're hoping to accomplish, that I will be somehow legally required to have sex with men? And if so, how exactly would that work? Would there be a new government office in charge of arbitrarily pairing us off or would I at least have some sort of say in who the dude is, or dudes are? Because I can tell you without even thinking hard about it that facial hair is going to be a potential deal-breaker for me."
"And penis size. Major, major concerns there."
"Right. I can tell you haven't thought this through. Like, at all. So I'm going back to bed. Leave me and the homos alone, please."

Please note, this is just an illustration of why I don't personally get involved in hatred. It doesn't mean I condone the hateful actions of others. On the contrary. I'm very devoted and loyal to the individuals who are my friends and I don't appreciate it when they're harmed or even threatened. If you're somebody doing this to people I care about, you're an asshole and I hate you...but strictly as an individual. Hey, fair is fair. 


RottenMom said...

First, this is why I adore you.

In light of recent homophobic hateful comments made by an entertainer and the promise of a "christian" hate group to picket a Memorial service of another entertainer, this subject has been floating around our home all week. It's a hard job trying to explain to your children how some humans can have so much hate in their hearts.

Additionally, you should know, that my husband has done a few informercials. What can I say? The pay was too good to say no to when you have a kid going to NYU in the fall.

Why, it's Clark! said...

Thank you : )
And don't get me wrong; I don't have a problem with the existence of infomercials...and a gig is a gig...I just don't enjoy watching them. Well, except that one with a hungry Mr. T. That is pretty entertaining.

Native Mom said...

When she was in first grade, my daughter asked me "What's a Lesbian?" In a language I thought she might understand I say "It's a lady who falls in love and marries another lady." I can tell she doesn't quite understand. "Well this afternoon on the playground Tommy was playing with us girls so the other boys called him a lesbian." Well, I told her, you can go on back and tell those boys they are wrong. Only girls can be called Lesbians. Boys are called Gay. Your classmates are really stupid.