Tolerance includes putting up with things you find disagreeable

graffit

One of the more disheartening aspects of the “tolerance” crowd is that some members are rather intolerant when faced with opinions that differ from their own.

Take Morgan Clendaniel, the editor of the online website Co.Exist, owned by business magazine Fast Company.

While Wikipedia describes Co.Exist’s mission as covering innovation-related topics, the name carries with it the concept of co-existence, which suggests mutual tolerance despite different ideologies or interests.

Clendaniel would appear to be among those who believe co-existence is great – until a viewpoint they disagree with comes along.

Consider a recent piece by Clendaniel titled “While We’re Doing The Flags, Here Are Some Other Confederate Things We Should Get Rid Of”.

In it, he writes, “… the reach of the Confederacy – and the almost-insane tone-deafness of organizations and politicians who celebrate its history – goes well beyond the flag and hides in other insidious ways throughout the region.”

In a nutshell: Clendaniel really, really, really doesn’t like Jefferson Davis, who served as the president of the Confederate States of America.

Clendaniel begins by taking to task social fraternity Kappa Sigma for having “one – and only one – honorary member: Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederacy, racist, and traitor to America.”

Kappa Sigma made the mistake of wishing Davis Happy Birthday in 2013 on its national website. The fraternity was also castigated by Clendaniel for recently welcoming a new member and identifying him as the great-great grandson of the Confederate leader.

The fact is that most anyone born in the 19th century would be considered a racist by 21st century standards. Davis, Abraham Lincoln, Robert E. Lee, Ulysses Grant, William T. Sherman, etc., ad infinitum. Who knows how our own views will stand up to the test of time?

As for Davis being a traitor, the Founding Fathers would also fall into that category – certainly the British saw them in that light.

Next up on Clendaniel’s hit list is US Senator Thad Cochran. Cochran, who represents Mississippi in Congress, has come out in favor of his state changing its flag to remove the Confederate battle flag in its corner. However, that’s not enough for the Co.Exist editor:

“ … when the senator goes to the U.S. Senate chamber, he sits at a desk that was once used by Jefferson Davis, when Davis was a senator from Mississippi, before he betrayed his country by leading a breakaway republic based on maintaining the institution of slavery,” he writes.

Clendaniel is also irate because Cochran “spearheaded a Senate resolution in 1995 that officially makes Davis’s desk the desk of the senior senator from Mississippi. Thad Cochran made a law that he has to have the desk used by the President of the Confederacy.”

Finally, Clendaniel takes on Stone Mountain, which features 190-foot tall likenesses of Davis, Lee and Stonewall Jackson.

“It’s in a park owned by the state of Georgia, which also features a replica of a working plantation and other tourist attractions. The park is on Robert E. Lee Boulevard,” he writes. “Just in case you think the potential racism of a memorial like this is merely symbolic, you should know that the monument was an official gathering place for the KKK for many years, where they burned crosses and held rallies. Now there are laser shows “to honor our troops” that are projected on the monument to three men who spent years fighting and killing American soldiers.”

Clendaniel is among those who have no intention of stopping at erasing the Confederate flag from public view.

He concludes his articles thus: “The flags are an excellent first step. The statues and monuments may be next. But Confederate ephemera has seeped deeply into the institutions of the South, and even the whole country, in much more subtle ways than just flying a flag. It will take a long time, and a lot of effort, to root it out.”

There’s been a great deal written about the place of Confederate symbols in American life in recent weeks. Some, such as Andy Hall’s piece looking at the controversial idea of moving Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest’s body from a Memphis, Tenn., park and Craig Swain’s post pondering calls to remove Confederate monuments, including one in his home area, are well-considered and thoughtful.

Others, not so much.

I’ve always found much to admire in the adage “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.” Today, there appears to be a growing segment of the populace that not only is unwilling to defend the rights of others to hold differing views, but is adamant that those individuals be forced to conform, either through shame or coercion.

Why does the argument over Confederate memorials matter? Because whether one approves, disapproves or is indifferent to the actions of Confederate States of America, it’s part of our shared, common history.

Just as importantly, there is something very totalitarian about purging monuments and symbols that have fallen from political favor. And once you start down that slippery slope there’s no telling where it will lead.

(Top: Charleston Monument to Confederate soldiers who died at Fort Sumter during the Civil War, defaced last month.)

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32 thoughts on “Tolerance includes putting up with things you find disagreeable

  1. Well-said indeed, CBC. I just finished ‘Go Set A Watchman’ last night- and my overwhelming sense as I finished it was about Harper Lee’s wisdom and prescience, both. The themes she examined in the novel yet resonate- and demonstrate that our contextual history isn’t something that can be succinctly divided into any sort of dichotomy of right/wrong or good/evil (you know how much I despise the latter).

    Lots to think about- and ‘thinking’ is required. There’s been far too much reacting without thought to context or consequence, lately.

    • Thank you, Cole. I haven’t had a chance to read Harper Lee’s new work, but am interested in it. Your review further piques my interest.

      All this reaction of late reminds me of the saying “Act in haste, repent at leisure.”

      Take care.

  2. Very well stated.

    “I’ve always found much to admire in the adage “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.”

    As have I. Or, as I heard elsewhere recently: “The only speech needing defense it that which is offensive or disagreeable.”

    • Thanks, Richard. I don’t know if the inability to civilly discuss and accept that others may hold ideas contrary to one’s own accepted views is a sign of insecurity or simple lack of cognitive abilities. There’s a lot of foolishness I hear being spouted on a regular basis; that doesn’t mean I believe those doing the spouting should be muzzled.

  3. “Just as importantly, there is something very totalitarian about purging monuments and symbols that have fallen from political favor. And once you start down that slippery slope there’s no telling where it will lead.”

    So, under your paradigm the Germans should NOT have purged Nazi symbols, statues and other memorials from Germany after WWII?

    Certainly the Nazi’s purged society and the public square when they took control and we all will agree that was wrong. Was the purging of Nazi memorabilia wrong?

    My point being that simply because something was in political favor and one time should not confer protection upon it in perpetuity.

    • Equating the Confederates with Nazi Germany is a poor analogy. Nazi symbols were put up during the war as a means to assert Nazi authority. They were pulled down immediately after the war by those who had been invaded or persecuted by the Nazis, had their homes and cities laid waste by the Nazis and had seen hundreds of thousands or, in some cases, millions of their countrymen killed by the Nazis.

      I would agree with your assertion that not everything once in favor deserves perpetual protection: the Nazis – and the Stalinist Soviets – fall into their own category by virtue of being responsible for the deaths of millions. They forfeited the right to the protection of their monuments.

      • “They were pulled down immediately after the war by those who had been invaded or persecuted by the Nazis, had their homes and cities laid waste by the Nazis and had seen hundreds of thousands or, in some cases, millions of their countrymen killed by the Nazis.”

        Some, but certainly not all. However, the Germans completed the task in the years after 1945 for the most part on their own. Today the symbols of the Nazi regime are illegal in modern Germany.

        When we celebrate the CSA and its armies here in SC are we celebrating the men who fought and died? Can we celebrate them while ignoring the cause for which they fought? While they and the times in which they lived and fought deserve to be remembered do they deserve celebration?

      • Again, the analogy between the Nazis and Confederates is a non-sequitur. The Confederates didn’t erect monuments to themselves, citizens of Southern states did.

        It is almost certain that not all Southern citizens were in favor of lauding Confederate soldiers, but no individual or group of individuals is without detractors.

        “Can we celebrate them while ignoring the cause for which they fought?”
        I hope you’re not suggesting that the entire war was fought simply over slavery. It was a conflict with several causes, including slavery. And, yes, we can honor the men who fought, particularly those who defended their homes and families, even if slavery was an unfortunate aspect of Southern life.

        No society is free from warts; if you want to save the monuments for saints you’re going to have a landscape without memorials.

      • It was the economics of slavery and political control of that system that was central to the civil war. Any argument for other “causes”, when driven back to their foundations, will find slavery and the economics of slavery as its cornerstones.

      • Slavery was definity crucial to the war, but I struggle with labeling it as the sole defining cause because it a) legal; and b) there was an amendment introduced in 1861 that would have ensured the legality of slavery (the Corwin Amendment) in states where it already existed. Slavery created political blocs that helped lead to war and slavery was critical to the Southern economy and concern about its potential abolition under Lincoln led to war, but I disagree with the assertion that it alone is the root cause.

      • Confederate States of America – Declaration of the Immediate Causes Which Induce and Justify the Secession of South Carolina from the Federal Union –

        http://avalon.law.yale.edu/19th_century/csa_scarsec.asp

        in part “We affirm that these ends for which this Government was instituted have been defeated, and the Government itself has been made destructive of them by the action of the non-slaveholding States. Those States have assume the right of deciding upon the propriety of our domestic institutions; and have denied the rights of property established in fifteen of the States and recognized by the Constitution; they have denounced as sinful the institution of slavery; they have permitted open establishment among them of societies, whose avowed object is to disturb the peace and to eloign the property of the citizens of other States. They have encouraged and assisted thousands of our slaves to leave their homes; and those who remain, have been incited by emissaries, books and pictures to servile insurrection.

        For twenty-five years this agitation has been steadily increasing, until it has now secured to its aid the power of the common Government. Observing the forms of the Constitution, a sectional party has found within that Article establishing the Executive Department, the means of subverting the Constitution itself. A geographical line has been drawn across the Union, and all the States north of that line have united in the election of a man to the high office of President of the United States, whose opinions and purposes are hostile to slavery. He is to be entrusted with the administration of the common Government, because he has declared that that “Government cannot endure permanently half slave, half free,” and that the public mind must rest in the belief that slavery is in the course of ultimate extinction.

        This sectional combination for the submersion of the Constitution, has been aided in some of the States by elevating to citizenship, persons who, by the supreme law of the land, are incapable of becoming citizens; and their votes have been used to inaugurate a new policy, hostile to the South, and destructive of its beliefs and safety.

        On the 4th day of March next, this party will take possession of the Government. It has announced that the South shall be excluded from the common territory, that the judicial tribunals shall be made sectional, and that a war must be waged against slavery until it shall cease throughout the United States.

        The guaranties of the Constitution will then no longer exist; the equal rights of the States will be lost. The slaveholding States will no longer have the power of self-government, or self-protection, and the Federal Government will have become their enemy.

        Sectional interest and animosity will deepen the irritation, and all hope of remedy is rendered vain, by the fact that public opinion at the North has invested a great political error with the sanction of more erroneous religious belief.”

        Hard to argue that the issue of the “right” of the southern states to continue with slavery and their belief that the northern states should return their “property” (escaped slaves) was not the central cause for the conflict.

        Many may have fought under the slogan of state’s rights, but it was the right to own human beings as property that they ALL fought to defend.

        The sad thing is that not much has really changed in the hearts and minds of the average southerner in the intervening 150 years.

      • Obviously I don’t know you, but your arguments are intelligent and well-researched. That said, I am surprised by your statement that “Not much has really changed in the hearts and minds of the average southerner in the intervening 150 years” By that, and correct me if I’m misinterpreting what you wrote, you’re saying that the average Southerner (and I assume you mean average white Southerner) believes himself superior to blacks.

        There will always be those who hold what might charitably called “unelightened” views, but the vast majority of people I know don’t feel this way. I wasn’t raised this way and I’ve done my level best to ensure that my children understand that all people are created equal, no matter what their background.

        I am optimistic that the more time people spend interacting – and actually spending time with each other, rather than simply nodding in passing – the more individuals will understand that the goal of most everyone is the same: a decent job, a decent home and the opportunity to make a better life for themselves and their children.

    • “Not much has really changed in the hearts and minds of the average southerner in the intervening 150 years” By that, and correct me if I’m misinterpreting what you wrote, you’re saying that the average Southerner (and I assume you mean average white Southerner) believes himself superior to blacks.””

      Really what I was trying to get at was the idea that the average southerner willingly allows the elected elites to prey on our collective prejudices and fears. Is there a racial component to this? Of course there is, nobody who lived during the times of Lee Atwater could reasonably deny this.

      The upper 5% of the SC population stood to lose the most if slavery were outlawed and they preyed on the hatred and fear of both blacks and yankees to whip the populace up to support the ideas of secession and war. Ironically it was the lower 95% that lost the most in the war.

      Similarly here in 2015 we seem to be no different. We willing accept what politicians say irrespective of the actual reality. Take Obamacare for example, I am willing to bet 99% of those who identify themselves as conservatives, tea party, or Republicans would tell it it is the worst evil inflicted on America. I am also willing to bet that of the 99% maybe 5% could cite an actual part of the statue they think is a problem. They are simply following the party line and will reflexively vote for anything with an R next to it, especially if they say they oppose Obamacare.

      Consider this prime example, during the 14 election Nikki Haley told us taking the medicare expansion money was wrong and against conservative values. She told us we should not vote for Vincent Sheheen because he wanted to take the money. In comes the Nation Governors Assoc and they run ads telling us how wrong Sheheen is for wanting to take the money and how great Haley is for refusing it. Who is the head of the NGA at that time? Chris Christie. Who took the money for their state? You guessed it…Chris Christie. How many conservatives here in SC even know this?

      http://www.forbes.com/sites/rickungar/2013/02/26/chris-christie-says-yes-to-obamacare-medicaid-expansion/

      • Everything you just wrote I agree with 100 percent. SC has been greatly disserved by its elites for a long, long time.

        I worked in politics for a short and inglorious time, and found it incredibly distastful and discouraging. The people were something tolerate, not serve.

        I’ve have said for many years that were Stalin resurrected he could run in SC and he would win election as long he had an “R” next to his name.

        I don’t know that it’s any different in other states, but the impact that it’s had here has certainly been incredibly detrimental, to the point where I wonder if this state will ever be able to collectivly lift itself from the condition it’s in. And, of course, those in power don’t care because they pull the strings. In fact, they would rather we didn’t get our act together as a state because that would threaten the hold they have on their own little fiefdoms.

        I get so sick of the pablum I hear spewed by those in power here about what their going to do to make this a better state, when all they’re really going to do is toss a few crumbs here and there to the people who have suffered for generations, all while enriching themselves and the crony buddies. And they have no compunction about it, either. They believe it’s their birthright to be political robber barons and anyone who feels differently is either a buffoon or a threat.

        You hit the nail on the head, my friend.

  4. Trashing longstanding monuments are one thing, and the intolerance of rigid liberals who preach tolerance at every turn does get ridiculous. But I do think the flag is a racist symbol at this point, whether its origins were racist or not. I’ve considered it a racist symbol all of my 65 years. I think there’s a reason you never saw a black family with that flag inside or flying outside the home (the older families all have portraits of King, Kennedy and many have Lincoln on a wall), much less Confederate flag mugs or bumper stickers or anything else. My brother, btw, brought a flag into our house one time and my parents made him take it back where he got it because we had a maid and cook who was black and they knew it would make her feel uncomfortable. (I.E., it was a racist symbol as well as a heritage thing to many.) You may know the story why Dale Earnhardt Sr. put away the flag forever–a black woman who was near and dear to him told him it made her uncomfortable. Dale Jr. of course has always spoken out against it. I do think it belongs in museums or places of historical context and to wave it at the first black President in O.C. was in no way about pride of heritage.

    • I will not disagree that disreputable groups have used both the Confederate flag and the US flag in their marches and protests. Certainly, in the 1950s and ’60s, the Confederate flag was used as a means of pushing back against the Civil Rights movement. What I get tired of is the simplistic correlation that because the Confederate flag was used by racists, anyone who finds anything favorable to say about the Confederacy is racist. Heck, the entire 19th century was racist by our definition today.

      It’s unfortunate that those that oppose – and many that favor – the Confederate flag, can’t find a way to express themselves in less virulent terms, without assuming the other side is the devil incarnate.

      I did not know the story about Dale Earnhardt Sr., but it does not surprise me. He may have been “The Intimidator,” on the track, but he had a pretty big heart, as well.

    • And whether I agree or disagree with the president’s policies, I wouldn’t dream of waving a Confederate flag at him. That’s incredibly disrespectful to the president, and not what the flag was intended for, so, in a different sense, disrespectful to the flag, as well. I suppose that how we got into the mess we’re in now.

      • Defacing statues with “Black Lives Matter” sloganeering doesn’t exactly advance the cause of tolerance and understanding either. Too bad that the whole flag flap has detracted from the tragic event that forced a lot of people to think about the symbolism in the first place. Vandalism or waving the flag at the President to make a point is just a mindless and juvenile way to make a point.

  5. Great post. I always thought “being tolerant” should include tolerating the intolerant… Otherwise you’re just as intolerant as they are.

    So many messages get lost on social media. Campaigns on Facebook and Twitter are like the plague. What’s that phrase about the intelligence of people in groups? 😉

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