Sandra at the beach

5 10 2008

There were some interesting comments about ‘tolerance’ in the Fray at XX Factor (Slate.com), 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.