Teach tolerance instead of hatred

Tuesday, September 28, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 4:38 a.m. CDT, Friday, July 4, 2008

What I hate most about the kind of politics that are presently poisoning our social climate is the way it will affect future generations of children. There is something absolutely dismal about thinking of children growing up hating all other children who do not think the way they do.

I heard someone quoting a young man in our community the other day, saying, “We’re the baddest country in the world. We can kick everybody’s behind.” For a long time I believed our civilization had advanced beyond that point.

These days, however, I sense a desire on the part of some to produce a “warrior class.” How sad. This is tantamount to believing that to defend ourselves against terrorism we must become terrorists.

Unfortunately, the people who plan the kind of political strategies that set people against each other don’t think things through to their logical conclusion. This is primarily because these are people who think history is useless and can be disregarded in favor of advancing their particular advantage. For example, why should the United States bother to look into the experiences of the British in their occupation of Iraq before invading it? Has anyone examined the consequences of what happens to countries divided by serious political differences? Ever heard of civil wars?

Some of my readers are very vocal in their opposition to allowing political differences to exist. They seem to sincerely believe their opinion is the only point of view worthy of expression. This reminds me of the attitudes I faced in the elementary school I attended when my family had to move to the city so my sister could attend high school.

Many of the children in this school believed they were the only children in the world who had a right to be angry at the conditions under which they had to live. It wasn’t that my family lived under any different conditions, it was that what these children saw as problems, we saw as opportunities. But, of course, they were in the majority and theirs was the only acceptable point of view. And as things go, the irresistible force met the immovable object, and there was war.

The important thing to understand in this story is that the conditions remained the same because we were all too busy fighting each other to deal with the conditions. And even though I finally earned my right to express my opinion, the overall circumstances around me did not improve. It took another few years of maturity before I learned that walking away would accomplish more than engaging in the fight.

As it turned out, the real enemy was not the person with the different point of view, it was the person who created the conditions under which base instincts thrive. Since then, I’ve learned to save my energy for the important battles.

It seems to me that living under the constant threat of terror should make us all seriously consider what kind of world we want to live in. Attempts to terrorize each other are stupid and non-productive.

I happen to believe that the money-driven two-party system is bad for the country. Still the people who believe otherwise have a right to their opinion and those who choose to belong to these parties have a right to do so.

Having participated in the Civil Rights Movement, I have borne personal witness to the ugly side of America and seeing people beginning to take that road back to the past is distressing. However, we have those among us who never got past it and have been awaiting the opportunity to restir their grievances. America has changed a lot since the days of the movement.

For one thing, the population is a lot more diverse. For the sake of all of us, it would therefore be far more prudent to seek out ways to unite people rather than divide them. There is no doubt that there are those among us who intend to persist until the end in forcing their agenda upon the rest of us. So it becomes imperative for each of us to choose the path we hope will lead us more quickly to our goals.

Personally, I favor more stringent educational objectives. Maintenance of a democratic society requires an educated populace. It is probably true that you can lead the free world by forcing them to look down the barrel of a gun but, inevitably, freedom to choose will rear its head and people will demand to have their views heard. I think it is a mistake to believe that countries whose populations are not as technologically savvy as ours are uneducated. Believe it or not, some countries place a high premium on education and their citizens have a much higher literacy rate than ours. To think weapons of mass destruction are of greater worth than educated people indicates a certain shallowness of thought.

No one can stop parents from teaching their children that might makes right. When they carry that same attitude onto the school yard, tragedy often develops. And it’s tough for teachers who have to work around attitudes taught by parents. It will probably take a few years before the consequences of this behavior will compel communities to set corrective standards. So for now, most of us have no choice but to grin and bear it.

This is the point where many will ask, so what else is new?

You can join the conversation with Rose M. Nolen by calling at 882-5734 or e-mailing her at

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