Today’s commemoration is one of those that I wish we didn’t have to establish. On the other hand, I’m very thankful that UNESCO and human rights activists around the world have seen fit to have a day set aside to highlight the need for tolerance.
I’ve had to get past the word “tolerance” because I’ve always thought of it in the sense that tolerance is the act of putting up with someone or something irritating or unpleasant to me. As in the case of learning to tolerate ice storms in the winter. I need to remind myself when I read or hear the word “tolerance” that it also means the acceptance of different types of people. It is the actual practice of being fair to people who are seen, by me, as somehow different.
One of the objectives of bluejayblog is to expose myself and you to the practice of acceptance. That is the manner in which tolerance is being expressed by the people at UNESCO and human rights activists. It is also how I will use the word today.
If you’ve been with me on most of my blogging journey, you already know that I personally have more than one day for tolerance or as I prefer more than one day for acceptance. So I won’t harp on the dire need in the world for tolerant attitudes. In effect, I’d be preaching to the choir.
I will say to those who question why I bring up the subject of acceptance so often. In our white bread, suburban, middle class, christian, heterosexual default culture of the USA, we don’t see any reasons for minorities to point out shortcomings of our national identity.
For instance, in the LGBTQ community, June is celebrated as LGBTQ month. Many people in mainstream culture complain that there is no corresponding straight pride month. I respond to those complaints by pointing out that straight pride is already the default mode of thinking.
Straight folks date, get married, have kids and basically flaunt their straightness all the time, 12 months of the year. Straight folks place images of the objects of their affection on their desks at work. They talk about their weekend dates during breaks at work. They announce wedding engagements in the newspapers. Most movies and television shows depict the heterosexual lifestyle. Straight society doesn’t even consider itself as a lifestyle.
It’s a rare workplace that tolerates or encourages a lesbian to display a photo of her girlfriend or same sex spouse on her desk. If she dares to do so, she will likely be accused of flaunting her sexuality.
It’s the same with religion or lack thereof. In today’s officially secular United States of America, the assumption is that we are mostly Christian. While essentially Christian holidays like Easter, St. Patrick’s Day and Christmas are openly and often legally celebrated there is resistance in many circles to the mention of Ramadan, Kwanza or observances celebrated by other religious and non-religious people. Observers of these “alternative” holidays suffer similar complaints about their holidays as LGBTQ folks hear about the month of June.
Tolerance goes both ways. So, us members of minority religions, philosophies, sexual orientations, nationalities, etc. need to remember to accept people of the mainstream, too.
If the dialogue continues long enough, perhaps some day the International Day of Tolerance will be more than a commemoration. It might even become a legal holiday in countries all over the world.