Sandra at the beach

5 10 2008

There were some interesting comments about ‘tolerance’ in the Fray at XX Factor (, in response to posts by Abby Collard (Oct 3) and EJ Graff (Oct 4). Neither Collard nor Graff thought tolerance was sufficient; Collard wrote that

Tolerance is widely accepted as an admirable virtue, but it still feels cheap to me. Essentially what Palin is saying is that she puts up with homosexual couples. There’s no approval there, no acceptance, just respectful disregard. The difference between “tolerance” and “acceptance” is like the difference between looking the other way and actively supporting something. Her tolerant speech doesn’t mean she supports, or even approves of, homosexuality. It means she just doesn’t act out against it.

Well, yeah. And maybe that’s all that can be expected from someone who thinks there’s something wrong with homosexuality. A number of Fraysters echoed Collard & Graff’s unhappiness with the tolerance, but Wren W noted that, given all of our differences, tolerance may be the best we can get. Although I disagree with a number of the opinions Wren expresses in her (his?) comment, I think she’s right that those who despair of tolerance do so because they seek something more: approval and acceptance (which is what Collard wrote, above).

So. Those of us who are pro-queer or are queer want those who are not to accept and approve of LGBT folk. This is not unreasonable. But it may be unreasonable to expect those opposed to accept and approve. Yes, we should act to expand acceptance, but that we have to act ought to signal that not everyone does approve of homo-, bi-, and transsexuality. Hell, until very recently it was quite acceptable to denounce gays and lesbians as contemptible perverts. What does Sarah Palin really believe, in her hockey-lovin’ heart? I don’t care—but I sure as hell do care about her behavior, that she not ‘act out against’ gays and lesbians. I prefer politicians who are pro-gay rights, but I’ll take a ‘tolerant’ politician over a hateful one any day.

Now, this is all complicated somewhat by the fact that Palin is an elected official, and a candidate for even higher office. She is in a position of ‘power over’, so a discussion of what she as a politician tolerates is a different matter than what a fellow citizen, who is my equal, tolerates. Still, there are two similarities:

One, I have low expectations of accord amongst a mixed crowd. I see us as working our way ‘up’ to tolerance, rather than falling ‘down’ to it. In other words, I begin from a position of conflict rather than comity.

Two, while I may accept that tolerance is the most I can expect from strangers, I wouldn’t be friends with someone who merely tolerated me. That is, in moving through the world, it is enough for others to tolerate me, to not act against me, but with friends, more is expected.

That, after all, is why they’re friends: Because I can expect more.

Yes, there’s more to be said. But this was worth a quick hit.



One response

6 10 2008

I used to be more of an approval-demanding, San Francisco-style “tolerance is not enough” person… but then I came to New York. San Francisco is extremely homogenous and always has been, in a way that New York has never been, at least from the time the first Europeans settled here, and maybe earlier (wasn’t the island of Manhattan shared by several Indian tribes?). Especially when I read “The Island at the Center of the World,” I was very impressed by the Dutch notion of tolerance: I think your religion is bullshit, your way of life is ridiculous, and your wife is ugly, but that doesn’t prevent us from having a business relationship.

This makes sense to me, whether the end relationship is a business one, or political, or being neighbors, or whatever. Because if you’re wanting all humans to link hands and sing the same song, well, it’s NEVER going to happen. I for one don’t want it to happen.

As for wanting more than tolerance from my friends – maybe. I’m finding as I get older that I am more tolerant than I thought I could be. I can be friends with someone even if there are one or two things about them I really don’t like or even actively disapprove of, because they have other qualities that shine brighter, and because everyone has faults and blind spots, including me. But I agree, that if a person only tolerates something that I feel is the very core of my being, it’s going to be much harder to feel close to that person, and trust them.

Or maybe I’ll be there in another 10 years.

As for Palin’s remark about being just fine with homosexuals existing, or however she said it – can we just do a little dance of rejoicing, that we’ve come so very far? A pro-“life” Creationist VP-candidate saying on television that the queers are okay by her? One of the many things that frustrated me about SF was the lack of patience and appreciation for progress. People can change, but it’s hard. Militant people might have a lot to do with that change happening at all, and maybe they can’t stop to appreciate the process, but the rest of us can.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: