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Intolerance?
Is it possible to get rid of intolerance by being intolerant to it?  This would apply to anything we connote as "negative."  "(hate, war- internal/external, prejudice, bad, illness, etc.)"

How do you love the worst parts of yourself in order for them to let go their hold (consciously or unconsciously) over you (assuming the way to get rid of intolerance is to love it to death - this is only my personal conjecture please feel free to disagree :) )?
I don't really understand your question. Do we kill intolerance by being intolerant to it or the opposite? I'm not sure.

But let me tell you about this Russian I met. Me and some friends went to a pool hall this weekend and I guess pool halls render a rather good pool of characters. There must be something about lax adherence to health and smoke codes, minimal light, cheap beer, chalk, and the sound of crashing spheres made from ivory substitutes that attracts certain fringe populations. And tonight was a good crowd of metalheads and leather suited gruff-looking men, some would-be greasers, and this barrelchested Russian named Andrei.

Andrei was sitting by himself at a table next to us while we waited for a table. The only things on the table were his pack of cigarettes (that he was ruthlessly chain-smoking) and a beer. He was wearing a leather vest. He was completely bald with an overhanging furrow and at his neck the skin collapsed onto itself. He had tattoos on each of his monstrously big arms in Russian text and a gold bracelet on his right wrist. In a word: intimidating.

Andrei initiated conversation with us. And it was quite colloquial and his english was quite good. He was in town for a month after having traveled for a year straight for work. He works for a Russian firm that imports fruit to the motherland. We also had the feeling he was involved with the mafia.  "I like the United States. I do. I like how you all live. But I don't like how at any time they can ask you for documents about your money." The guy was shady no doubt, but friendly enough. We invited him in on our pool game when a table finally opened up. He was at least 6'2'' and while he looked a bit chubby sitting down, standing he looked like he could rip the head off a wolf. His chest looked iron plated and still he hadn't smiled but we think he liked us.

Anyway. My friend asked him what kind of music he likes. "Well, for some reason I really like rap music. Which is weird, because I hate negroes." Oh. Okay Andrei, your shot.  And then he went on, to talk of poverty and crime and how he could probably not stay in the United States because of the black population. And you know what, we didn't argue with him. We let him rant and I think we were all kind of mystified that he could be so open about it. He just doesn't like black people for every racist reason you can think of. And he's 40 years old, he's not changing. It's just a fact in his way of life, black people are bad. And we forget that in the United States, that everywhere else in the world intolerance is prevalent and not sustained behind closed doors. It is something for the world and for bartime and officeplace conversation and it's just matter-of-fact.

Andrei continued to get drunk and he came out with us to the next bar and bought us a round of drinks. We learned he had been in the Soviet army during some sort of skirmish in Azerbaijan. They told us to go in and kill and we did. I'm pretty sure the dialogue running through all of our heads was "who the hell is this guy?"

I don't know if there's a point to all this except that there is no rulebook to dissolving intolerance. Andrei is set in his ways as steadfastly as we are in ours. Unless there is a widespread social imperative to change thought patterns, then nothing is going to happen. We are lucky in the United States that intolerance is something weeded out. But for most parts of the world this isn't true. There is nothing in Andrei's life telling him he is wrong, so why would he ever doubt himself?

Maybe defeating intolerance means that we should not sit down and have a conversation with the intolerants. Or maybe everyone's intolerance is different and to sit down with someone is to start figuring out the origins of a hateful sentiment. Andrei may be a bad guy, it didn't seem that way to us, or he may be an overgrown child fed misinformation. Is there something to be learned from intolerance about humanity itself?

In response to Robin Layter
"Is there something to be learned from intolerance about humanity itself?"
Absolutely resoundingly yes.  I could be completely and utterly wrong here, but I would bet eternal life on it if I was sure eternal life existed.


"Andrei is set in his ways as steadfastly as we are in ours. Unless there is a widespread social imperative to change thought patterns, then nothing is going to happen. "

I don't think widespread social imperative will ever happen in this way.  To you maybe this means nothing will happen.  The only way I think it can happen is with us.  Right here, right now.  One person at a time questioning his/her own thoughts.


I don't think you did anything wrong that night.  He liked you, you liked him.  Was he to scary to ask him to question his own beliefs.  I know its hard.  People don't want to do it - they struggle to stay stuck and unchanging, because its comfortable.  But, who am I if I don't try to accept his intolerance and him as perfect right now the way he is...while also letting the right words strike me at the right time ...to create a question in his own mind about his own thoughts.




That was truly a beautiful story.  Thank you.
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Latest Post: April 27, 2010 at 2:43 AM
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