I was once in a classroom where the professor had insisted to us all that we had to be on the look out for intolerance. Intolerance came in various forms we were told, but we would do well as educators to do away with it swiftly once found. At this my brow furrowed and I am quite certain that I looked uncomfortableas any person does who gets lost in a maze created for all to reach the desired destination. Whether my hand rose on its own or my interior struggle became a public spectacle I am not sure, but I do know that suddenly I was given the platform from which to spread my befuddled doctrines. “I am confused” I began which was received warmly and expectantly as the suspicion had grown over time that I was indeed one of these closet intolerants. “Surely we do not want to say” said I “…that we want to be tolerant of rape.” The silence at this gave me courage to continue. “And surely we are not saying that pedophilia and its adherents should be given the opportunity to make its case.” At this there soon came reluctant and agreeing smiles all nodding as others including the professor began with the cautious “Well of course not”. “Good” I jumped in “because I thought we were beginning to say that we must be tolerant of intolerable things, but that is not at all what we are saying.” Now others were wearing the same befuddled eyebrows. “What we are saying is that we must be tolerant of things we hold to be tolerable and intolerant of those things we hold to be intolerable. And if it so happens that others find something we hold to be intolerable and voice it then they are intolerant and must be educated. But if we find certain things intolerable with others and we voice it as we just have, I apologize but I am confused, what does that make us?”
The conversation ended sadly with anything but a proper closing. It rather fizzled out of existence or others’ minds which I am sure many would argue amounts to the same thing. And I, the intolerable befuddler seem to have had a victory, the kind where nothing is gained with the exception of what was already mine. I was to continue in my intolerance, until of course some happy chap could educate it out of me.