I have met a lot of different kinds of people in my travels. I grew up with Kansas farmers. I helped out in my grandfather’s Mom-and-Pop grocery store in Oklahoma City. I attended public elementary and intermediate schools in the days when my fellow students were all white, making my first black friends in high school. I lived in a hippie commune. I worked in the construction business. I was an electrical engineer for a number of years, working with technicians and other engineers of different backgrounds, races, and ethical persuasions. I taught classes in a junior college, in four-year colleges, and grad schools, each with diverse student bodies. I worked as a stock clerk for a car-loan company. I attended church services regularly for many years and sang in the choirs. I have been a member of a theater group comprising actors, dancers, and singers of many different types of people.
Some of the people I met were unabashed racists, but not many. I ran into a few men that disrespected women, but not many. There were others that hated foreigners, but, again, not many. Some folks had nothing good to say about the government, but they didn’t turn down their subsidies or their Social Security. And there were some people that believed that the world was changing too much or too fast and was going to hell in a hand basket. There were some, though not many, who believed so fervently in their religious tenets that they felt that everyone else should adhere to them, too. I found some form of intolerance to be always present, no matter the situation: whether construction site or university; church or commune; theater or farm community.
Although I was concerned that these displays of intolerance went against the rules of human decency that I had been taught, I was never terribly concerned that they would impact my life in any significant way. Racism was on the decline, I thought. Women were gaining the equality of which they had long been deprived, I thought. Americans were increasingly aware of how immigration strengthened our nation, I thought. Technology was improving everyone’s lives, I thought. Intolerance was on the run, I thought.
I thought wrong.
Individually, these intolerant populations never had much impact on elections, but when a single candidate espoused so many intolerant views, all these groups combined managed to elect as president a man who I believe is totally unfit for that office.
So now I must face my own areas of intolerance: I am intolerant of people who are willfully ignorant, who refuse to accept facts and thrive on rumors. I am intolerant of zealots of all stripes, who won’t or can’t understand the need for compromise. I am intolerant of anyone who claims that ends justify means. I am intolerant of people incapable of empathy with the disadvantaged. I am intolerant of people who exploit the weak, the poor, the uneducated, (or anyone, for that matter) for their personal gain or profit. I am intolerant of those who believe that they are more entitled to privilege than anyone else. I am intolerant of anyone who twists laws to cheat others of their rights.
I can’t help but feel that my own areas of intolerance are more righteous than those I oppose, and I can only hope that others like myself will soon be able to choose leaders who feed our own intolerant views.