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Aug 09 2012

Bristol Palin’s perversion of tolerance

When people feel the need to state explicitly how “tolerant” they are, it’s usually a sign that something is amiss. Such is the case with Bristol Palin’s recent blog post, where she declares that she would have no problem with a gay dance partner, but laments that others are unwilling to extend the same tolerance to certain Christian beliefs:

In their simplistic minds, the fact that I’m a Christian, that I believe in God’s plan for marriage, means that I must hate gays and must hate to even be in their presence. Well, they were right about one thing: there was hate in that media room, but the hate was theirs, not mine. …

Look, my responsibility is pretty darn clear: to treat people as I would like to be treated, to be gracious, and – yes – to uphold and advance my Christian principles in all that I do. Would I want a gay dancer to refuse to dance with me because of my beliefs? Why would I refuse to dance with a gay man because of his?

To the Left, “tolerance” means agreeing with them on, well, everything. To me, tolerance means learning to live and work with each other when we don’t agree – and won’t ever agree.

At first glance, this seems like a pretty straightforward example of tolerance: I accept you, can’t you accept me? The problem is that, in this case, the ideal of tolerance is being used to call for inaction in the face of intolerance. Palin implicitly parallels two instances of tolerance – the first is simply tolerating the existence and presence of gay people; the second is tolerating the belief that the defining feature of gay people, as embodied in their relationships, is immoral and should be legally treated as unequal.

These are clearly quite different things. Under a meaningful understanding of what tolerance is, there are indeed some beliefs that are simply unacceptable – indeed, they are intolerable. Think about it: Is there any belief that you would consider so unreasonable and inhumane that passively tolerating it, and remaining silent in the face of it, would be more unacceptable to you than speaking out and letting it be known that you’re not okay with that? For instance, do you see no difference between women voting and those who would act to prevent them from voting, or gay people holding a parade and those who would seek to suppress them by violence, or women wearing the clothes of their choice and those who demand they be cloaked in veils, or gay people merely existing and others who want to execute them? At what point do you recognize that such things are not just two sides of one coin, not just an innocuous difference of opinion, and plainly not the same?

If you can acknowledge that it is possible for certain beliefs to be so troubling that you cannot accept them, then you can understand that this is only a matter of where we draw that line. And many of us draw the line at the belief that gay people’s love is immoral and should be legally unrecognized. If our commitment to tolerance has any teeth to it, then advocating tolerance of gay people necessarily precludes being okay with such anti-gay beliefs. After all, if someone claimed to tolerate your own beliefs, how much would that really mean to you if they never spoke out in protest when others called for such homophobic Christian speech to be criminalized? Such an obligation to object should at least be familiar on a conceptual level to Christians, who have often claimed that “loving” someone demands that we tell them the unvarnished “truth” about the supposed sinfulness of their sexuality.

Calling for tolerance, at the most basic level and regardless of the specifics of what we believe ought to be tolerated, means advocating one approach to beliefs and expressions over another. A kind of universal “tolerance” that says literally anything is okay negates that, and as a result, it’s barely even coherent or distinct as a position. At most, it has all the force of “I think this might be a good idea, but, you know… whatever.” If you think that tolerance of you or your beliefs is at all important, then realize that tolerance needs to be more compelling than that. Tolerance doesn’t mean agreeing with “the Left” – it means, at a minimum, agreeing that tolerance should actually stand for something. And if you expect to be admired for your tolerance, then espousing a position that amounts to “I’m so tolerant, I’ll never let anyone know I disapprove of prejudice against minorities!” isn’t the best way to make that happen.

21 comments

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  1. 1
    gshelley

    Look, my responsibility is pretty darn clear: to treat people as I would like to be treated

    I wonder if that includes letting them marry the person they choose to marry?

  2. 2
    Worldtraveller

    I haven’t looked, but let me guess….she doesn’t allow comments on her blog?

    1. 2.1
      Darklady

      She does allow comments, but I’m sure they’re heavily edited, just like her mom’s Facebook page and the Conservatives4Palin site. Hate is allowed so long as it’s directed at progressives.

      The thing I wish people would make sure to mention is that BRISTOL DOES NOT WRITE HER BLOG.

      The girl can barely order drive-thru, but we’re supposed to believe she’s written these blog posts and not Nancy French, her ghostwriter?

      The Palins are so phony and undeserving of praise that it just hurts to watch.

  3. 3
    smrnda

    Bristol Palin takes the most empty, meaningless gestures of ‘tolerance’ and then asks for points for that, while openly agreeing that these people she allegedly ‘tolerates’ should have less rights than she does.

    Some viewpoints are inherently intolerant, while others are tolerant. Wanting diminished rights for others cannot be ‘tolerant’ and so should not be tolerated.

    1. 3.1
      Darklady

      The message is essentially that the victims of bullying should shut the hell up and accept it.

      Meanwhile, the Palins make big bank of playing the victim and whining constantly about how put upon they are by the mean ole progressives of the world.

  4. 4
    aleph squared

    Look, my responsibility is pretty darn clear: to treat people as I would like to be treated

    Exactly. You want to be treated as a human being with the right to love who you want and marry who you want, so you should treat homosexual people the same fucking way.

    Universal tolerance is a logical impossibility at the outset. For then we must be tolerant of intolerance. But if we tolerate intolerance, then we tolerate that which contradicts what we aim for, which is universal tolerance. QED

  5. 5
    Arancaytar

    the fact that I’m a Christian, that I believe in God’s plan for marriage, means that I must hate gays and must hate to even be in their presence.

    No, it just means that even if you don’t hate them enough to be physically revolted, you want to deny them basic human rights.

    It’s not so much a perversion, as truly tolerance in the classic sense: Tolerating the presence of people you think are fundamentally less worthy.

  6. 6
    Coragyps

    It’s pretty bizarre that anyone could care what Bristol says about anything. Even more so because, had her mother been any species of celebrity other than Rightwinga religiosus, she would have been universally condemned by others of that species as a slutty nasty unwed mother. Exactly how the hell does she get to say “I believe in God’s plan for marriage” anyway? She would have been stoned to death under God’s Plan for Marriage v.1.0, nu?

  7. 7
    eggbert

    Replace instanes of the word “gay” with “black” and we see why this is dangerous thought. Seems a lot like argunents againts integration. Pretty big of her to be ok touching a gay person *eye roll*

    Sorry for the typos!

  8. 8
    Buffy

    Karl Popper is always the best response to those “why won’t you tolerate my intolerance” types:

    “Unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance. If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them… We should therefore claim, in the name of tolerance, the right not to tolerate the intolerant. We should claim that any movement preaching intolerance places itself outside the law, and we should consider incitement to intolerance and persecution as criminal, in the same way as we should consider incitement to murder, or to kidnapping, or to the revival of the slave trade, as criminal.”

  9. 9
    Damien Otis

    This is wonderful!

  10. 10
    F [i'm not here, i'm gone]

    Bristol, it isn’t about whether or not you would dance with a gay man, it’s about gay men being free to dance with each other.

    And if you think both of these are OK, then no one is going to have a problem with your beliefs which don’t negatively impact others. “The Left” gives you shit for that? Really?

    Of course, anyone is free to agree or disagree with your beliefs, and vocal disagreement isn’t intolerance.

  11. 11
    Aliasalpha

    Interesting that she (or at least her writer) states that she has no problem dancing with a strictly hypothetical gay man rather than a gay woman…

  12. 12
    StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return!

    Highlighting the major difference between ‘tolerance’ and ‘acceptence’ conceptions.

    Also wondering what Bristol Palin would do if a lesbian (or trans) lass approached her as a dance partner now..

    Wonders too if that experiment has been / should be tried ..

  13. 13
    had3

    “I had a choice to have an abortion or not, and I respect the choice any woman would make regarding that matter.” ….and other examples of Bristol’s tolerance.

  14. 14
    jenny6833a

    Karl Popper is alleged above to have written:

    “Unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance. If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them… We should therefore claim, in the name of tolerance, the right not to tolerate the intolerant. We should claim that any movement preaching intolerance places itself outside the law, and we should consider incitement to intolerance and persecution as criminal, in the same way as we should consider incitement to murder, or to kidnapping, or to the revival of the slave trade, as criminal.

    It seems to me that Popper is going around in circles, as is everyone here who agrees with Popper, which appears to be Zinnia and everyone else here. After all, criminal acts imply criminal sanctions, and such sanctions amount to persecution of the person who performs an act that has been declared criminal.

    So Popper is really saying, “… we should consider incitement to intolerance and persecution as deserving intolerance and persecution.”

    Does he really mean, for example, that advocates of penalties for murder should be declared intolerant and immediately penalized?

    So who decides, or on what basis does a society decide, which types of intolerance and persecution are justified? Most of us, I suspect, would agree with Popper that that it’s OK to persecute those who engage in “incitement to murder, or to kidnapping, or to the revival of the slave trade.”

    But why?

    The usual answer revolves around the concept of tangible harm. I agree that refusing equal rights to gays tangibly harms them. But does allowing equal rights for gays tangibly harm those who believe, on whatever basis, that homosexual activity is wrong?

    Jefferson regarded ‘harmless’ as that which neither picked his pocket nor broke his leg; that is, harm had to be physical or financial. Yet American society has never accepted that idea. We have had, and still have, a huge number of laws that criminalize and thus persecute those who offend others’ cultural or moral opinions without doing any degree of Jeffersonian ‘harm.’

    Until Zinnia and the rest of you convince me that you have a reliable way of deciding when it is and when it isn’t OK to persecute others, I find myself unable to follow Popper’s argument or any of the others in this thread.

    1. 14.1
      logicpriest

      Look, it is very, very simple. Intolerance of harmful beliefs is ok. Intolerance based on the denial of rights and privileges for a CLASS of people, that is any identity based group of human beings is not to be tolerated. Just like crimes, you can only be penalized for actions (theoretically) and not for your type of existence.

      Hopefully you really meant it when you said you could be persuaded, but I find that most people who say that don’t really mean it.

      NB: beliefs that an identity based group are not deserving of rights is, in and of itself, not an identity.

      1. jenny6833a

        Look, it is very, very simple. Intolerance of harmful beliefs is ok.

        What about non-harmful beliefs? Who decides which is which? Perhaps you meant to say, “Intolerance of beliefs is ok.”

        Intolerance based on the denial of rights and privileges for a CLASS of people, that is any identity based group of human beings is not to be tolerated. Just like crimes, you can only be penalized for actions (theoretically) and not for your type of existence.

        I suggest that you need to 1) clean up the logic of that presentation, and 2) provide a careful definition of “a CLASS of people, that is any identity based group of human beings.”

        It sounds to me like you’re saying that being gay defines a class of people, a “type of of existence,” but that gay sex is an action that can legitimately be penalized. Similarly, if I understand what you wrote, it would be OK to believe in some god, but that going to church and/or praying is an action that it’s OK to penalize.

        Maybe I misunderstand. Clarification might help.

        1. M can help you with that.

          You’re totally right — Bristol Palin is being completely tolerant when she pushes to restrict my rights, criminalize my love life, etc. It would be intolerant for me to expect equal treatment under the law. My eyes are opened!

          …or maybe, just maybe, making ethical distinctions requires some grounding in reality instead of solipsistic reactionary ideology.

        2. smrnda

          Could you please explain how a person who does not believe in gay marriage would be harmed by a same sex couple being married? You seem to be trying to make a case that there is no clear way to determine whether or not an action is harmful and that therefore there is no standard by which some should be restricted and others shouldn’t.

    2. 14.2
      smrnda

      It seems like, with your invocation of Jefferson, you’ve already found someone who had a pretty reliable standard for when something is ‘harmful’ and when it’s not. American society hasn’t accepted this idea since it’s been full of bigoted shits who like to piss on people just for not being in line with their own narrow beliefs on how to behave.

      The idea that Popper is going around in circles is just a standard tactic used to argue that there’s no meaningful way to distinguish a tolerant belief from an intolerant one. Popper would argue that murder is an actual action which harms someone, and should be illegal. Harm is pretty easy to sort out, and pretending it isn’t is just a diversionary tactic.

      Allowing equal rights for gays ‘harms’ people who oppose them the same way that ending Jim Crow ‘harmed’ prejudiced white people – it forced them to stop using their power to be shits to another group of people. Having to co-exist with people you don’t like or have biases against isn’t an imposition, but people who oppose gay marriage seem to think it is, yet at the same time they don’t feel like the rest of us having to put up with their religions getting tax-exempt status is somehow not an imposition on us.

      Any action that would deny full citizenship to any group of people is intolerant and shouldn’t be tolerated. Is the belief that women should not have the right to vote and that women should both equally tolerant beliefs? If you can figure that out, then you can pretty much figure out what’s tolerant and what’s not.

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