It´s easy to consider yourself a tolerant person if you never have to act upon it. If you surround yourself with like-minded people. If you read like-minded news. What´s not easy is to accept that it´s ok for others to be and think differently. Tthat their opinions, feelings, behavior and choices are just as valid, even though they don´t match yours. I struggle with this a lot because I am opinionated. I do my best, leave me alone, ok.
Tolerance, however, should not be all-encompassing. Some people are assholes, and deserve to be called out as such. In my book, you qualify as an asshole if you think yourself better and more deserving than any other human or animal being on this planet. Also, if you can´t laugh at yourself, but that´s a different story.
I posted this on Facebook a while ago, but I thought it deserving of a blog as well.
While out for dinner a few weeks ago, I noticed 2 men at another table. They were wearing blue collar gear and having a heated conversation about invoices and taxes. That´s what got my attention – they didn´t look like the kind of people to discuss those topics. Also, they spoke a thick Eastern German dialect. I am not free of judgement after all.
One of them had a very large tattoo. When I first saw it, my first impulse was to deem him a racist, a xenophobe, a nazi. That´s where I went. Instantly. Because the tattoo spelled this, all across his neck, above his collar, in plain sight:
(If you haven´t lived under a rock the past 75 years, I don´t think this needs any explanation, unfortunately. If you have lived under a rock, I don´t want to burst your bubble. You do you.)
I had to pull myself together not to stare.
I had to tell myself that I shouldn´t jump to conclusions.
That it may mean all sorts of things.
That maybe it was a youthful sin, and he has since changed his views, become a better man.
I set myself straight and taught myself a lesson in tolerance and acceptance: I didn’t know this person, didn´t know their life. Who was I to judge?
And then this guy walked in carrying a bunch of roses and offered them to the wannabe accountants.
“Wanna buy roses for wife?” He asked in a friendly manner, quiet and reserved. He could have been Indian, but also Pakistani, Syrian, Moroccan, Egyptian, Palestinian, Nepalese, Mexican, Columbian, Bolivian, Venezuelan, Cambodian, Burmese, and many, many other countries I don´t want to name here because you will stop reading at some point anyway. Fact is: He had dark skin and his German was not fluent so he was noticeably NOT German.
“I have a good German wife at home and you can piss off with your filthy immigrant roses!”, the tattoo´s friend replied loudly. This proved very amusing and sent both Germans into fits of hysterical laughter- I was briefly reminded of hyenas – and left the NON-German looking confused.
“I said. I have. A good German wife at home. And you can piss off. With your filthy. Immigrant. Roses.“He repeated slowly, as if to point out he was talking to someone inferior, stupid. But he repeated proudly, without anger and with a smile. Like saying ‘No, thank you, that´s very kind.’ Only much different.
I´m not sure how much the roses guy understood of this wonderful exchange. I hope not a lot. He left without a word and didn’t offer anyone else any roses.
Sometimes your instinct is right in identifying the racist, xenophobic, nazi asshole and tolerance is not always warranted.