“I am Canadian,
free to speak without fear,
free to worship in my own way,
free to stand for what I think is right,
free to oppose what I believe is wrong,
or free to choose those who shall govern my country.
This heritage I pledge to uphold for myself and all mankind.”
-John Diefenbaker, (1895-1979) Prime Minister of Canada
I live in a country which, for the most part, embraces the diversity of cultures. We embrace the thoughts of many cultures, their people, and their ideas. Many communities, big and small, learn to tolerate and learn from the ideals that new residents from other nations or simply a different province may bring. No country will ever be perfect in their embrace of our new world diversity, and that may be due to our developing fear of opinions and ideals.
Unfortunately that diversity and respect is being threatened. Many provinces are examining and bringing forward legislation that will limit the rights of religious freedoms, elections are growing continuously more hateful, and citizens’ struggle to find their voice within the crowd of growing protests.
There is a serious problem that comes as a result of ignoring citizens rights in our countries according to one belief in our charter, and yet simply ignoring the right of another group to say “no.” It is important to understand that the separation of Church and State implies a line drawn between both sides. State should not interfere with the religious freedom of an individual or group. As long as the protest is done in a respectful way, is it wrong to protest an ideal or moral decision of another?
Our new culture has brought some interesting changes to words and their previous meaning. Although I am sure it is not just our day and age where this has happened, it has become apparent in the way we approach each other and our different ideas.
We have become so politically correct that we are often afraid to disagree with our friends. This fear has made it so we are no longer embracing the diversity in our beliefs and our ideals. If we do not agree with the popular public opinion, then a person may be painted as an individual who promotes hate or rejects that diversity. I have found this to be far from the truth, as I have often disagreed with many issues in a compassionate way.
When these issues arrive it may be easier to accept the opinion you may disagree with, and remove yourself from the discussion. However, is the easier road always correct in these circumstances? I would believe that if we all followed this pattern and use our tolerance as acceptance, than many changes in the past would simply not have happened. It is the very nature of not accepting an idea that allows true knowledge to prosper.
The difficulty with tolerance being transformed into acceptance is simple. As suggested by Martin Luther King Jr. (See: “The Ways Of Meeting Oppression”) by sacrificing our own ideals to accept the idea of another we are placing the opposing idea ahead of your own. You can be tolerant of an idea and still disagree. Tolerance never has been, and never will be the same as acceptance.
What if your friend asked for your opinion on cherry pie? What if you did not enjoy cherry pie? Would you not be offended if they then suggested that you were wrong for not accepting cherry pie as the greatest of desserts? It would be your desire to see tolerance of this opinion or moral choice. By this action your friend would effectively be showing the disrespect–and no tolerance–towards your opinion. Your friend may tolerate the fact you do not agree with his love of Cherry Pie, but does not need to accept it.
My question to those who may be involved in these issues: Why has it become increasingly difficult to show the same tolerance to others that you rightfully demand? Respect is not something that is given out freely, it must be earned by every individual. If you demand to be respected and your opinion to be tolerated; then you will be expected to show the same actions towards the opposing side.
As someone who is frightfully aware of the dangers of smoking; I frequently speak out against young people smoking, and the risk they are adding to their health by continuing this habit. However, I will still show this person the respect and tolerance for their habit. I respect their right to choose, even though I fundamentally disagree with this habit knowing the facts we do today.
Regardless of what the issue is cherry pie or something more serious such as a governmental budget, it is important to realize tolerance must be observed on both sides. You cannot expect someone to show you the same love and compassion for disagreement with Smoking, if you do not show the same for the fact that they do not agree with the issue. You may disagree, but compassion for every individual is something that we all should strive for.
There may also be times when you have to be vocal in your disagreement. Perhaps someone is suggesting that harming another person is appropriate for a situation at work, in their personal life, or at school. Please never let that be tolerated or accepted. Harmful actions and words need to be avoided in all situations, your debate should not involve harming another emotionally or physically in any case. If someone is threatening you or another person, do not tolerate that action. Act compassionately and with respect, but make sure it is known that this is not acceptable.
In essence, tolerance often comes down to respecting another person’s opinion and their ability to reason and choose for themselves. Is it possible for that choice to be wrong? Of course. But we may only persuade a person so far before they must make a choice in what they believe or act upon. You may simply have to lead the person to that truth (or what is right) and allow them to make that decision for themselves. However, they will also need to be accepting of the consequences that may follow.
It is easy enough to demand tolerance when we speak. As Aristotle once said: “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” Will you be able to show tolerance for an argument you disagree with? By participating respect for an opposing view–even if their views may go against public opinion of the day–you will be practicing tolerance. I pray that we will all come to a point where tolerance and compassion is shown to every person and their position, not just to those who follow the main political or moral ideals of the time.