Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Thoughts on Tolerance, Part 1

While I was in the Army, 42 years ago (that's pretty freaky, actually), I was told that because I was a Christian, I was a tolerant bigot. It bothered me. A lot. I was cool with the tolerant part, but I sure didn't like the bigot label. The young man who gave me that label was a bit of an authority figure to me. In his mid 20s, he was MUCH older than I was at 19;, he was a Spec-4 or Spec-5, and I was but a PFC; he had served a tour in Viet Nam, and I was at my first duty station there in Germany. All that conspired to put me a bit in awe of him. That was likely evident, and it gave him license to play with my head a little.
When I spluttered, he explained: I was a bigot, because I regarded my beliefs as being correct, and others as being incorrect; I was tolerant, because I did not attempt to force anyone to believe the things that I did.
"Oh," I thought. "That seems true to me. I must be a tolerant bigot." After a minor (very minor) bit of mulling the thought over, I decided to incorporate that as a part of my identity. Fortunately, after I'd raised the concept in conversation, a dear friend had the extreme kindness to tell me to shut up. And I did, and then pretty much forgot about it, until very recently.
This really isn't about books, but it's books that have raised the issue with me again. There are some authors I have really taken to who have been repeatedly labelled as racist, misogynist, and homophobic. In none of their works have I seen any evidence of that, but in three cases, those claims appear to be based on their religion; two of them are Mormon, and the third Roman Catholic. While I haven't read every word they have written, I've not seen anything by the two Mormon authors that ever initiates a discussion of religion; the Roman Catholic author, in response to a specific, personal accusation of being a homophobe, identifies his beliefs as being consistent with Roman Catholic doctrine. (A side note: these three are not the only authors who have been labelled as RMHers, to coin a phrase, but they are the only ones who I have any indication of flavor of religious belief, if any.)
I think almost everything I say or do is colored by the fact that I am a recovering alcoholic. I've got over 27 years of sobriety now, and I paid for every minute of that with sweat and blood. The intensive self-inventory I had to take to identify my character defects, and to make amends with others, gave me much needed humility, and that in turn has granted me resilience to adversity. The entire program of recovery is based on attraction, rather than promotion, and thus, I have learned how to get along and go along with others. I don't jam my beliefs or practices down the throats of others, but those beliefs and practices are literally a matter of life or death for me. If I do not maintain conscious contact with God, I will sooner or later lose it, and then drink and then die.
Okay, Internet friends, at this point, I have to close Part 1. The reason there is a part 1 and later parts is because I have pneumonia, and the weakness comes upon me and beats my butt. I decided I really need the discipline, now that I have a keyboard again, of publishing daily, but I just can't WRITE long enough. So, stay tuned to this station, and I will take it up again tomorrow. Keep your inhalers at hand ! (umm, no, wait, that's for me, not you. sorry)

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