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The first virtue of a democracy is tolerance, not freedom

Heath Shive
Heath Shive
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.The Associated Press
Wednesday, July 16, 2014 12:01 am
‘Tis the season to love your country! But less than two years ago, there were petitions from no less than 17 states to secede. I don’t see how secession is patriotic. I don’t see how you can be proud to be American, then steal a whole state. It’d be like saying you love your Mom, then stealing her car.Sounds selfish to me. But I never understood love. Patriotism is love of your country, right? And did the course of true love ever run smooth? So maybe I should try to harder to understand how people love their country.

General Electric is a pretty patriotic. Americans subsidize GE research and development. GE receives billions in U.S. defense contracts. But because of esoteric tax laws, GE doesn’t pay any corporate income tax. GE pays billions in corporate income taxes to China, though. That evidence aside, GE loves America. Like a pig loves his slop. But it sounds selfish to me.

Partisan rivalry and culture war is increasing in this country. Gay marriage, gun rights, abortion, taxes, Social Security, Obamacare etc. I don’t know about love of country, but we love to fight, especially with each other. Of course, it’s tearing this country apart. Must be patriotic. Otherwise, it’d just be selfish.

We shouldn’t be surprised by our infighting. The First Amendment gives you the right to think, talk, write and even pray how you please. Opinions are sanctioned. And what’s the first thing two opinions do when they meet? Kaboom! The First Amendment guarantees a fight.

That’s why the first and foremost virtue of a democracy isn’t freedom, equality, or justice. It’s tolerance. Tolerance is the one democratic virtue that makes all other virtues possible. Judge not lest ye be judged.

You have to love your neighbor. The jerk.

From the left, I’m told not to let that guy have his guns. Even if he’s never committed a crime, has no mental illness and has never threatened anybody. Leftist ideals say no one should have a gun’s power and that the world would be safer without guns.

From the right, I’m told not to let that guy have his gay marriage. Even if he’s not hurting other people, his private life is his business and he’s still a citizen with rights. Rightist ideals say that what he does is harmful, and that the world would be safer without him.

Patriotism! We say we love our country, but turn around and hate tens of millions of fellow Americans. This is like saying you have a great home, because you love your house — and hate your kids.

I’m not anti-ideals, but ideals aren’t inherently good. They’re tools.

We’re righteous when we use our ideals to attack those who disagree with us. We’re compassionate when we use our ideals to defend all, even those who disagree. It feels better to be righteous. Compassion looks too much like work.

You probably think I’m advocating tolerance in the afterglow of our Independence Day. That’s probably because you don’t know me. I say be selfish! And be a patriot! Because selfishness, as any 2-year-old will tell you, is just the way of our world. It’s instinctual. Shoot, Ayn Rand made selfishness a god and called it “objectivisim.” Tolerance can’t compete with that.

So, onward with secession! Not only should Indiana secede from this Union, but Allen County should secede from Indiana. Why not? Some Colorado counties tried it last year. Some counties in the South seceded from the Confederacy in the Civil War.

If squeaky wheels get the grease, what do whiny self-righteous wheels get?

Could we get extra pork barrel legislation? Maybe get tax-free status like GE? We’ll never know till we try. And sometimes, you just have to love till it hurts — other people, I mean.


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