When people speak of tolerance, a picture of Black, White, Asian, Hispanic, Native American people and the like are all standing in a circle holding hands. However, since the entrance of our new President, the exact opposite has become the daily news. Tolerance has become the victim that has been scapegoated on the altar of hatred and indifference. Since Trump has been in office, there have been at least 261 hate-related incidents. How can one person provoke so much rage? The answer is simple, he can't. The rage has been present far longer than Donald Trump the person has been alive. There are structural issues within American history, where issues of race, misogyny, anti-LGBTQ sentiment have existed. Events like the Civil Rights Movement, the Suffragettes, and StoneWall are moments in our history that have shown the underbelly of America's so-called move toward relativistic tolerance.
The need for tolerance is direct proof that prejudice is still the dominant narrative in America today. The assumed question that underlies this discrepancy is whether or not tolerance is the answer to prejudice. When people speak of tolerance, there is this romanticized expectation that everyone will agree and that in that agreement, harmony will be the natural outcome. Agnosia is the inability to distinguish between objects, shapes, or even people. In an age of Trump, this issue seems to be occurring on a grand cultural scale. With incident after incident arising across television screens of every kind of hatred, the inability to embrace difference seems to be a symptom of the American political system. The tendency, from Leftists, is to assume that the answer is that there is a form of extremism when it comes to identifying the difference in others. However, in reality, what is happening is the tragic loss and powerlessness to distinguish the differences at all.
It's important to remember that infants are not born with prejudice, however, they can be born into an environment that is a host for prejudicial ideology. This distinction tends to be easily forgotten when bipartisan thinking creates an atmosphere of an 'us' versus a 'them'. The simplicity in reducing any issue down to just an 'us' and a 'them' denies the reality that all of life itself cannot be reduced to 'this' or 'that'. Nuances abound. Tolerance essentially does this though, it encourages a quasi-utopian notion of perfect togetherness and harmony. However, if we as a society adopt a creed of tolerance, then it means that we need to also accept ideas, actions, and paradigms that don't fit ours and we might not want to agree with. Idealizing tolerance is the elephant-in-the-room that must be addressed, due to the reality that many Americans will not endorse hatred, bigotry, violence, healthcare dedicated to lining the pockets of the 1%, or an education system designed to make the rich richer. Tolerance can't be that tolerant if it demands that all humans should treat each other with decency, or that life is itself a right, and guns take that right away, for example. Maybe tolerance isn't the answer. There is also another component to the shortcomings of tolerance, properly known as the "paradox of tolerance". This idea clearly states that "Tolerance is a self-contradictory principle.
It is self-contradictory because it is reflexive. That is, as a principle it acts upon itself, or it includes itself in its scope. As a principle, tolerance dictates that we must be tolerant of everything. We cannot pick and choose what we will tolerate and what we will not. If this is so, then tolerance requires us to tolerate even intolerance. Thus, if somebody is preaching or practicing intolerance, the tolerant person cannot, in principle, speak out against what the intolerant person is doing, since speaking out against intolerance would itself be an act of intolerance." In short, if you say you are tolerant and do not tolerate intolerant behavior, you're a hypocrite. Also, in addition to this, if you end up tolerating everything, you then end up with a society where the intolerant behavior could end up being the overarching new narrative that all followers of the government must adhere to. This is how you end up with atrocities like the Holocaust, when you become too tolerant. So, is there a way out of this apparent deadlock? Yes. But, its not being tolerant. It's realizing that tolerance is reliant upon identity tied to freedom and rights. Meaning, when someone aligns who they think they are with whether they are free or not, anytime that freedom is attacked, they then feel attacked themselves. If someone relates being American with being free and either idea is underfire, then they feel like they as a person have just become an unassuming victim of intolerant ideologies. It becomes a circle with no end. The way out is to separate notions like identity from freedom, or identity from being American. To be human should be the first choice we all run to. This is a much better option to a more peaceful America.