Thursday, April 18, 2013

We Don't Put Up With No Intolerance

This started a while back on Facebook. Someone posted picture of a sheet of notebook paper on which was scrawled, "Judging a person does not define who they are, it defines who you are."

My first thought was, the spirit is right, but its too simplistic.

My second thought was the grammar is wrong. The singular "person" is being referenced with a plural "they."

My third thought was, I have just outed myself as a Grammar Nazi.

I don't think you can go through life without judging others. You ought not get in the windowless van with the creepy stranger promising free candy. The same goes for decisions about where you'll invest your money or who you'll hire to remodel your house. You judge others when you accept a dinner date or consider a marriage proposal. This is simply exercising good judgment.

The black economist Walter Williams make a case for discrimination. He says he won't sleep with a woman if she's not Mrs. Williams. He's being a bit silly to make a not-silly point. Keeping one's wedding vows  is a legitimate basis for discriminating against potential sex partners. Since Dr. Williams is black it is obvious that he's making a distinction between legitimate and illegitimate bases for discrimination.

The basis of judgment may be legitimate or not. If I am selling you something, the only color I care about is the green of your money. If I'm lending you money, I'll extend my consideration to your credit history. It's illegitimate to consider your race, creed, sexual preference, or political affiliations. I think it's wrong to even record such criteria for the purposes of affirmative action.

The legitimacy of judgment is also contextual. If I'm renting a house or an apartment to you, your housekeeping becomes a consideration. I don't want to wash nicotine off my walls, so I feel  smoking habits are a legitimate basis of judging of potential tenants.

Suppose I'm considering a job candidate. It is wrong to consider sex, creed and sexual preference in employment decisions. How about when a female, Buddhist, lesbian applies for the job of Pastor of a Baptist church?

I've stated before one's conscience is not subject to political suasion. Freedom of religion is more than just disestablishmentarianism (prohibiting funding of an established church with tax dollars). It's giving people the space to be true to their conscience.

Religious intolerance cuts both ways. If someone's conscience demands something you don't like, you are the intolerant one when you damn that person on that basis. Which brings us back to where we started. This goes around and around.

And around. Sometimes being intolerant is OK. If your religion tells you to fly an airplane into a building or another murderous act, I won't tolerate your religion.

It's a judgment call.

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