posted on Mar, 31 2015 @ 12:07 PM
This is what Indiana Governor Mike Pence said in defense of the discriminatory gay rights bill that he's attempted to introduce.
In making this claim, Pence is saying that religious people should be allowed to have their feelings about gays and should be allowed to act
upon them if they operate and own a place of business by denying gays a right to service.
Here, you can see, is the problem. While it's true that it is impossible to go inside someones head and fix whatevers wrong inside with their
feelings, society very much can and must regulate what is allowed to come into the sphere of action.
But again, we need to understand what 'tolerance' means here. We need to get our terms of reference right if were going to deconstruct what it is
Pence is attempting to convey by asking "does tolerance work both ways?'. Pence is basically likening "feelings". But the feelings were talking
about here are not in anyway shape or form of the same category.
What society means by tolerance is bounded and limited by basic concepts like "peace" and "community". Tolerance in this sense is overcoming those
obstacles that prevent empathic awareness of others, to see them not as some hated-object, but as living, breathing, experiencing subjects just like
you. Tolerance, as it is used in everyday parlance, is designed to improve human well being, in particular, for those classes of humans marginalized
by the power wielded by groups who have come to (irrationally) experience themselves as invulnerable.
The tolerance that society talks about, ultimately, is about peeling back layers of machismo thinking so that people can think more clearly about what
matters in life. And so, instead of erecting conceptual barriers that allow us to hurt other human beings (such as gays being denied service at places
of business) tolerance - properly conceptualized - is about expanding the breadth of human awareness to take in the feelings of the other person, in
consideration, hopefully, of what our behaviors can have on their self-experience.
This, of course, is not what many staunch conservatives mean by 'tolerance'. In their minds, there is a blatant hypocrisy between what 'liberals'
demand i.e. tolerance, and the liberal intolerance of conservative values. "Values' here, is somewhat stereotyped. Conservatives want to keep their
way of talking - because they want to defend their ways of feeling - without acknowledging the real effects their actions will have on other people -
on other nervous systems. And so they live more in the dissociated, truncated meanings of their languages (our values) without appreciating at a real
human level what their actions would do to other people.
In thinking about this, I think it is vital to make a distinction between what conservatives assume tolerance means, and what tolerance means in a
more holistic sense. For them, tolerance isn't so much a move towards acceptance as a reactionary response to liberal motivations. They take the word
liberals blandish, and ask rhetorically "hey, what about tolerating us!?". They think they've 'caught' us in a bind, in a hypocritical position.
However, this isn't the case. "Tolerance", for any person who's considered the idea from a feeling of compassionate awareness, means "what can I
do, what can we all do, to make the world a better place for the most people possible?". The presence of suffering and the sheer gratuity of it - in
the sense of what other people do, selfishly and unmindfully - seems to them to be something that can be corrected by mindfully opposing behaviors
that emerge more out of unacknowledged fears, than as something that objectively and fundamentally deserves to be defended against.
Tolerance in a liberal society means 'tolerating'. Is this toleration of a gay clientele painful for conservatives? Or is it the notion - the
after-the-fact reflection of 'hey, we just served a gay couple', what irks them? Part of the issue with this bill is the sheer superfluity of even
inquiring into other peoples sexual status. What does it matter? Barring inappropriate public sexual behaviors (which can be regulated by places of
business) how two people feel about each other - for this to even be something for a business owner to make an issue of, wreaks, absolutely stinks, of
chauvinistic pretensions to power. If someone is minding their business - and in addition, has offered you their interest in your service - the
proper and more enlightened response in such a situation is not "are you gay?', "but, hey thanks, how can I help you?"