The Politics of Intolerance
by Gary Aldrich - Volume 1 Issue 9
In his acclaimed PBS video series entitled "The Ascent Of Man," the late philosopher, Jacob Bronowski skillfully leads the viewer to the conclusion that doubt must play a guiding role in our lives. Doubt should not be confused with indecision or lack of conviction, for doubt allows us to question what we see and visualize what might yet be. And, doubt leads to tolerance.
Once a person becomes convinced that he alone posses the truth, he stands poised but one short, terrible step from acting on that truth by persecuting those who do not share his beliefs. The result is intolerance, leading to violence, unfettered by the law (which can be changed by those in power) or moral code. This is the ultimate lesson of the Holocaust Museum.
Our forefathers knew that lesson not only from history, but often from first hand experience. When the original colonists met to organize a nation, they acted boldly to establish, as Lincoln said, "a new nation conceived in liberty, dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal and are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights." Simply put, in this nation, all religious beliefs would be tolerated. And, while certain groups may disagree with one another, they would allow each other the freedom to practice their faith as they saw fit.
The recent attacks by Senator John McCain against the so-called "religious right" of his own party, have heralded a new low in national campaigning. His attacks on his opponent, Governor Bush, were demagogic and untrue. The ringing tone of his voice, the faulty logic of his argument, and his attempt to promote guilt by association must have sent chills down the collective spines of members of many groups who are all too often the victims of hate and oppression - notably blacks, Jews, and even Catholics.
Fortunately, the voters of America are too sophisticated to fall for such an obvious trick. During the past few days in New York, the Catholic population has rapidly withdrawn its support for Senator McCain. They correctly view the attack on tolerance from a presidential candidate as posing a much greater long-term danger to their well being than the teachings of a small southern college.
We are a nation of laws; laws which we have created in lieu of the edicts of a king or dictator; laws designed to protect and not simply direct; laws which are ultimately derived from the Judeo-Christian code of morality. And, while we may disagree with the way a law is enforced (such as when a policeman pulls a motorist over for speeding) we do not hate the person involved for doing his duty.
Senator McCain, like millions of his fellow servicemen through the course of our nationís history, fought to protect the rights and freedoms of people with whom he may have personally disagreed. In the course of that battle, he paid a terrible personal price. It is unfortunate that he has chosen a very different philosophy in his race for the presidency and lost the opportunity to truly inspire a nation starved for genuine heroes.