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Tolerance Follies: P&R Defends Anti-Gay Discrimination with Klan Absurdity

P&R Miscellany tries the now-familiar tactic of beating us liberals over their head with our own relativism and tolerance. P&R forgets that I'm not a relativist and I don't tolerate baloney.

P&R counters the successful backlash against South Dakota's failed anti-gay legislation by inviting us to shoe the other foot with the possibility that gay-hating Westboro Baptist Church members would demand to rent a party room from a gay entrepreneur, or that Klansmen would order catering from Harlem for a KKK wedding.

"Tolerance... should flow both ways," says P&R. The National Review correspondent he cites speaks similarly:

“Live and let live” implies a two-way relationship. Mutual respect is an attitude that, like the biblical leaven, has to be mixed in thoroughly and evenly, until the whole is leavened [Kevin D. Williamson, "Until the Whole Is Leavened," National Review Online, 2014.02.20].

P&R's and Williamson's own language grants us leave to dismiss their own argument. Their examples refer to customers who offer no two-way relationship (unlike bisexuals, who—well... um...), who do not respect the vendors with whom P&R hopes my liberal tolerance will mandate a relationship.

Gay couples don't walk into a bakery shouting, "God Hates Straights!" unless they are feeling really snippy and ironic. They won't yell at straight caterers, "Go back to Africa where you heteros belong!" That language doesn't fit the other foot.

Westboro's homophobes and the KKK seek the exclusion, damnation, and destruction of the people they don't tolerate. (Actually, I'm not convinced Westboro wants even that; they just want attention.) Gay couples just want to go about their business, then go home and give each other the business, pretty much like the rest of us.

Tolerance works, but it does not mandate the absurdity and moral surrender that P&R posits.


  1. interested party 2014.02.25

    Two Spirits have existed as sacred for millennia; it took Protestants to make sex aberrant. The United States was founded by misanthropes and misogynists. Western religion will be the death of us all.

  2. PNR 2014.02.25

    I didn't say you were a relativist.

    It is absurd to think gay-hating cretins will ask to rent the party room at a restaurant that celebrates gays, but in that absurdity, principles may be revealed. And it seems the principle in play is that freedom only applies to those who wish to do what you wish them to do. That isn't relativism, since you seem to hold it absolutely, but it is intolerant.

  3. Porter Lansing 2014.02.25

    PNR, being devoid of morals, resorts to fear to manipulate.

  4. mike from iowa 2014.02.25

    Wingnuts measure tolerance with a micrometer. It fits well with their narrow-mindedness. If inclusion doesn't fit between A and B without scraping the walls,it is rejected.

  5. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.02.25

    PNR, when conservatives resort to tolerance judo, I hear an undercurrent of "this'll teach you to be relativists." That's why I raise that flag.

    I'm happy to declare myself intolerant of certain beliefs and behaviors, like denying people their civil rights.

    Gays and Klansmen have equal rights to engage in commerce. I'll do business with Republicans and Democrats (who, by the way, need to get with the program the way Stace did and buy some blog ads!).

    The analogies your author offered are flimsy. The SD bills sought to cloak anti-gay discrimination in religious expression. The examples you offered did not present anti-straight discrimination grounded in religious principles. The Westboro and Klan hypotheticals asked us what shopkeepers would do in response to customers who openly attack them with their behavior. Aren't we talking apples and oranges?

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