So, You Think You’re Tolerant?

Tolerance. It’s a word we hear a lot these days. So, let’s define it. 

Tolerance is “the ability to live with people whose opinions and behavior you don’t agree with.” That’s essentially how Oxford defines it, how Merriam-Webster defines it, and how we, as a society, have always defined it.

You might be for the death penalty, and your cousin might be against it. You might be against a $15 minimum wage, and your coworker might be for it. Your dad might have voted for Trump, your mom might have voted for Clinton, and your brother may not have voted at all.

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Whatever differences we have, tolerating others’ opinions is a prerequisite to a functioning and free society.

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America itself was built on a foundation of tolerance. The Declaration of Independence guarantees us life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. But there’s an implicit contract there: To have your life, your liberty, and your pursuit of happiness, you have to be tolerant of somebody else’s life, their liberty, and their pursuit of happiness. 

This contract, though, seems to be breaking down.

If you listen to the mainstream media, only one side is living up to this deal: the left. “The right,” according to the media, “is intolerant of everyone… except those darned white, heterosexual, Christian males.”

There’s only one problem. It’s just not true. Incredibly, the left isn’t even tolerant of the very people they say they’re tolerant of!

If you’re gay, or black, or an immigrant, and you’re not in lockstep with current leftist orthodoxy, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

If you believe we should judge people on the content of their character and not the color of their skin, the left calls you “racist.” If you believe that America is a nation of immigrants, but that our country should also protect its borders, the left calls you a “xenophobe.” If you believe that men and women are equal but fundamentally different, the left calls you “sexist.”

Here’s the thing: those who only tolerate people they agree with or like…aren’t actually tolerant.

So, who is tolerant? 

Is it the organizers of the Women’s March, who had to apologize for the “hurt and confusion” they caused when they invited a man—leftist icon Bernie Sanders—to speak at their convention? Is it the Antifa thugs, who caused UC Berkeley to spend $600,000 on security when mainstream conservative Ben Shapiro showed up to give a talk? Or is it democratic congresswoman Maxine Waters, who scolded Kanye West for “talking out of turn” when he dared suggest that blacks should think for themselves?

These aren’t isolated examples. I’m guessing that you— the person reading this right now—have silenced yourself because you don’t want to suffer the wrath of the outraged mob.

So, let me ask the question again: Who is tolerant?

Well, here’s the surprise: It’s actually those “scary” right-wingers that the media and the universities demonize every day.

I speak from personal experience.

Maybe I’m a glutton for punishment here, but I still consider myself a liberal. And it’s my duty as a liberal to say what I think.

I would rather stand for what I believe and be hated than bow down and be loved.

The left, sadly, has become utterly intolerant of anyone with whom they disagree. Why? Because they believe that they know how you should live and how you should think. Any deviation, any non-conformity, is dangerous to that goal.

Believe it or not, the right, these days, actually welcomes diversity of thought.

I can tell you that in the last few years of my political evolution, I’ve consistently found conservatives to be tolerant and open-minded. Don’t take my word for it, though. Test it out for yourself. Go talk to some. They do exist, and they do things like watch movies, travel, and eat ethnic food—you know, regular people things.

You know what I found out?

The right, much more than the left, believes in the notion of “live and let live.” And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the true definition of tolerance.

Article by Dave Rubin, Guest Columnist

Prager University helps millions of Americans understand the fundamental values that shaped America and provides the resources to articulate them. Published with permission.

The Language of Liberty series is a collaborative effort of the Center for Self Governance (CSG) Administrative Team. CSG is a non-profit, non-partisan educational organization, dedicated to training citizens in applied civics. The authors include administrative staff, selected students, and guest columnists. The views expressed by the authors are their own and may not reflect the views of CSG. Contact them at

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