The word tolerance gets thrown around a lot in the media and in every day conversation. But I’ve noticed that few people, and especially those with set political beliefs, actually understand what the word means in practice.
Conor Friedersdorf at The Atlantic has a great piece, entitled A Real Commitment to Minority Rights Needs a Real Commitment to Freedom. In the piece he describes his Catholic upbringing and how his own beliefs have diverged from the church. But although he does not agree with everything the Catholic believes, he is regretful that people seem to be celebrating the fact that the federal government is now using the force of law to make the Catholic church cover contraception in its employee health care package, even the church does not believe in contraception.
In describing tolerance, Friedersdorf writes:
Generally, it is a subset of tradition-minded conservatives who have an insufficient commitment to diversity; and it is a nannyish subset of progressives who laud diversity without grasping that truly embracing it requires accommodating parents who want to teach their children about sex education in grade 8 rather than grade 5, entrepreneurs who want to braid hair without attending an expensive beautician school, and neighborhoods that want their farmer’s market to feature baked goods prepared in the home kitchens, despite the minimal additional risk that entails. What I’d encourage is constant awareness that people have different values, morals, priorities, preferences, and approaches to pursuing happiness — an attitude that leads folks to happily accommodate diversity when possible, and to be regretful and limit the magnitude of coercion when it is necessary.