What Will You Tolerate?

“We have abundant reason to rejoice, that in this land the light of truth and reason have triumphed over the power of bigotry and superstition…”
~ George Washington, letter to New Jerusalem Church of Baltimore, 27 January 1793

Washington might have declared victory too soon. It seems like the light of truth and reason has gotten a lot dimmer lately, and that the power of bigotry and superstition a lot stronger. And for what end? At the end of the day, government of any kind aims for one thing and one thing only – to create a society that its citizenry will accept, one that the majority will tolerate without complaint or rebellion. Governments have other aims as well, but that’s the biggest one: a stable society. And therefore, that’s the ultimate marker of successful governance, regardless of type. If the nation has stability, then you’re doing government right, even if the government would be considered by a whole list of otherwise negative things.

In America right now, the thin polite veneer of stability has been ripped away to reveal the currents underneath. Bubbling up and erupting over the top and onto the main stage are the forces that have lain dormant for much longer than the norm. Hostility, anger, intolerance for others, a desire to reverse the course of history and go back to a bygone era, these are all standard in any nation in the scope of human history. That these desires go against the long held values of this nation, that they even *literally* embrace an ethos rejected by the people of this nation and the world, fought out over a World War, doesn’t matter to those who want to slam the brakes on the relentless march of progress. And that’s not to say that progress for progress sake should be allowed to speed on, without caution or thought, but there is a world of difference between healthy skepticism and thoughtful deliberation and tolerating what is clearly completely counter to our culture and its values.

Will the rest of us tolerate it? Will we allow our nation and its history to be re-written and co-opted for a new direction and purpose than the one that it was originally meant for? Will we continue to strive for the higher road, or will we start to walk a different path, one that is perhaps easier but also a whole lot darker. Do we believe in the ideals and the ethos this nation was founded on? Or do we believe that only our own personal way is the right way for everyone? These are the questions of this era, and our challenge. It’s up to we the people to settle them. Which set of mores will sway society for generations to come? What will we tolerate?

Documentation without Representation:

George Washington, letter to New Jerusalem Church of Baltimore, 27 January 1793


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