Wednesday, August 24, 2005

They don't want tolerance, they want power 

I love Wendy McElroy's columns, but I think she missed something intoday's entry on speech codes on campuses. She talks about speech codes and the new view of what constitutes tolerance on campus.
Parents may also be puzzled about why some universities oppose free speech instead of championing it.

One approach to an explanation is to view the phenomenon as part of a general societal trend that has pitted freedom of speech against tolerance as though they were enemies. This trend claims that expressing my dislike or criticism of the gender, race or lifestyle of others is tantamount to violating their civil rights.

The trend rests on a specific definition of "tolerance." For many, that means being broadminded. It means acknowledging the legal right of others to a dissenting opinion, religious belief or peaceful lifestyle such as homosexuality.

The foregoing definition of tolerance does not require stifling your own opinions or preferences, which have an equal legal status. It does not require you to personally accept what you tolerate. Defending people's right to be different doesn't involve taking them out to dinner and a movie.

The current campus definition of tolerance inverts the more traditional meaning and demands personal acceptance. Tolerance becomes the active celebration of "diversity" and toleration requires the suppression of the speech, views or peaceful behavior that supposedly hinder diversity by making "diverse others" uncomfortable. The others are usually members of a group that has been historically oppressed, such as women and are deemed to now deserve special legal protection.
But that's not tolerance. And they find tolerance a dirty word. Here's an example from testimony about gay marriage before the Canadian government last month by the head of a religious studies program.
All churches involved in this debate agree that gay and lesbian individuals have human rights and ought to be accorded tolerance � but tolerance can be given grudgingly. One tolerates because one has to in a civil society.

Equal marriage is about more than tolerance. In our society, marriage is an important, socially approved relationship.
Emphasis mine. They find separate marital institutionsthat confer the same rights as traditional marriage demeaning. Why? The anti-racism movement at its base has the goal of gaining power, of control of a majority which the "enlightened" find to be with illegitimate power. Tolerance does not transfer power, so they must pursue something more than that.