Keep your frigging tolerance!

By Michelle E. Brown

I love words. They can inspire, excite, and express the human emotions in so many ways yet take on a life of their own once they come out of your mouth.

Something as benign as the word mother can go from a term of endearment to a slap in the face, all depending on the context and tone of the speaker.

Case in point: when I was trying to get on my mother's good side I might call her "Mother Dear" in hopes of a positive response, but call her "Mommy Dearest" in the wrong tone of voice and the results were more than likely just the opposite.

Lately I've been having mixed feelings about the words tolerant/tolerance. It seems to get bandied about quite a bit lately following horrific events like a bullying attack and harsh political rhetoric.

By most definitions, tolerance/tolerant/toleration are terms used to describe moderately respectful attitudes of groups and/or practices disapproved by those in the majority. Up until recently I have used the word tolerance although something deep inside me bristled each time I said it.

I tolerate my out of control, hyper nieces once a year during the holidays, although the rest of the year I avoid them like the plague. I tolerate high airline fares, but will not be nickel and dimed for every piece of luggage or amenity just to save a buck. I tolerate our messed up political system while working for change.

Bottom line is I put up with a lot of crap that, if I could have my druthers, would never have existed or vanish from the earth completely (well not the nieces). So you see when I hear someone talking about tolerating gay folk I bristle.

I had my AHA moment on this whole LGBTQ "tolerance" thing while sitting at a meeting planning an anti-bullying march. Now the irony was we were meeting outside the city where the rally was planned because some felt more comfortable, safe even at an undisclosed location. So we met somewhat covertly to discuss a march for anti-bullying legislation.

The final straw was when it was suggested the event be called "A Rally for Tolerance." Something just snapped.

That same day I heard of a planned protest of a high school production of the "Laramie Project" by the Westboro Baptist Church. They never showed up to protest the play, but you know the group has protested outside of military funerals, thanking God for 9/11, calling soldiers "Fag Troops" and claiming the deaths as retribution for America's sin. Of course we must tolerate the Phelps clan because they are just exercising their first amendment rights.

The evening before, I had spent time talking with a gay youth who had been brutally beaten while standing in line at a convenience store. His attacker could not tolerate having someone gay standing too close to him. This violation of his personal space apparently gave this gay-basher license to attack this young man, beating him senseless while others watched on.

It seems we have had to tolerate too much hatred, bigotry and intolerance to be asking for or accepting tolerance. Isn't it time we get up off our knees and quit begging for tolerance and demand respect? I mean seriously.

Enough is enough. Our society has tolerated Irish, Italian, Catholic, Latino, Asian and other immigrants yet anti-immigrant biases and xenophobia still abound.

Our society tolerated women coming out of the kitchen, demanding equal rights, opportunities and wages, yet women still earn less than men in the workplace and our reproductive rights remain under attack.

Our society tolerated integration of the African American community, saying separate was not equal, yet still African Americans make up a disproportionate number of the impoverished living in urban wastelands and/or incarcerated in the nation's prisons.

Tolerance is not equality. Tolerance is just a bandage society has put over one "problem population/group" until another takes it place.

Bias, bigotry and hatred just float to the next site and we forget all the pain and evil done to the past victims and start the cycle all over again. Enough!

So I'm putting everyone on notice. You can keep your frigging tolerance. Give me respect.

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