Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Attacking tolerance

Well, we're starting to get a taste of the conservative movement's pushback to the Predatorgate Scandal: It's all the fault of those gay people. If we didn't have to tolerate them, this sort of thing wouldn't happen.

This was explained to us by Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, who told a national CNN audience that "when you hold up tolerance and diversity, this is what you end up getting."

A press release from the FRC spells it out:
We are all shocked by this spectacle of aberrant sexual behavior, but we shouldn't be. This is the end result of a society that rejects sexual restraints in the name of diversity. When a 16-year-old boy is not safe from sexual solicitation from an elected representative of the people, we should question the moral direction of our nation. If our children aren't safe in the halls of Congress, where are they safe? Maybe it's time to question: when is tolerance just an excuse for permissiveness?

It certainly appears that the FRC would like to forbid homosexuals from serving in Congress, since that seems to be the kind of "tolerance" they are decrying here. But of course, what this is really all about is turning this sordid case of Republican amorality into a talking point for the religious right's current agenda -- namely, their assault on the very concept of tolerance.

Remember the Spongebob foofara? Same song, earlier verse. And those attacks, likewise, are part of a broader assault on the very concept of multiculturalism.

Of course, it shouldn't need saying, but for this crowd it obviously does, so here goes: There is nothing in the concept of multicultural tolerance that advocates acceptance of sexually abusive behavior. Mark Foley's indiscretions are no more representative of gay people than the recent school massacres in Pennsylvania, Colorado, and Montreal reflect heterosexual males.

As I've pointed out previously, this assault on the very concept of tolerance cuts a swath that is much broader than merely the issue of sexual preference. It also attacks religious, racial, and ethnic tolerance.

When religious beliefs become a cover that allows us to no longer tolerate gays and lesbians, then they readily become a cover for racial and religious bigotry too. There are a number of self-described Christians who openly preach anti-Semitism and hatred of racial minorities; who is to say which form of religion-inspired intolerance is more justifiable than another?

Remember, too, that the concept of multicultural tolerance arose primarily as a response to the then-dominant American worldview of white supremacy. Those who argue against it rarely say -- beyond a "Bible based" society -- what they would replace it with. But the common touchstone to which they all harken is the pre-Civil Rights era, when all these forms of bigotry were not merely tolerated but encouraged.

So it shouldn't surprise us that, away from the rarefied air of cable TV, these kinds of verbal assaults against tolerance wind up encouraging the very sector -- white supremacists -- from which these sorts of arguments have traditionally emanated.

Over the last weekend, the Columbia River town of Longview, Wash., was hit hard by neo-Nazi vandals who spray-painted swastikas and white-supremacist slogans around the town:
White supremacist graffiti was spray-painted across 10 Longview locations overnight Friday, marring property and the town's image, city leaders said.

Longview police said 10 buildings, vehicles or signs had been found with spray-painted slogans or symbols as of Saturday afternoon and urged anyone who knows about it to talk to authorities. The affected area stretched from the 800 block of Ninth Avenue out to the skate park at 28th Avenue and Douglas Street, said Officer Mike Rabideau. As of Saturday police had no suspects.

Some of the victims were black, but others appear to have been targeted at random. Swastikas as well as the words "white war" and SWP -- which stands for supreme white power -- were found on several of the sites.

The vandals apparently had a prime target: a multicultural church that catered to minorities of all backgrounds, and a significant advocate for "tolerance" in the community:
A church targeted over the weekend found swastikas on its doors earlier this year.

Then last month, someone broke in and stole their stereo equipment and microphones.

Church leaders believe it was the work of white supremacists who are trying to silence them.

Sunday morning, the House of Prayer church found a black swastika on their door. Despite efforts to remove the symbol, a dim outline of it remains.

Churchgoers were stunned and baffled:
Hart, who is black, said he and his parents grew up here and while there were minor incidents of discrimination, he'd never "seen anything like this."

Hart said he's heard there are Aryan Nations members living in town and speculated that someone with those beliefs would object to the black and Latino residents that frequent both the park and church. "It kind of shakes you up," said E.M. Jackson, the church's 95-year-old bishop. "They're trying to stir something up but I don't really know what it is."

Turn on your cable news channels and you can see what it is. These people are hearing their own longstanding complaints against "tolerance" and multiculturalism being parroted by national conservative-movement figures. They're being told that they were right all along. They're being encouraged by religious leaders like Tony Perkins and James Dobson. And they're eager to take it to the next step.

It shouldn't surprise us, then, when these kinds of acts are the result.

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