Happy. Sad. Angry. Excited. Hopeful. Distraught. Confused. I have trouble thinking of one person who did not experience at least one of these emotions this past Friday. Do I even need to explain what happened that caused these various emotions? Surely, everyone knows by now. The Supreme Court of the United States of America has legalized gay marriage for all 50 states. The most powerful country in the world has spoken and its message quite clear. No longer is the right and privilege of marriage afforded only to a man and a woman who set out on the journey of a lifetime together, this right is now afforded to any two men or any two women who choose to spend every day with one another, for the rest of their lives.
I’ve heard so many opinions on the matter it’s really starting to become overwhelming. Some are for the Supreme Court decision, some are against it. Some are not okay with the decision but respect the right of the Court to decide and some think that the Court has forgotten the traditions of this country built on religious principles. Some religious people are ecstatic and others believe this is the symbol of the crumbling of western society as we know it.
Now’s the part when I tell you what I think, right? Not exactly. You don’t know what I feel about this decision and I am not telling you. Perhaps you think you know how I feel? Great! Still not telling you. My reason is quite simple, my opinion does not matter. What I think, why I think it, whether I spent years developing my perspective or ten seconds, my opinion should be irrelevant. The debate over this past Friday’s decision is a microcosm of the greater issues of tolerance and openness. And you should not need to hear my perspective to know whether or not you will be tolerant of me.
The stronger voice that came out of the Supreme Court and the White House on Friday is that tolerance has won. Love has won. My belief is that tolerance, love, acceptance and openness are not just words that you can throw around when people do not agree with you. These terms are not weapons to use against someone who will not stand on your side in the fight for whatever issue it is that you feel passionately about. If one side wins a debate, tolerance has not won rather one side has been upheld to be the present truth of the majority opinion. Tolerance and acceptance are core values of a person who genuinely wants to perpetuate discussion and love in this world.
My beliefs should have nothing to do with whether or not you will tolerate me. If one respects anothers right to form their own opinion, if one does not harm another or hurt another because of their own beliefs, even if they think they are wrong, that is tolerance. We need to stop living in a world that is so polarized. We need to stop thinking that disagreements mean that “I do not like you”. There is nothing more pathetic than watching a debate between two people who vehemently disagree on an issue. Nothing is accomplished, aside from finding out who can throw the lowest blow first. We need to stop judging each other for our opinions and instead for our character. How do you conduct yourself? How do you treat other people? Do you love me, simply because I am made in the image of God? These are the questions we need to be asking, and your level of acceptance based on those values will dictate how tolerant you are.
One can completely disagree with the life decisions of another on every level: religious, social, economic or from any other perspective! One can think that someone else has distorted the word of God or alternatively has manipulated the words of the constitution to follow their own agenda. But these should not be the defining issues of how tolerant you are of another. Whether some is wearing an American flag, an Israeli flag, a rainbow flag or…any kind of flag, we cannot and should not tolerate hatred! But hatred is not found in disagreement. It is found in whether or not you will hold the door open for the person behind you. Tolerance is found in the smile that you give a stranger and in the steps that you take to perpetuate kindness over hatred in this world.
This world is too small and our generation should recognize that more than any other generation. We are so connected with one another, so let’s stop making barriers and walls that don’t need to be there. If we wake up and try to fill this world with respect and love for one another than we will wake up to a world of true tolerance. Last Friday’s decision caused so many different emotions for so many different kinds of people. I’m still not telling you my opinion, but I do hope that if I did, you would accept me regardless of whether or not I agreed with you.