By now I’m sure many of you out there have already read or heard about the Phil Robertson story and his suspension from the “hit” show “Duck Dynasty”. And by now I’m sure many of you out there have already lost interest, because let’s face it, he’s a reality TV star and most American’s really don’t care about what they say or do. However, I draw attention to this story not because I have a vested interest in the show (I do not), but because this instance highlights a growing and disturbing trend of intolerance. I speak not of Robertson’s comments about homosexuality, ignorant as they may be. Instead I’m referring to the manner in which Robertson has been treated since making his comments. I’m talking about the intolerance of tolerance.
In America today there are numerous “tolerance” groups advocating for the ethical and equal treatment of various groups within our society. These “tolerance” groups represent everyone from homosexuals, to polygamists, to racial minorities, and religious groups. At first glance it seems these groups are providing important services by helping to encourage tolerance and acceptance by the larger society, and indeed many of them are doing just that. But many of these groups, though not all, are just as intolerant of others as the people they are crusading against.
Let’s look at the Phil Robertson story. Robertson was quoted as saying “It seems like, to me, a vagina — as a man — would be more desirable than a man’s anus”, he said. “That’s just me. I’m just thinking: There’s more there! She’s got more to offer. I mean, come on, dudes! You know what I’m saying? But hey, sin: It’s not logical, my man. It’s just not logical.” His comments were entirely a reflection of his own beliefs. He did not assert anything as factual, he did not make comments that were overtly hateful or slanderous. He was not advocating for violence against homosexuals. He simply offered his own views on homosexuality; however misguided we may think they are. Personal perspective is a right guaranteed to each and every one of us that call ourselves American.
The 1st Amendment of the Constitution of the United States specifically protects our individual right to speak freely and live free of any persecution based on our speech or beliefs. The homosexual community has been fighting for decades for their right to live free of persecution based on the manner in which they live their lives. The 1st Amendment protects them and guarantees them the freedom to live how they choose within the confines of the law. And yet they are first to jump onto the soapbox and persecute this man based on the manner in which he chooses to live his life. They rattle their sabers and demand that A&E remove him from the show or outright cancel the show altogether. They condemn him as a bigot and a hate monger based purely on his own personal beliefs. Suppose Phil Robertson had, instead, stripped naked, painted himself blue and marched through the streets of San Francisco in the Freedom Day parade? Would the gay community have thought this display to be vulgar, inappropriate and offensive? Would they have called for his firing and public excoriation? Most assuredly not, even though others might. More importantly, would it be just to fire him for such a display? Absolutely not.
The problem is that tolerance is a two way street and many of these “tolerance” groups refuse to acknowledge this. All too often anyone who disagrees with their cause is ridiculed, debased, and attacked for their views. So called tolerance groups need to understand that although they are fighting for equality and acceptance, this is still America and Americans have the right to maintain differing points of view on whatever topic they wish. Right or wrong, free speech applies to everyone and not merely to interest groups fighting for causes. True tolerance does not mean outright acceptance of another person’s point of view; rather it means accepting that they have a different point of view and agreeing that you can still live together despite your differences. Just because you believe something does not mean I have to believe it as well. And my refusal to believe what you believe does not represent intolerance; however, your persecution of me for disagreeing with you does.