The Face of Genuine Tolerance is Kindness

So many things have happened for the last three years that writing has taken a huge setback to simply experiencing life. Definitely not the keyboard warrior as many bloggers are. I’ve experienced a certain tuning out when it comes to social media. Perhaps it is age. Or because there are just too many books on the shelf that’s been left unread. And there is Inotia 4 that Marge and I are currently addicted to. When I do subject myself to Facebook, it does not take me long to harken back to why I avoided social media in the first place. Sometimes, the incessant vitriol causes one to simply look away. But there are some topics that strike a chord within people no matter how distant you want to be.

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In this side of the world, Manny Pacquiao is considered a “national hero.” Perhaps it’s how we Filipinos vicariously live through celebrities in the hope that their transformation from rags to riches become ours too. There is nothing wrong with hoping and dreaming. But it does make you wonder if it contributes to a misplaced national pride — the kind that blinds you from thinking critically and questioning objectively. It takes on a hero worship that becomes oblivious to mistakes, defensive in the face of criticism or backlash, and contemptous of any differing views. And the same can be said of people at the opposing end of the argument.

Marge and I weren’t surprised when Manny aired his disagreement with same sex marriage. We weren’t surprised because it comes with the territory. He is a devout Christian who takes to reading the Bible as a fundamental source of faith. He would have left it at that. He would have wished us well. However, when he characterized LGBTQs as “worse than animals”, he ignited many of our gay friends and those who are very well accepting of us to take to the internet to air their vehement displeasure and disagreement. This indignation is not unfounded though. Classifying gays as worse than animals is akin to devoiding them of their place as human beings, not to mention his uninformed stance that homosexuality is not found in animals despite scientific proofs to the contrary. Manny, being an international personality, received an equally international fallout from his interview.

When Manny apologized for his choice of words, you would think that all would be well and that would be the end of it. But many of our LGBTQ friends took the apology more as a non-apology when Manny defended that he is simply basing what he said on his religious belief.

And the mudslinging began. The trouble with us Filipinos is that we are a nation of emotions: everything warrants an emotional response. Things are worn to heart so much so that taking umbrage becomes a personal cause. Every criticism becomes a personal upfront . Every other post I saw on Facebook either sided with Manny for upholding his faith or siding with our LGBTQ friends for their right to be free from religious intolerance. You know that it has taken on a national fervor when even people in a condo elevator ride are debating about it.

The trouble with some of our LGBTQ friends is that in the face of being maligned, they have resorted to personal mudslinging as well. People have then focused on the response rather than the issue at hand. It distorts what the clamor is really all about and becomes a war of “your rights end when you trample on other’s right to free speech” kind of argument. This type of argument only leads to a collective stalemate that neither progresses towards a common understanding nor is it the kind that enriches anyone — religious or not.

The words bigotry and intolerance get thrown around so much by all sides that it becomes harder and harder to reach an insightful dialogue.

In all these, even by those who espouse religion and those who clamor for acceptance, seldom do you read and hear a word of compassion. Manny, for all of his religious fervor perhaps forgot about the message of the Beatitudes. Defending one’s faith is not a license to classify people as less worthy. Often, I am saddened at Christians who espouse a strict view of biblical teaching but at the heart of their faith, forget Christ. Yeah, that Jesus guy — the cool dude who embraced outcasts, told people to offer the other cheek, not to cast the first stone, the one who said in a most straightforward fashion to “Love One Another…” Instead we place more value on what he didn’t say and use Leviticus and Paul’s letter to the Romans as righteous indignation to exclude others or to superficially elevate oneself as good.

The Bible is an anthology of faith: A journey through the myriad expressions and at times conflicting stories of belief, doubt, struggle, and redemption. It is a journey, not a destination.

In the same vein, our LGBTQ friends need to battle every injustice with the understanding that we cannot fight discrimination in the same narrow-minded indignation. Everyone can change — perhaps even Manny. With meaningful dialogue, conscious openness and getting people to know what we hold in common with the rest of humanity, we can cross social borders despite the divide. Let them go experience that process. And like with all people, if we show them kindness, they will at least reward you with tolerance, even if full understanding and acceptance takes a while to get by. Eventually we will get there.

And for my Facebook LGBTQ friends, you need not unfriend or unfollow people with differing opinions either. Allow them to experience you, the goodness in you, the wholeness of you. That there is more to being you than a mere identity label.

Yesterday, Marge and i discussed how even Math teaches us about the value of driving towards a common ground. A life lesson is being taught behind every class on Least Common Denominators and Greatest Common Factors when simplifying fractions.

Being kind does not mean being soft. It means allowing grace to come into you so you can see a gentler side and move towards a healthy and open conversation.

So dear friends, practice kindness. And when you see it especially in the midst of arguments, celebrate it. Regardless of our beliefs, it is sometimes the only thing that opens up the circle of humanity.

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