Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Am I intolerant?

So as some may notice I have been blogging increasingly less and less.  This is not due to any lack of interest or due to a sudden drop off in passion regarding the subjects I typically blog about.  I still do quite a bit of reading and keep up to date on current events regularly...as in two or three times a day regularly!

No...my recent silence has been due to some introspection.  Mind you....introspection is good....always.  It is good to look inside ourselves and judge our motives and our methods.  And I have been doing a lot of that lately.  Recent conversations with people that mean a lot to me have made me do some looking at myself and my approach to current events.

A post like this is always hard to do without mentioning names because the conversations that take place that trigger these bouts of introspection involve real people and it is hard to keep names out so they don't feel like you are singling them out.  Conversations in real life as well as comments on this blog and other blogs I have read have really led me to look at my behavior and my style of writing on this blog.

Now mind you, I am not saying I am going to change, just that I have been doing some introspection.  None of us ever reach a point where we can afford to  stop looking at ourselves and our actions and how those words and actions affect the world around us.  Once on this blog I mad the statement that nobody is above reproach...and that includes myself.

Before I continue I guess I have to establish a few facts about me.  First, I am a very passionate person about things that I see as important.  I have never been good at "playing it cool".  I am an all or nothing guy.  In for a penny in for a pound.  Before the 2008 Presidential Election I was a very nonchalant person when it came to politics and the current events surrounding our country and our government.  I liked Candidate Obama early on mostly because I saw him as a very classy guy and I liked his ability to connect in his speeches.  Not a very good reason over all but it was a reason.  I will never forget the statement that changed my level of involvement.  I was having an argument with my brother (because that is what brothers do) and he made the comment that I was an ignorant voter.  Well let me tell you..that pissed me off!  Until I had to sheepishly admit that he was right...I was an ignorant voter.  I knew nothing of the candidates' platforms, knew nothing of their policies, their plans, their experience....in short I was ignorant.  So I made a decision that day that I have held to...nobody would ever be able to call me ignorant about the state of our nation and government.  I began a very firm habit of keeping up with the news and blogs.

Currently I follow about 20 blogs and I consistently read news and opinions at: www.cnn.com, www.foxnews.com, www.yahoo.com, www.rushlimbaugh.com, www.dailykos.com, www.liberaland.com, www.huffingtonpost.com, www.ap.org, www.nytimes.com,www.washingtonpost.com and a few others.  The point is that I get a full dose of varied opinions and approaches to the same story.  It is the first thing I do with my cup of coffee in the morning, and at night when it is slow at work it is what I am reading in between patients and if I am slow during the day and have the time to sit down and read, I will do so again.  

Besides being informed and passionate I am...wait for it...stubborn as hell....I know...you are shocked.  I don't give up an argument unless I absolutely have to...as Mandy well knows.  I will pursue it doggedly.  I will drop it when I am cornered only to do more research and pursue it again.  

One thing I have always tried to NOT be is biased and intolerant.  And therein lies my dilemma.  Have I become both biased and intolerant?  One person I love and respect very much has told me that I am intolerant of intolerance and therefore I  have no right to really say anything since I am equally intolerant.  He also tells me I am judgmental of judgmental people and therefore have no right to judge them for being judgmental.  While a bit circular in his logic, to a point he has a grain of truth in what he is saying.  Another person I love and respect very much told me recently that I should stop blogging because I am just as biased as everybody else so if I am no different then maybe I should just stop blogging all together.  Others have made some very good comments on my blog referring to the fact that both sides are guilty therefore to just judge one would be wrong and is one sided.  All of these points are very good points and have, as I already mentioned, led me to a lot of introspection in the last few weeks.

Let me add here that I am not the kind of person that cannot take some constructive criticism.  I need it.  I prefer to have comments and open discussion.  So please do not stop.  Introspection, as I have already said, is a good thing and should be encouraged.

So that brings me to my topic...Am I intolerant of intolerance?  My first response would be yes, I am.  But upon further thought and even looking back through my blog I have often defended the right of people to be, what many would consider,  intolerant.  I may not agree with them, I may think it is both ignorant and stupid, but I defend their right to be intolerant.   At the same time I have little respect for intolerant people that attempt to force their views and values on others.  And therein lies the crux of it all.  True intolerance is not about being opinionated and rejecting or disagreeing with the opinion of others.  True intolerance is to attempt to push your views and values and force others to live by them.  

The religious right is one of my frequent targets on this blog and for obvious reasons...I am an atheist and am a progressive.   I do not attempt to convince or convert people to my religious views and do not try to legislate people into my values.  The religious right, on the other hand, is guilty of both.  The religious right and the current conservative movement in this country is one that repeatedly demonstrates pervasive and consistent intolerance and for this reason I speak out against them frequently and vehemently.  

I have little patience for true intolerance.  Am I opinionated?  Yes.  Am I stubborn?  Absolutely.  Am I condescending at times?  Unfortunately, yes.  Am I intolerant?  No.  I would have to say that I am not intolerant.

Here goes another one...am I biased?  WoW.  Yeah.  That is a whopper to admit to, isn't it?  I mean let's face it, even FOX News claims to be fair and balanced when we all know better.  Why do they have the audacity to make such a preposterous claim? Because nobody likes to be called biased or narrow minded.  But let's take a moment and consider the word "bias".  www.dictionary.com defines "bias" (as I am using it here) as "a particular tendency or inclination, esp. one that prevents unprejudiced consideration of a question; prejudice."  In short, it simply means that a bias is a predisposition to a particular view that influences your outlook or opinion on a specific subject.  We always treat the word "bias" as anathema, like it is a bad thing. But the truth is that if you have an opinion on anything...you have bias.  If you believe ANYTHING with ANY sense of conviction then you have bias.  There is no such thing as a truly COMPLETE unbiased person.  Show me a person without bias...and I will show you a person that stands for nothing.  Because if you take a stand on anything, you have bias.

I am passionate, unapologetic and emphatic about a few things...I am an atheist.  I am an American.  I am a Progressive.  These are things that I do not waver on.  These are things that I firmly stand by and I firmly defend.  Simply put, I am biased.    

Now.  Having said that it is important to make clear that bias does NOT preclude or exclude the need for an open mind.  I made a decision early on that I would not be as closed minded of an atheist as I used to be as a Christian.  I am open for discussion.  I still read the Bible occasionally.  Why?  It is knowledge.  And to ignore knowledge is to leave yourself vulnerable. I read books that are, in essence, apologetics.  Books that defend faith, the Bible, God and Christianity.  I read these books because I want to know what they have to say.  I am a progressive but I still read Fox News and Rush Limbaugh...no matter how much it might pain me in the process!  Once again, having bias does not mean that we should be close minded.  Having bias simply means that those biases will ALWAYS shade our views; those biases will always be the spectacles through which we view every subject in life and in the world around us.

That brings me to my blog.  It is aptly named, Musings of a Madman.  It is my views and my musings.  Sometimes I am angry when I am writing.  Sometimes that anger comes through loud and clear.  I am biased and opinionated.  My views are biased by my non religious and progressive tendencies.  I tend to attack Republicans more than Democrats due to those two biases.  Why? Because as a whole the Republican Party embraces the Religious conservative right...I am a progressive, left wing atheist...I am at polar opposites of the Grand Ol' Party and those biases influence my approach on these subjects.

When I interact with those that are of the conservative religious right, I interact with respect, I acknowledge their right to their views.  I acknowledge the fact that it is our differences that makes this nation strong.  We would be a true regime if we were not allowed our opposing views.  If there were only progressives there would NOT be a Utoptia, there would be anarchy.  If there were only conservatives there would not be a Promised Land, there would be a theocracy and a regime.  Our differences is what makes our system work.  I acknowledge this when I interact with them and I can and do maintain a respectful and intellectual discussion.  (As much as is possible with some of them!)

But....did you ever have that cousin, aunt, uncle or coworker that you just didn't like?  No matter how hard you tried you just could not convince yourself to like them?  Sure you treated them with respect, you even were able to carry on a profitable and polite conversation...but that didn't stop you from writing in your diary/journal how much you wish you could kick them in the nuts!  Well that is what my blog is...my means of saying in a harmless way that I wish I could kick them in the nuts!

So I guess in conclusion, it is all true....I am pig headed, I am passionate, I am stubborn, I am opinionated, I am biased, I am (sometimes) angry, I am inpatient and I am (sometimes) condescending...here....on my blog....but please don't judge me by my blog anymore than you would judge a person by their diary.   I know these flaws well...and in many ways...here at Musings of a Madman...I embrace them...but I would give you the shirt off my back...and bend over backwards to help you and them and anybody around me....which I guess really does go a long way to prove that I am not so intolerant after all....


Iris Silk said...

Thoughtfully written.

Musing Madman said...

Thanks Mom...and thank you for always challenging me...don't stop!

Unknown said...

Babe, i firmly believe that is one of your best blogs. it is so well written and thought out. i am absolutely so impressed and in awe of your honesty and heartfelt words. i stand by my assertion that your writing is always at its best when you speak from your heart.

Will Shealy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Will Shealy said...

Well-written! However, I'm all for being tolerant of conservatives as well. Speaking as a liberal-ish, I can say that as I've done my research on the Tea Party, I've found that there are some of them with whom I whole-heartedly agree. Obama not being born here? Racist overtones? These debates are a wate of out time and an insult to our intelligence. It's a shame such tactics are used to lure in the change-shy. But then, every fringe has its fringe. No, I don't agree with everything they say, and most of them wouldn't want anything to do with me - but I'm genuinely curious about them, and hope that some on the fringe will eventually demonstrate more curiosity and less hate - hate born simply for the fact that it's easier than facing fear. And this goes both ways.

You and I both have a long way to go, and I think genuine curiosity and discourse is the way to go.

The only way to break the fearful shell of intolerance is to show tolerance. We have to lead by example, show the intolerant that they have nothing to fear. For some it will work, for others we just have to hope for the best.

While this is easier said than done, it's at least a start.

Again - nicely-written.

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