I plummet with Cliff


I don’t get on well with tolerant people. Don’t ask me why, but the more tolerant someone is, the less he is able to tolerate me. Likewise with loving people. As soon as someone starts talking about much they love the whole world, I lose any hope that they will find my company bearable.

I just took a walk with Cliff, the significant other (or shack-up honey, depending upon your level of tolerance) of a friend. First, he bemoaned the failure of society for letting a man freeze to death on the sidewalk, as recently happened here. I pointed out that the man hadn’t asked for shelter and had drunk himself unconscious on a night of record cold. Cliff could barely tolerate my callousness.

Then the subject of changing the name Centennial Boulevard to Martin Luther King Junior Boulevard came up. Cliff assumed that my objection was racist. I don’t know why he assumed this other than for the fact that I am from Mississippi, and tolerant people usually take this to mean that I just have to be racist. I don’t think I ever did convince him that my objection actually arose from my belief that no street name should be longer than four syllables. Martin Luther King Junior Boulevard has seven, not counting the three in boulevard. Cliff was right in arguing that everyone abbreviates it to MLK, but I thought that this proved my point. Take Eugene’s presidential streets. It’s not Ulysses Simpson Grant Street or James Knox Polk Street; it’s just plain old Grant Street and Polk Street, so why not King Boulevard?

Besides, when you look at the kind of people who are referred to by all three names, it’s serial killers for heaven’s sakes (Lee Boyd Malvo, John Allen Muhammad, David Parker Ray, John Wayne Gacy, George Walker Bush—need I continue?). Okay, Mark David Chapman and Lee Harvey Oswald weren’t serial killers, but at least they were killers. My point is that two names are adequate for everyone but murderers. Anybody know Christ’s middle name (his middle initial was H)? How about Mother Teresa’s (maybe it was Dear)?

Not content to let Cliff think I was but half an asshole when I could go for the full monty, I added that if someone's parents had the audacity to give them a name that was longer than three syllables, they should have the courtesy to abbreviate it. For example, how megalomaniacal do you have to be to expect everyone to call you Elizabeth when you could go by Liz, Beth, or Libbie? I mean, come on, how much of a person’s day do you expect them to spend saying your name?

If a person boasts of his tolerance but can only tolerate the opinions of people who agree with him, then how is he better than the rest of us? Or if he says he is loving but only loves those who love him, how is he more enlightened than you and I? Maybe I’ll ask Cliff about these things someday when we take a walk together, someday when hell freezes over and its drunks perish.

11 comments:

Bill said...

You know, it's actually kind of interesting you bring this discussion of "tolerance" up, because I myself have been pondering the idea of "open-mindedness" as of late. I have convinced myself that tolerance/open-mindedness are impossible terms. Looking at politics, I look at all of the liberal people I know who tout their own open-mindedness and tolerance, yet some of these people are the most close-minded, bigoted individuals that I know. The same can be said for just as many conservatives; I have just had more experience with people from the left.

I don't think that anyone can truly call themselves tolerant. Even the most "tolerant" can only fit the idea in a very limited capacity. No matter how "tolerant" one may be, there is always a point at which they can no longer tolerate those that may disagree with them. The worst is when they make a divide between the "tolerant" ("us") and the "intolerant" ("them"), which is completely contradictory to the idea of being tolerant and open-minded.

Maya said...

You and my husband would get along. You are much too logical for this world...lol And really get that we are each responsible for our lives.

He was out with a group of enviormentalists hiking when the conversation turned to buying items. Jokingly he said he likes to buy products made by 6 year olds who smoke cigarettes when they aren't manufacturing items. No one laughed, they took him seriously in spite of the fact that he laughed.

Snowbrush said...

Bill, I'm glad you and Caitlin are so far able to hang in there through my irreverence. I worry about that from time to time, but don't know what to do about it.

BTW, you and I are in agreement on this issue.

"No one laughed, they took him seriously in spite of the fact that he laughed."

Maya, maybe they just thought it wasn't a fitting topic for humor (let me add here that I might have said something similar).

I was initially appalled by the TV show Hogan's Heroes, because I thought it was in exceedingly poor taste to make fun of a Nazi POW camp. Now, I feel differently about it, yet I had a BIG problem recently with SNL making fun of the governor of NY on account of his blindness.

Humor often offends, but it's good to strive for an open-heart when you're offended (especially when you pride yourself on being on the side of love and tolerance), something your husband's companions don't seem to have done.

Reuben said...

Yes, love it.

Not-so-quick note: Weeks ago over at Philosophy Bites they interviewed the political philosopher Wendy Brown on the subject of tolerance. She made the interesting observation that whenever the word "tolerance" is used in any discipline (mining, engineering, pharmaceutical, etc.), it always describes the management of some foreign element or unwanted body invading a normal host. As such, subjects of tolerance are in fact unwanted objects of aversion, being both strange and stigmatic, and in need of management. She suggests that it is of course necessary that everyone maintain a degree of tolerance in order to secure the most basic cooperation between individuals, but that when elevated to the status of political principle, that it may become a substitute for, say, justice or equality. I would add that we deceive ourselves with the illusion of agreeableness when we tout our high tolerance levels without acknowledging our basic opposition to that which we tolerate, and furthermore, that there seems to be much social pressure to exhibit this agreeable temperament.

Christine Orchanian Adler said...

Snowbrush, you read my blog, so you know the state of my brain today. lol So I'm not going to get philosophical. I just wanted to thank you for the laughs. I needed them! :)

JOE TODD said...

Thanks for the laugh...
I go by Joe Todd (first name and middle name a gemini) When I drive down the road I can do group therapy because there is 2 of me.

thanks

Snowbrush said...

"...whenever the word "tolerance" is used in any discipline (mining, engineering, pharmaceutical, etc.), it always describes the management of some foreign element or unwanted body invading a normal host."

Clear as the nose on my face only I forgot to take into account the dictionary definition of the term I was discussing. Of course, tolerance is basically what you do when you don't like something but can't figure out how to get rid of it. The politically correct appear to have overlooked this, and I based my discussion upon their definition of tolerance as something that is warm and fuzzy, when it is actually anything but.

Strayer said...

Sometimes I like to egg on the Politically correct. I despise them, in many ways. I have equated the peace people on the left with the god people on the right. Most do not practise peace, say the word peace carelessly and stupidly, like some throw around the word and concept of god, using it like a club, or to propel agendas that are personal in nature, like the peace people do, only their religion is fake peace.

I used to argue with them and say "if we leave Iraq, that doesn't create peace." And they'd get mad. Anyhow.

Snowbrush said...

The Quakers have various questions they use for self-examination to help people determine whether they're on the right track. One of their questions is along the lines of, "When you're working for peace, do you do so in the spirit that occasions war?"

Pantheist Mom said...

Well, I consider myself a lefty liberal and have never particularly liked the word "tolerance" for exactly the reasons that have been stated here. The term "tolerate" sounds very arrogant to me.

People are who they are. I'm not happy when they make choices that deliberately hurt other people, but other than that - eh. There are certainly a lot of folks that get tied up in knots over ridiculous things. I'm sure I do my share of that, but I am who I am.

By the way, this post had me in stitches, especially the three-name discussion.

Snowbrush said...

"...this post had me in stitches..."

Why, thank you.