Many believe that in order to be tolerant, one must be silent. To give voice to one’s opinions in public may offend someone. Even to discuss religion and politics with family members and friends is largely avoided in American society. We have forgotten that avoidance is not tolerance. In fact, it is avoidance that has made us an intolerant people, incapable of seeing the similarities between those of varying points of view. We have become too labeled and too categorized, finding ourselves with few ways to break out of the mold. Political parties and religion (or lack of either), as well as other organizations and labels, tie us to certain issues and force us to ignore others.
By and large, we are missing the point. Tolerance is an idea designed to help us put aside our differences for a short amount of time so that we can work together for a common good. No matter what we believe, we are still all a part of the same community and somehow, we must work together. If someone is helping you build a Habitat for Humanity house, does it really matter if they are a Christian, Muslim, or Jew? If teachers are largely against No Child Left Behind, does it matter if they are Republicans, Democrats, or Independent? Why must the only conversation be about our differences? The differences between us cannot and should not be ignored, but to make them our only focus will surely lead to the destruction of our civilization.