Friday, May 3, 2013

Let's Define terms "Bigot" and "Intolerant"


This column originally appeared in The Sun Chronicle on Friday, May 3, 2013
 
AN INSIDE LOOK
By Bill Gouveia

The word “bigot” is thrown around a lot these days, usually by people who aren’t quite sure what it means.  I thought I understood it, but decided to look it up to be sure.

According to the World English Dictionary, a bigot is “a person who is intolerant of any ideas other than his or her own, especially on religion, politics or race.”  I found that slightly lacking, so I continued on and looked up “intolerant”, which was defined as “not able or willing to tolerate or endure.”

And therein lays the rub.  In this day and age, it is apparently not enough we live our lives according to whatever religion, dogma, political bent or set of guidelines we as individuals decide to follow and believe in.  No, it seems we must also denigrate and otherwise degrade those we consider to be our moral inferiors.  After all, what good is it to hold the moral high ground if you can’t lord it over others?

This philosophy seems most prevalent today in the debate over gay marriage.  Some Christian groups and others opposed to homosexual unions (or just homosexuality in general) are claiming they have been unfairly tagged with the “bigot” label.  They complain they are being forced to “accept” things like homosexuality, even though it goes against some values they sincerely cherish.

 I must confess I find that thinking somewhat puzzling.  Is allowing equal rights to those who differ from us “accepting” what they do?  Or is it merely recognition of the fact we live in a country where you are free to be who and what you are, as long as you don’t hurt others doing it?

Were the people who opposed interracial marriage for so long bigots?  I guess they could qualify under the strict definition, but I prefer to think many of them simply were afraid of what they did not understand.  As generations passed and we learned more about ourselves and others, these fears faded and so did public opposition to what some referred to as an “unnatural” practice.

Of course, many gay marriage opponents bristle any time this volatile topic is compared to racial issues.  However I’m not comparing the issues themselves, but pointing out the similarities in how society in general has reacted to them. 

It is hard for many young people today to fully appreciate just what a big deal “accepting” interracial marriage truly was in many parts of this country.  The public was generally opposed to the concept, and it intruded upon the religious beliefs of many.  The integrity of both marriage and the individual races would be damaged, it was argued.  The children of interracial couples will be unable to adjust to the scrutiny they will receive, critics chimed.

 Of course, that was silly.  Interracial marriage isn’t even really a topic of discussion anymore, yet most of those religions who decried it seem to still be flourishing.  They did not abandon their core beliefs in order to “accept” those who obviously did not agree. 

They just came to realize their “acceptance” was neither being sought nor necessary.  It just didn’t matter whether they believed those engaging in marriage this way were morally right or wrong.  It only mattered that people who loved each other and wanted to raise a family together received equal rights under our laws, and their actions were no threat to the rights of others.

 That same situation exists today regarding gay marriage.  It is not a matter of gay rights, but of human rights.

No religion is being forced to accept homosexual couples as something they desire or recommend.  But we are as a country on the verge of recognizing we stand to lose more by denying gay people the equal rights and advantages of marriage than we do by extending them voluntarily.  We in Massachusetts understand that, as gay marriage has been legal here for almost a decade now.

Bigotry is always repulsive, even when it stems from those who wrap it in the cloth of God.  But that is different from intolerance, not only in degree but by its very nature.

Christians are not bigots, and homosexuals are not a threat to traditional marriage.  So let’s all stop being intolerant – whatever that still means.

Bill Gouveia is a local columnist and can be emailed at aninsidelook@aol.com and followed on Twitter at @Billinsidelook.

2 comments:

Jim said...

YOU SEE BILL,I DON'T FIND YOUR ARTICLE NEGATIVE BUT THE ASSUMPTIONS OF THE DEFINITION OF MARRIAGE BOTHERS ME. MARRIAGE IS INDEED A "RELIGIOUS" OR "FAITH" INSTITUTION, NOT TO BE DEFINED BY ANY GOVERNMENT BODY. I AM NOT INTOLERANT OF GAY COUPLES WHO CHOOSE TO LIVE THEIR LIFESTYLE, BUT WITH THE REJECTION OF "CIVIL UNIONS" WHICH IS A GOVERNMENT DEFINED INSTITUTION, WHICH ALLOWS THEM ALL THE RIGHTS AND PRIVILEGES OF MARRIED COUPLES ISN'T ENOUGH, I MUST MAKE MY "BIGOTED" STAND. I AM NOT INTOLERANT OF THEM LIVING THEIR LIVES IN PEACE, OPENLY OR NOT, BUT RE-DEFINING MARRIAGE MUST HAVE AN ULTERIOR MOTIVE. IT WAS RECENTLY CONFIRMED BY MASHA GESSEN A GAY/LESBIAN ACTIVST WHO ADMITS THE INTENT OF GAY MARRIAGE IS TO DESTROY ALL MARRIAGE. http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=n9M0xcs2Vw4#action=share CHECK OUT HER OWN WORDS.THAT IS WHAT I AS A CHRISTIAN AND A HETEROSEXUAL BECOME INTOLERANT OF.I'M INTOLERANT OF THEIR DISHONEST INTOLERANCE. JIM VALEQUETT

Bill Gouveia said...

Jim - First, what some whack job nut says on YouTube is should not be taken as the stated goal of any type of significant number of people. And marriage certainly has religious aspects to it, but in the eyes of the government and for purposes of equal treatment under the law - it does not. The government doesn't care (and shouldn't care) what religion you got married under. If heterosexual marriage is ever somehow destroyed, it will be by divorce, adultery, and organized sports - not gay marriage! :)