“I have a high tolerance for people who think different,” I said to to a friend the other day, referring to someone we both know.
“So does he,” my friend responded.
No surprise. Some of the most interesting people I know are people with ideas outside the norm. People who think different and differently are often the people who change the world — for good or for bad. Which is why we should pay attention.
But our world doesn’t promote that. We’ve lost our tolerance for people who are different. Who think different.
We don’t entertain what might be behind a position, a comment, a thought. We jump to judgment, instantly.
Judge and jury
This happened to me last year when someone I thought was a friend took offense to some of the things I’ve written. I’m not sure exactly what, because she wasn’t interested enough to ask me about it, except to make sure I knew that some of my positions didn’t adhere to her beliefs.
I was quite taken aback. I’m a pretty liberal girl, but I also hold some opinions, a few, that might not meet the radical liberal test. A very few, really. Like for example, about unions. Which I believe once served a good function but are now corrupt and harmful.
But it wasn’t unions that made her abandon our friendship. And really, it doesn’t matter what it was, because the point is that she didn’t value the friendship enough to ask questions. Like, “what makes you think that?” or even, “I was surprised to see you write that.”
I think deep down we all want to be understood, right? Or the chance to be understood, anyway.
Like horses with blinders
In today’s world, though, we can exist 100 percent of the time in our own little silos. We can pick and choose what slant we want to our news, avoid the other side and never once encounter a viewpoint different than our own.
This is not a good thing. Because:
Yes, when we all think alike, no one is thinking.
Let’s take the presidential election. Now, I personally think that Donald Trump is stupid and dangerous. I do know some people who support him. They name call, just like he does and like him, they are simplistic in their thinking. I think their opinions are stupid and dangerous. On the other hand, I get where they’re coming from. I hear their pain and frustration. I hear and see it all. It doesn’t mean I have to accept it, but I feel for them. Of course, it makes me nervous that people holding their positions are going to vote and that our choices for president are pretty limited. Nonetheless, I hear them, because I take the time to look beyond the name calling and simplistic ideas to the core: their fear.
The recent social media posts on the Orlando massacre really challenged me. One of my Facebook friends — a gun advocate — responded to comments on a post I did about gun control. His posts were borderline insulting to those who held my opinion and some might have thought there was no borderline about it. Most distressing was that he seemed clueless about the rude tone of his responses. Absolutely clueless. I monitored it all day and then thanked everyone for their courtesy and said I was going to delete the thread. But he couldn’t stand it–he had to reply to someone with yet another rude comment. As I deleted the thread I saw that the buttons he pushed in me were less for his opinion, which was definitely unlike mine, than for the incivility in which he expressed it. I just didn’t like his intolerance and inability to see another view.
The inability to see another view? That’s becoming the norm today. Hell, it IS the norm.
I love a happy ending, but…
This isn’t a political post at all. It’s a post about the fact that we are an increasingly polarized society and that a meeting of the minds is just about impossible today. On anything. Because few of us really take in the other person, the other position, the other side. Not in any meaningful way. We don’t even try.
I think it’s time we stepped out of our cocoons and really started to take in what’s going on around us, and especially reached out to understand those people who don’t think as we do.
Because if we don’t? I don’t think this story is going to end happily.