Image via WikipediaDiscriminate Part of Speech: verb
Definition: differentiate, distinguish
Synonyms: assess, collate, compare, contradistinguish, contrast, difference, discern, discrepate, evaluate, extricate, judge, know, know what's what, make out, note, perceive, remark, segregate, separate, sever, severalize, sift, specify, split hairs, tell apart, tell the difference
G.K. Chesterton wrote: “Tolerance is the virtue of the man without convictions.”
We have come to a point in our society that to have convictions is somehow a character flaw in the person who has them.
There is no black or white, there is only gray. To be fair, there are situations and issues that, on their face, are not easily discernible. That does not mean that the issue remains in a gray area. Upon further research or discovery of new evidence we may be able to make informed judgements. Additionally, many of us have a core set of convictions and beliefs that guide us in life. The survival of our society is incumbent upon that. The problem arises when members of our society lose their moral compass, or are taught that there are no moral absolutes. The latter happens far too often in our public schools and universities. We are taught that it is wrong to discriminate. The word "discriminate" has been twisted to mean something bad. Yet we discriminate all the time. When we buy one brand of product over another, are we discriminating against the brand we don't buy? Absolutely. We have made a comparison, and have assessed that we prefer one over the other. We do this hundreds, even thousands, of times per day over a wide range of decisions. Why is it then, that on certain things we find this unacceptable? Certainly there is the type of discrimination that is abhorrent. Not hiring a person based on skin color or sexual orientation is not acceptable. What about a person that walks into a restaurant looking for a waiters position, but has extreme facial tattoos or exposed "body art"? Managers, business owners, and customers discriminate all the time in decisions that they make. Not all discrimination is bad.
Conversely, not all tolerance is good. We don't have tolerance for a lot of things - drunk driving, domestic violence - nor should we tolerate those things. But, should we be tolerant of things like illegal immigration? I have no problem with immigration. It is when someone comes across the border, northern or southern, without proper permission that I see a problem. That person has now violated a law. Regardless of their situation, and I understand that the situation in their country may be bad, we have to have an orderly flow of immigration into our country in order to maintain a healthy workforce, and in order to protect those coming into the country from unscrupulous employers who would take advantage of them. Would you excuse a homeless person who enters your home illegally? Most people are very discriminating of who they allow into their home. Does this make them intolerant? No, it doesn't. When is profiling acceptable? Many would say never. I say that, in a case where certain criteria are met, it is foolish not to use profiling. Universities use it all the time. Yet when they use it , it is called "Affirmative Action". Aren't they using things such as race and gender in order to have a more "diverse learning experience"?
The problem is when society excuses all sorts of behavior under the banner of tolerance. When we know that the vast, vast, majority of hijackings and terrorist attacks are by Middle Eastern men between the ages of 18 and 35, you bet that I want screeners giving more attention to men that fit that description. Does that mean that all people of Middle Eastern decent are terrorists? Of course not. And, of course, looking Middle Eastern is not a sole criteria for extra screening. The problem is, we have gone so far in the other direction that we now pull 70 tear old women out of line for extra screening. Now, if we ever have a 70 year old grandmother who become a "Depends" Bomber, then we should take that into consideration.
Right now, one of the big debates is whether to allow the Ground Zero Cordoba Mosque to be built within a stones throw of Ground Zero. This is being played in the media as to what kind of tolerant society we are to be, as well as the wrong-headed argument that this is about Freedom of Religion.
On the first point, where is the tolerance on the part of the Imam and the people who want to build this mosque in this location, over the objections of the families of the firemen, policemen, and others who lost family members on 9/11? The Imam, Feisal Abdul Rauf, refuses to acknowledge that Hamas is a terrorist organization, and when asked about the sensitive location of the proposed mosque stated "we can do what we want". The Mosque is being named "Cordoba", after the Mezquita in Cordoba Spain, a monument to the conquest of Cordoba in the 10th century. The symbolism does not go unnoticed. Much of what is done in in Islam is symbolic, including possibly the naming of this mosque after a great conquest, and the proposed opening on the 10th anniversary of 9/11.
As to the second point about this being "freedom of religion", this is a straw man argument. No mosque, church, synagogue or other place of worship can be built anywhere that they want. And it has nothing to do with freedom of religion. It has to do with zoning laws. Many houses of worship have been denied permits to build in particular neighborhood due to these laws, some of which were zoned post-request. This issue has to do with politics, and the appearance of tolerance by Mayor Bloomberg and a bevy of appeasers, over the objections of those who have legitimate reasonsfor not wnating to see this mosque built in this location. I am sure that there are those who don't want a new mosque built anywhere. This is ridiculous, and I don't subscribe to this view. But in this particular case, as with many recent cases where Muslims are involved, tolerance is a one way street. Many Muslims are not tolerant and are trying to force their culture, and gain special privileges, onto the communities in which they have chosen to settle in. Fortunately, and to my gratitude, there are some Muslims coming forward to condemn the building of this mosque in this particular location. Tolerance for one another is fine, provided that the tolerance is reciprocated, and that the "tolerance" isn't being used as simply a means to avoid taking a moral or principled stand on an issue. But to "be tolerant" just to get along, when the behavior is antithetical to the foundations upon which the society is based, that type of tolerance is foolish - and dangerous.