A Nice Comment on Mr. Williams

"Saying the Wrong Thing"

What I like particularly:

Frankly, these folks are selling their ideals of tolerance short when they pretend that they aren't made nervous by the dress of certain cultures, whether that's an Arabic-looking man in a dishdasha or a young black man with low slung pants and a couple gold chains. Tolerance lies not in never having an emotional reaction to seeing someone, but rather in whether one treats all people as innocent and equal until proven otherwise.

I'm not particularly keen on the "virtue" of tolerance because it is by its nature elitist. (And I should say, this is not meant as a criticism of the writer of the piece above--others have different views of tolerance and it need not carry so negative a connotation as I have for it.)  Who am I to "tolerate" anything.  Tolerance comes from noblesse oblige; we tolerate because the poor savages don't know any better than to wipe their hands on the table cloth or their noses on the backs of their hands.

Kindness and respect are more to my liking.  Respecting the dignity of every person--even those who for reasons totally unaccountable to you frighten you.  For example, I will admit to being sometime frightened by the more extreme examples of piercing and body art that I see.  I don't know why I'm frightened, I just am.  Maybe it is the atavistic and empathetic fear of the needles and process that resulted in the modified body.  I don't know.  But I am frightened, just as some are frightened of clowns.  Nevertheless, one steps up to one's fear and says, "This too is a person looking for love and respect.  Perhaps the methods are misled, perhaps the means not to my liking."

I really believe, down in the deepest core of my being that most people desire only two things: love and respect, and to be left alone to pursue happiness in the way that is most meaningful to them.  For this reason, I find it difficult to complete condemn the burqa.  While to my western eyes it smacks of an oppressive system  (and honestly, here in Florida, my primary reaction is again empathetic: "Boy does that look uncomfortable! [as in much, much too warm in even an 80 degree October]), I cannot say whether the person wearing it feels oppressed or safe.  It is not for me to decide.  For this reason, I find it difficult to side with those who wish for a uniform ban, although I respect the motivations that prompt it, even as I find it perfectly reasonable that in legal and governmental systems, it is perfectly reasonable to be able to identify the person speaking, accusing, taking an oath, picking up children at a school.

Back to the quotation.  I would add or modify the last line to say, "Respect/Tolerance lies not in never having an emotional reaction to seeing someone, but rather in how the emotional reaction is translated into action."  It is the Henry Higgins school of gentlemanly-ness--

from Pygmalion, Act IV
George Bernard Shaw

The great secret, Eliza, is not having bad manners or good manners or any other particular sort of manners, but having the same manner for all human souls: in short, behaving as if you were in Heaven, where there are no third-class carriages, and one soul is as good as another.
 Your expression of tolerance is the evenness of your treatment of everyone.  But not entirely, because I would say contra Mr. Higgins, that it does matter good or bad manners.  It is the last part of the statement that is important "behaving as if you were in Heaven,"  were the essential dignity of every person is completely revealed.


  1. What NPR did to Juan Williams

    by ThinkAsTheyDoOrElse

    Dark humor: a bird, a wind turbine, Pop Goes the Weasel music, introduced by News Hour sound alike music



Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Structures--Ulysses and Mrs. Dalloway

Lewis Carroll and James Joyce

Another Queen of Night