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Tolerance Is The Virtue Of The Man Without Convictions

I know I'm a month late, but I finally made a New Year’s resolution: I’m going to stop being tolerant of things I cannot possibly tolerate. Quite frankly, I’m getting sick of the word and the abstract, often syntactically incorrect usage foisted upon us by the Thought Police of the American media and the educational system. You can’t watch a news program, or pick up a textbook without the word being flung at you from every corner, more often than not accompanied by a sense of shameful obligation. Religious tolerance, cultural tolerance; I’ve actually heard the phrase “gender tolerance” spoken more than once while at University. Because those in the aforementioned fields are typically of a one-sided, fanatical ambition – namely to strip the individual of the thought processes which makes one individual – journalists and educators co-opt words for their own purposes and reshape them to suit their own will and agenda. Incorrectly using the word “tolerance” to be a synonym for “acceptance” or “respect” is a perfect example of affront to the English language and the intelligent people who speak it.

Let’s take a closer look at the word. Merriam Webster indicates that the etymology of the word “Tolerance” is the Latin tolerare meaning “to endure, to put up with.” The very first definition given is: “to endure or resist the action of (as a drug or food) without serious side effects or discomfort.” Not quite applicable here. The second definition is “to allow to be or to be done without prohibition, hindrance, or contradiction b : to put up with.” This is a bit more apropos, and given the inclusion of the modifier “or contradiction” slightly frightening. But more on that in a moment. adds a third iteration, “to endure without repugnance; put up with.” Now that has the idiomatic potency to prove my point. Nowhere in that last description is a word or phrase that remotely alludes to what the Thought Police desperately wish it to mean, namely “respect.”

The word respect has completely different shades of meaning. As a verb, “respect” means precisely “to consider worthy of high regard” and as a noun, “the quality or state of being esteemed.” There is no delicate balance here; the words are not interchangeable and, if you consider it carefully, are actually closer to contradictory than equivalent.

My multiple degrees in English (plus the fact that I’m frighteningly brilliant) give me the authorization to go ahead and further simplify this linguistic chaos. Every time you hear someone say that we should “tolerate” someone who is different than us, what they are actually saying is “we should endure the fact that he is opposed to the status quo, but we are prohibited from having a rational discussion about said opposition.” Remember, lurking within the definition of “tolerance” is the quantifier “without contradiction.” Ergo, the word tolerance is closer to the word “permissiveness” than to the meaning that the Thought Police would like ascribed to it.

You may ask why I suddenly had this epiphany, and I would counter than there is nothing sudden about it. My past articles will bear me out on the fact that typically, I dislike anyone who mindlessly agrees, accepts, mollifies or gives lenience to any segment of the population that clearly does not deserve it. However, while reading the news this morning, I came upon a particularly disturbing example of the further decay of American traditions and attempts by a tiny, insignificant portion of the population to undermine the principles on which this great, but fading republic was founded. The College of William and Mary, the nation’s second oldest (and I’m sure, at one time, finest) universities has recently been busy denying their traditions by stripping away the vestiges of their history in the name of “tolerance.” Earlier this year, school President Gene Nichols decided that he would remove a 70-year-old brass cross from the University Chapel in the historic Wren Building and lock it away out of sight in deference to students who don’t feel like they are “part of the community.” Now I know that the intelligence of the average college student has decreased in the past decade or so, but would you honestly apply to an institute of higher learning without leaning its history?

William and Mary was founded in 1693 as an Anglican institution; in fact, its governors were required to members of the Church of England. Originally, the school was structured to instruct students in the advanced study of moral philosophy (logic, rhetoric, ethics) as well as natural philosophy (physics, metaphysics, and mathematics); upon completion of this coursework, the Divinity School prepared these young men for ordinatinon into the Church of England. It was the first university to teach political economics, housed the nation’s first law school, and is responsible for the founding of Phi Beta Kappa. Notable alumni include Thomas Jefferson, Henry Clay, John Marshall, James Monroe and George Washington. At first glance, it sounds like a place I’d like to attend.

Unfortunately, times they are a-changin’, and the university has lost some of its original luster, tarnished with the pledge of “progress.” Although nearly 30% of the school’s 5,600-person student body still attends in order to obtain a degree in the Social Sciences, History or Government, there is a substantial amount of young people completely dedicated to wasting their time and their parents’ $30,000 tuition money. Only 21 people graduated in 2005 with a degree in Mathematics, but 44 secured one in Kinesiology, which is the “scientific study of human movement.” Approximately 12% of the student body earned degrees in Chemistry, Biology and Physics, but 14% received Bachelors Degrees in Music, Visual Arts, Ethnic Studies, and something called “Parks and Recreation.” I wonder what George Washington would say if he knew that more graduates in 2005 had majored in Theatre and Speech than in Philosophy and American Studies combined. The school that once boasted Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations as a required textbook has only conferred 98 more Economics degrees than ones in the Fine Arts in the past five years.

What exactly does this survey of academic trends in William and Mary’s graduates have to do with the fact that the university president removed a cross from the chapel? Everything. For you see, this is a perfect example of an institution fostering “tolerance” of a tiny, but vocal, segment of its population while completely failing to recognize that their university has strayed far from its goal of being a “Place of Universal Study, a perpetual College of Divinity, Philosophy, Languages, and the good arts and be supported and maintained, in all time coming”. The 1691 House of Burgesses (engineer of the aforementioned quote) would hardly be pleased to know that “all time” had indeed come.

Take a look at some of the quotes from students who support Nichol’s removal of the cross:

“Because we're a public college, it's a better thing so that people are more open and more welcomed into the community," said Clara Ngomba, 19.

How did someone with such a tenuous grasp of the English Language get accepted into William and Mary in the first place? Ms. Ngomba is part of the “Contemporary and Cultural Issues Committee” (or as they liked to be called, the Contempo Cult) for William and Mary’s University Center Activities Board. (This group of students “informs students of applicable and important issues through speakers, debates, and discussions.” How noble. Here’s a link to their event schedule for the month of February. Wow. I’m overwhelmed with the possibilities.) Her goal in life is “To find at least a small bit of joy in everyday.” Another brilliantly parsed statement from Ms. Ngomba, I might add. You know, Ms. Ngomba, I’ll bet that the 5,171 White Christians and 281 Hispanic Christians who make up 72% of your student population found a small bit of joy in that small, brass cross that you feel is preventing people from being welcomed into the community.

Ro'ee Mor, a student from Israel, said that as an Orthodox Jew he was uncomfortable when he and other freshmen were taken to the chapel during orientation. Since the cross' removal, he sometimes goes to the chapel to meditate. ‘I feel more an integral part of the community due to this symbolic action,’ he said.

Mr. Mor is the VP of Multicultural Affairs for William and Mary’s Hillel Organization, an international group whose mission, taken directly from the website, is to “Maximize the number of Jews doing Jewish with other Jews.” Apparently they truncated the part reading “at the expense of other religions and cultures and in direct defiance of 314 years of American History.” Mr. Mor, if you are uncomfortable with the image of a cross in a chapel in a university founded by Christians, and you still have the gall to be a VP of “Multicultural” Affairs then I submit that you are indeed, a bloody fucking moron.

Oscar Blayton, a Williamsburg lawyer who in the early 1960s was the first black person to attend William and Mary as an undergraduate, sees having the cross on display all the time as religious bigotry. ‘Some of these people that are upset about the cross issue have a notion that it is a predominantly Christian community and Christians have more rights than other people,’ Blayton said.

It’s a chapel, Mr. Blayton. That’s where religious symbols are supposed to reside. I’d somewhat agree with you about the bigotry part if the cross was transplanted to your front lawn and then set aflame.

The real problem here is that college students, and the faculty, see the university as a microcosm of the world at large. However it is not. It is an insular, selective, biased institution that an ex-girlfriend of mine used to refer to as a “bubble-world.” For four or more years, students only interact with others who exist within the same self-sustaining bubble. Kids from wealthy families who can assume the astronomical financial burden that is college tuition commune only with other rich, spoiled, self-absorbed kids. They major in subjects that have no bearing on the world in the global sense; what good are you to the majority of the human race if you spent your formative years studying the nuances of groups which comprise less than 5% of the world population? And because they have been given their first real taste of adult freedom and responsibility, they confuse this with a sense of entitlement – just because you have to get up at 8 AM for a Women’s Studies class (after a long night of inebriated fornication) and cram for a “Physiology of Lance Armstrong” final (yes, that’s an actual course at William and Mary) doesn’t mean you have the intellectual or experiential wherewithal to become crusaders for social justice. Shut up, take notes, and get a job that will contribute more to society than just your self-centered rantings.

And finally, I firmly believe that it is this faulty notion of “tolerance” that breeds more hate and divisiveness throughout the world. We as intelligent human beings should not be tacitly accepting of the views, opinions, practices or beliefs of any group until both sides are willing to participate in a reasonable, rational discussion. You want me to respect you? Then do something worthy of that respect. You can ask me accept, ask me to esteem, ask me understand, but don’t tell me to “endure without criticism.” Because then all I’ll see is your own disrespect for my position, as well as your narrow-minded stupidity.

Oh, and sign the petition.


Scott said…
You want me to respect you? Then do something worthy of that respect. You can ask me accept, ask me to esteem, ask me understand, but don’t tell me to “endure without criticism.” Because then all I’ll see is your own disrespect for my position, as well as your narrow-minded stupidity.

Bada bing. Everyone on this planet thinks that white Americans, especially white American Christians, have to shut up and listen. I'm not a Christian, but I am white, and I'm sick and fucking tired of the pressure to say and do so as not to offend everyone else. I would love to rewind the clock and do something to reverse the stupidity that is the world we live in today. Keep it up Val. Let me know when you are running for office, and I'll register in your district.
Valannin said…
As soon as there's an opening for Imperial Overlord, I'll announce my candidacy...I'll be sure to let you know...
Anonymous said…
A correction: George H. W. Bush did not go to William and Mary. He went to Yale.
Anonymous said…
A correction: George H. W. Bush did not go to William and Mary. He went to Yale.
Harry said…
I have a degree in Parks and Recreation from a major American university. Fortunately I also learned to tend bar while a student at that major American university.
Valannin said…
Anonymous: Yeah, I noticed that too. Thanks for nitpicking.

Harry, I've been really into my Tanqueray and Stoli Vespers lately...damn pop culture...
Moni said…
I would really like to make an intelligent response to such a well written post, but it's not possible in the few moments I'm at the library. Ha! Don't even know that I could anyway. :)

Segments of American society have become afraid to speak their minds, tis true I guess. It's like somewhere along the way we've let few decide morally correct ways of speaking, acting...etc. Whatever happened to free speech. BTW, Carlos Mencia had a good show on last night, some of pertained to this very thing.

Anyway, I hope your day is "gay" and bright...oops! I mean don't be too "niggardly" in choosing to stop and smell the roses. I mean slow down and smoke a "fag". I'm just a woman with sugar tits, so I can't make up my mind. hehehe! Oh well, you have a pleasant day! ;)
Valannin said…
Sugar Tits. Part of your complete, nutritious breakfast.

Nice to hear from you again...
Anonymous said…
Things are considerably worse since this fine essay was first published...

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