There's lots of positive chatter this week-end about Sally Kohn's excellent piece in the Washington Post about the limits of liberal tolerance. It's an excellent question. Along with our bent for altruism and empathy, it's a real Catch 22 for liberals seeking to live their values. It's a little bit hard to it when the act of doing so empowers those who are hostile to them. There was a guy named Jesus who had some things to say about that but his teachings on the subject a very out of fashion these days, particularly among the people who hate tolerance, altruism and empathy. It's more than a little bit ironic that they are the ones who've made a political litmus test out of being Christians.
It's also, by the way, what sets the liberals apart from your commies --- their system doesn't really incorporate those values either, even if they share some hostility toward capitalistic excess. But don't tell that to the right wingers. But then they also think liberals are in cahoots with Islamic fundamentalists who believe women should be stoned for adultery and gays should be hung, so they have a bit of a hard understanding these nuances.
The perennial question is what to do about it and after years of pondering this question I think it comes down to this: you can be altruistic and empathetic even when people are mean and ungrateful. Those values aren't dependent upon how others receive them. And in order to live in this world you have to be tolerant of human foibles and differences among us. But you can't be tolerant of injustice, greed, cruelty and violence. It's not all that hard to see the difference when you step back and look at it clearly.
Anyway, read Kohn's article. It's a very interesting discussion of our competing worldviews and asks the right questions. It's a problem, no doubt about it. It's always has been.