TOLERANCE IS NOT ACCEPTANCE
Written By: Anne Cominsky
The Jewish Community built the Museum of Tolerance to not only remind people of the past, but to serve as a reminder to prevent hatred from occurring to any group in the future. But I have started to wonder about the word itself, “Tolerance”, is that all we can hope for. The simple definition of tolerate is “to allow (something that is bad, unpleasant, etc.) to exist, happen, or be done, and/or experience (something harmful or unpleasant) without being harmed, to put up with. If you look for a synonym for Tolerate, you will find many like, bear, suffer, endure, abide, stand, which ultimately means to put up with something trying or painful. The word bear itself usually implies the power to sustain without flinching or breaking. What you won’t find is pure acceptance in tolerance. Acceptance is much easier to define, simply put, to receive willingly, to endure without protest or reaction, to regard as proper, normal or inevitable. One definition that tries to connect tolerance to acceptance must use another word, like a bridge trying to connect two opposites, like the poles at different ends of the earth. “Resigned Acceptance” is what the definition reads, a negative defining a positive, like the acceptance of the negative itself. That is not a world we should agree to live in, or have our children live in. Tolerance is a guessing game. That is something we should never do, just accept that which we would never otherwise accept. It seems that more and more, our society is accepting the negative.
So why did the Jewish Community use the word tolerance to describe their museum, why not call it by the word that didn’t separate them from what they really wanted, really needed from the world, and that is acceptance. Yes, the Museum of Acceptance, so that not only would the past never be forgotten, but the future made better, because no one wants to live in a world where people are just tolerated. Tolerance seems to be a word that is always standing on the edge, unsecured, unsure, a slow simmering, not wanting to rock the boat, until it does. People want to be accepted, no matter what their differences are, because after-all aren’t we all human enough to see the human in everyone. If your elementary school-age child came home with an English fill-in the blank question to complete the following: I want to be accepted or tolerated. What would you say was the correct answer? What would your child say was the correct answer? Would the answers match? Yes, even a child can see the difference. Why can’t we all!
Our society is standing on the edge right now, the Politians say that violence is something that we should expect, but why can’t we expect to live in a society where we should not expect violence, mass murder, and pain so unbearable that the world seems alien. It doesn’t take much for someone to go from Tolerant to Intolerant; there is no enduring happiness in just tolerating someone or something. So until we surround ourselves with a society accepting of its difference, embracing its differences and letting people live with their differences, we will exist in a world always on the edge.