Coexistence and a Christian Buddha

While living in San Francisco, I was always a little concerned that I may have been in non-compliance with a California State Department of Transportation regulation. It appeared to me that it might have been mandatory to display both a state-issued license plate on the back of my car, along with a “COEXIST” bumper sticker.

The message of COEXIST is, I suppose, interesting in terms of its banal universality. Almost all of us earnestly desire to live peacefully with one another. There is, however, the ever-present and small group of people who would wish the rest of us dead. While I am not at all certain of this, I suppose (at least in theory) the COEXIST bumper stickers could potentially wear on the psyches of this latter group, causing them to re-think their murderous positions. Unfortunately, the message is not directed at the world’s most deadly extremists. It is directed at the rest of us.

A few weeks ago I encountered a more interesting configuration of messages on the back of a car in front of me. The ubiquitous COEXIST bumper sticker was situated immediately next to a “fat” Christian “fish” symbol that had been embedded with the word BUDDHA. The irony was absolutely impressive.

If I could have talked with the driver of the car, I would have asked; “So let me get this right. You want all of us to live in peace and harmony, and yet at the same time, you have no qualms about simultaneously insulting the faith systems of those around you? Is that what you intended to communicate?” My guess is that the owner of the vehicle had not even begun to ponder the absurd levels of their exhibited hypocrisy.  Essentially, their message was this: We can all live in a state of political bliss…if everyone simply agrees with them. If everyone else can just learn to be tolerant, then life will be wonderful. At least the logic is simple.

I have just one question. Shouldn’t the rules we personally make up apply to ourselves?

Liberals always fail to recognize the obvious trade-offs that surround both their opinions and their actions. It is only possible to advertise and support complete tolerance if you are willing to act tolerantly yourself. Tolerance comes with a cost. That cost is called restraint. The liberal left, in their arrogance, is unwilling to recognize or pay this cost. They have seemingly come to believe that they can have it both ways.

My view of the notion of tolerance that is attached to the COEXIST bumper stick is of a much more barbarian variety. I am tolerant of things I consider good and right. I am intolerant of things that I view as either evil or corrupt. I am tolerant with people who support the interests and conditions of others. I am intolerant of those who would abuse their fellow-man. I am tolerant of kindness. I am intolerant of meanness; in any of its forms. I am intolerant of tolerance at any cost. And I am intolerant of self-apotheosis.

Since when did the sophomoric notion of tolerance somehow become virtuous in and of itself? Tolerance is not a virtue. Tolerance is a response. It is a response that can be directed at the good, or it can be directed at evil. If tolerance is the personally selected response to evil, then it is itself evil.  If William Wilberforce, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rosa Parks had been tolerant, the world would be a very different and uglier place. Tolerance is very likely the advised course of action in many (if not most) situations. But the whole concept of tolerance as a “philosophy-of-life” is misdirected and dangerous, both morally and politically. It has no foundation on which to operate.

In the world’s marketplace for ideas, those who propose “coexistence” and tolerance are clearly entitled to their “booth.” They lose the right to be listened to, however, when the very first words out of their mouths are intellectually incoherent, philosophically baseless, and radically self-condemnatory. In a world characterized by terrorism on one hand, and boundless acts of personal sacrifice on the other, blind tolerance is the prescription for those without the moral wherewithal to make any meaningful distinctions between the two.

The perplexing political and social questions of our day are never adequately addressed with simple tolerance. The real questions will remain “Tolerance of what…and for what reason?”

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