I’m here to defend the bigots.
What’s that you say? Tolerate the intolerant? Protect those that attack? Give a chance to those who most people widely agree deserve none?
Yes. All of the above. And why would I be so willing to take such apparently drastic action? Here are just a few reasons:
Protecting the bigots protects me. Freedom of speech is one of the most important ways that humans are allowed to be equal. If I give other people the right to say exactly what they want to say, no matter how insensitive or offensive I may find it to be, I can in good conscience expect the same right to say exactly what I want to say, no matter how insensitive or offensive they may find it to be.
We all have different attitudes and ideas of what makes something offensive. Rather than try to impose government regulations on what to say in the name of tolerance, we should simply understand the fact that other people think differently than we do and tolerate them for being who they are. Propagating an attitude of tolerance is more effective and immediate when people demonstrate tolerance themselves rather than lobbying for authority to enforce tolerance.
Beyond the logical approach to implementing tolerance in our society, restricting freedom of speech brings us very close to the slippery slope of tyrannical totalitarian government. Once we can no longer speak out against what we find to be troubling, oppression becomes much, much easier.
Simply put, calling someone a bigot is bigoted. Now is a good time to define the word bigot so this argument makes sense:
a person who is intolerant toward those holding different opinions: don’t let a few small-minded bigots destroy the good image of the city. he was a fanatical bigot.
(source: New Oxford American Dictionary)
This definition makes it very difficult to call someone else a bigot without becoming a bigot. If we are intolerant toward others because they are intolerant, are we so much better than they? Hypocrisy runs rampant in the world today. Anything we can do to expect from ourselves the same things that we expect from others would make the world a better place.
I don’t want to depend on the government to protect me any more than I have to. This attitude comes in part due to my conservative ideologies. I don’t want to be able to survive in a world filled with offensive speech, writing, demonstrations, and other noise because the government makes it safe, I want to survive because I’m a strong, independent person with resilient character.
The government has proven time and again that it is not very efficient or effective. This is made clear by its handling of racial prejudices as well as those of sexual orientation and gender. Even when it makes decisions that satisfy a majority (but certainly not all people), these decisions cost millions of dollars, several years, and countless debates before coming into effect. Once laws are created, enforcement is spotty at best and extremely liable to additional prejudice as well as money (such as cases won by those able to afford better lawyers).
I want to positively impact the world without waiting for someone else to do it for me in a way I can’t control and won’t be satisfied with. I want to take matters into my own hands as much as I can and make my own decisions. I want to be an example to others and lead by that example.
Intolerance is a human flaw. Tolerance toward others is something that needs to be learned over a lifetime of practice, making mistakes, and gaining experience. That most people haven’t perfected their love for others is something that should be expected in this world.
Calling someone a bigot makes that human flaw appear permanent. Because the label “bigot” refers to a certain kind of person, that reinforces the idea that bigotry cannot be changed. This is true for many other characteristics that in reality are not permanent. Labeling reduces the morale of others and teaches them that it’s okay to be intolerant because they themselves are not being tolerated.
If we are to expect that the world be more tolerant, we must expect that people have the ability to grow to be more accepting and loving of their fellow human beings. We must support them in their journey rather than criminalize them for their shortcomings.
I choose to tolerate the intolerant and so called “bigoted” because their freedom is my freedom. I don’t agree that being bigoted is admirable, in fact I believe the opposite is true (at least until tolerance becomes a vice). I also don’t want to become a bigot myself by not tolerating the intolerant.
We all have more power than we usually imagine to make positive changes ourselves. We ought to concentrate on what we can do better as individuals rather than what some authority can do for us. An example conclusion from this way of thinking is evident in the following quote:
The First Amendment may give me the right to demonize you with public speech, but it does not make it right. —Mark Demoss
Rather than try to force others to be more tolerant toward me, I will do my best to set an example for them by respecting what they have to say, even if it offends me or I do not agree with it. It is by what I do to love and respect others that makes the world better for everyone.