Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Intolerant of ‘Tolerance’

A politically correct buzzword today is “tolerance.” If enlightened, we’re told, you’re “tolerant” of those whose beliefs and lifestyles differ from your own. Sorry, but use of the term in this way is both a perversion of language and an insult to those it addresses.

Years ago I had an abscessed tooth while attending an important conference. I tolerated the agony until I could stand it no longer and had to seek out a dentist. I didn’t want the pain and got rid of it as soon as possible.

At a coffee shop engaged in a conversation, I may tolerate background music that’s too loud, it, but certainly don’t like it. When I’m in a hurry and stuck in traffic, I’m forced to be tolerant – but every inch of my being hates having to sit still.

Looking at the word another way, in manufacturing, precision parts are made to a very specific, narrow tolerance to function properly. No place here for “broad-minded” engineering.

However, when applied to ideologies and behaviors these days, “tolerance” implies acceptance – even approval. I fully understand the dynamics of language and how words take on different meanings, but “tolerant” actually means reluctantly enduring something, or grudgingly holding your tongue even though you might want to scream to the contrary.

To me, “respect” is a far better, more appropriate term. I may differ with adherents of other faiths, for example, and have strong reasons for disagreeing with them. But I can still respect them, acknowledging their right to hold to an opposing worldview. However, “tolerance” in such an instance sounds more like, “I think you’re stupid. I just won’t say so.”

Not to mention the tolerance advocates that seem utterly intolerant of those that don’t concur with their way of thinking. So forgive my intolerance of “tolerance.”

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