I consider myself a tolerant person. I easily tolerated various mammals, reptiles and a few amphibians that my children insisted they must have in their formative years.
I tolerate a solitary spider - sorry, all others must go - in my bathroom, and no matter the sex or species, it is named "Charlotte." I am fairly liberal about the amount of cat hair that floats in my house; and I tolerate a small amount of barking from the dog.
I am also tolerant of various religious beliefs, sexual orientation and annoying people. What I find increasingly more difficult to tolerate is intolerance. It is easy for me to tolerate religious differences because I don't live in the Middle East, where it seems it is an all or nothing proposition to believe in God - or Allah if you will.
Intolerance of another's religion has long been one of the major causes of death among the worlds' populations. This doesn't just apply to the "other guy;" intolerance is rampant among Christians, Muslims and Jews alike. There are radical extremists on all sides. Survivalists, those people who stockpile guns, ammunition, food and water in preparation for the apocalypse they are sure is coming soon, scare me more than the general population of Muslims. There is reportedly a summer camp in Florida with 9-year-olds carrying AK-47s! I'm not very tolerant of that kind of mindset.
We have thousands of children and teens crossing our southern border, trying to escape the horrors of drug lords and ache of hunger. To send them back is to sign their death warrants, either upon their return, or in years to come when they starve to death or become part of the drug cartel in order to survive. I tend to be tolerant of undocumented immigrants.
There's a cartoon making the rounds on Facebook about the Pilgrims being undocumented immigrants who refused to learn the (Native American) language, and yet were given food assistance. At one point or another most of us came here from immigration legal or illegal.
The base of the Statue of Liberty is inscribed with a sonnet written by Emma Lazarus, which refers to Lady Liberty as "Mother of Exiles." In the sonnet is written, "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me. I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
What a stirring invitation to the world's population to seek a better life! And yet, every wave of immigrants, documented or undocumented, has been met with anger, suspicion and violence. "No Irish Need Apply." "No Blacks, No Dogs, No Irish." Now there's a statement for you the Irish were rated beneath dogs at one time.
Whatever happened to brotherly love? Whatever happened to love thy neighbor as thyself? Whatever happened to "whatever you did for the least of my brothers and sisters, you did for me?"
Tolerance is a tricky thing. It takes practice. It takes an open mind. It takes compassion. Tolerance is easiest practiced from a distance, but best practiced at home.
Robyn Near is a Ripley resident. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org