Within the last week, two friends of mine told me, separately, how they had been approached by their immediate superiors in the multinational corporations where they work with the suggestion that they help out in organising the upcoming Gay Pride parade in Dublin this coming June. While both of them made excuses for being unable to help out, they felt that the “invitation” was a little more than an invitation. That they would voice their moral objection to the parade was of course unthinkable; that they didn’t show great willingness to help out was a source of discomfort. This subtle pressure suggests to me that amicable disagreement is no longer enough for some promoting the LGBTQ cause: they have moved on to the stage where nothing less than positive support is what is required. Tolerance no longer suffices, and this is very bad news for freedom of conscience.
A look at some articles from the Huffington Post shows that not only is toleration insufficient, it is even considered insulting. Take Tom Bartolomei’s assertion that “[t]o live and let live is not enough anymore. It’s no longer sufficient for our straight friends to say, ‘Hey, I have no problem with you being gay,’ or, ‘I have gay friends.’ Guess what? We have no problem with you being straight, and we have straight friends as well.” Or again John Schwartz’s objection that, “… there’s something about that word [tolerance], with its connotation of forbearance and gritted teeth, that sets my own teeth on edge. Tolerance, to use an annoying term of my son’s, is meh — a word that doesn’t do much. And it might even do some harm.” Toleration of course is unacceptable because it withholds one’s blessing; it expresses, albeit quietly and implicity, one’s reservations or even just lack of enthusiasm for something. It appears, to Amelie, also writing in the Huffington Post, that this lack of enthusiasm is “not good enough”: “Words like “accept” and “tolerate” do not indicate good things; in the context of homosexuality, they imply that there is something wrong with being gay that parents have to put up with. That is not a good message.”
Unwittingly these writers are undervaluing the key role that toleration has in a civilised society. “Live and let live” – within the very minimal bounds of what is required for people to live together peacefully – is the very bedrock of social co-existence. When one party refuses to accept the freedom of others to dissent – which is a basic freedom of conscience – we have moved into the realm of “Thought Crime”. When one party refuses to accept the freedom of others to refuse to join their band, then we have moved into the realm of Jihad. It is remarkable that while the Western world is left reeling from savage terrorist attacks (such as is unfolding in Manchester as I write this piece) perpetrated by extremists who simply cannot “live and let live”, at the same time, within the West, some are extoling a secularised variety of disdain for the tolerance of conscientious differences – the paradox of the rainbow flag.