I just read a reader's response to a Towleroad article on the February 12th murder of 15-year-old Lawrence King in an Oxnard, California, junior high school--shot by a classmate because King had recently announced he was gay.
The reader complains about how everybody, in particular Democratic candidates Clinton and Obama, with no doubt good intentions, is calling for more tolerance in our society.
He replies that what gays and lesbians need is not tolerance.
Ask King if he wants tolerance. What about life? as in a right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness?
American society has already proved its "tolerance" for gays and lesbians--hell, in the entertainment media we are even rather well liked.
If you discount the fact that, quality award-winning entertainment that it was, a movie like Brokeback Mountain garnered sneers and wisecracks from the start, even before it was released.
And some bloggers and reviewers have even decried only vaguely homoerotic elements in 3:10 to Yuma and The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford as vaguely dangerous and disingenuous developments in a post-Brokeback world.
Fox News host John Gibson mocked Heath Ledger's death, calling the actor a "weirdo" for even playing a fictional character who is gay.
But they, most of them, are willing to "tolerate" us.
To tolerate means to put up with ... as in put up with something or someone obnoxious or detestable.
To tolerate means not actively to oppose, prohibit, or exterminate--but it does not necessarily mean to embrace, to accept as deserving of the rights and ordinary privileges of citizenship.
Some people can tolerate poison or extremes of heat or cold.
I hear toleration when right-wing Christians claim to hate the sin but love the sinner. They tolerate sinners, but condemn, persecute, even physically attack the sin. Tough love.
Of course, we know that "tolerance" also means to respect the dignity of those who are different ... but, even then, it's mainly a show of respect for someone who ordinarily doesn't deserve respect.
Perhaps, if anything, America now has too much tolerance ... for repression, stupidity, meanness, and injustice.
What we need is not so much tolerance as liberty, intelligence, kindness, and justice.