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#tolerancemeans there is still more progress to be made.

Updated: Mar 6

Madaline Allen, Undergraduate, University of South Carolina

Tolerance often holds a negative connotation, denoting feelings of frustration, misunderstanding, and anger. One might ask why they must restrain what they know and feel, all to forcibly “accept” the views of another. A step above ignorance, but a step below progress, though tolerance can display a beneficial degree of patience, it is not a solution. Tolerance is not enough to handle high tension problems society faces on a regular basis. It is rather through considering the context, history, and power dynamics a given issue is situated within that solutions can be brought forth, and healthy and educated disagreement–rather than unsettled hate–can thrive. By avoiding mutual exclusion and understanding the differences between emotions, facts, and beliefs, decision makers can clear-mindedly consider the larger picture of an issue and come closer to a solution.

Madaline Allen, Undergraduate, University of South Carolina

With many of the most heated issues seeming to run along lines of foundational values, this mutually exclusive approach is destructive. The either/or fallacy raises stakes, swells emotions, and prevents the openness, creativity, and collaboration needed for new outcomes and solutions to arise. Modern politics tend to pit core values against each other, but this sensationalized conflict goes against the root of democratic values. Democracy hinges on balance through rational, healthy, and open disagreement, which necessitates the coexistence of many principal values at once. These values may hold different weights depending on context, especially when considering the dynamics that have led an issue to where it currently stands.

Decision makers of democracy, from the quietest citizen to the most powerful politician, must learn to never mistake the heated emotions of argumentation for fact, or dispel the validity of fact on the basis of belief. When conflict is viewed in an exclusive way, emotions rise and begin to cloud judgment. While the feelings one has towards a situation are very real and part of an issue, those feelings do not justify acts of hatred or violence, and are often only heightened to that extreme by seeing an issue as unsolvable. Instead, one can best communicate why they feel such dissent by returning to the root of an issue, considering the context and information surrounding that situation, and using that knowledge to practice healthy, open disagreement. By opening up to discussion and understanding a problem in a holistic frame, progress can follow. Conversely, healthy disagreement is unable to occur when there is an imbalance of power for a voice in the argument. “Tolerance” quickly becomes oppression when the playing field is unequal.

Considering tolerance to be the pinnacle of resolution only sets progress further back, creating a false veil of understanding and acceptance, while resentment bubbles beneath the surface. Though tolerance may be the acknowledgement of both the black and white of an issue, progress can only come through willingly choosing to see the myriad of gray found between the two extremes.


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