Our Republic is sick. She suffers from the disease of party politics and political brinkmanship at the hands of our elected officials who have sworn to uphold and protect the very document that gives our country its breath of life. Senator Claiborne Pell, upon his retirement from public service, warned that “personal piques and pure partisanship will be sand in the gears of government.” Furthermore, George Washington, the Father of the United States and our first president, stated that the politics involved with political parties will “enfeeble the public administration.” The words of these two illustrious men could not be proven more true than they have been in the current times we live in.
Our country was founded on the tenets of tolerance, free expression, and political, social and economic liberty. Let us explore what these fundamental tenets entail. Tolerance is indeed a immensely broad concept, but once studied and properly understood is one of the most simplistic ideals that define America. The diverse cultural make-up of the United States creates a beautiful and inspiring mosaic of peoples, who can live and interact without fear of persecution, hatred and ignorance. Tolerance is not a sign of weakness or of sacrificing one’s beliefs or of catering to supposed enemies of America. Tolerance is looking a fellow citizen in the eyes and understanding and respecting their heritage and social background for what it is, their defining attributes and not character flaws. One’s religion, creed, political views, social and economic standing, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity and so forth should not be considered fodder for criticism or violence. Indeed there exist some beliefs and philosophies that raise the question of whether or not tolerance should be extended to them. I hold that if said viewpoints threaten the life or property of others than under the rule of law those beliefs will be addressed, but not by the hands of vigilante justice for that is no justice at all.
For example, ever since that September morning in 2001, Muslims have been grossly generalized as un-American and unfairly portrayed as violent, blood-thirsty heathens. These views are even held and espoused by prominent public figures. Stereotyping a particular group of a population has throughout history proven to lead to more heinous acts of violence against our fellow members of humanity and deserves absolutely no place in a liberal democratic society such as America’s. Sir Thomas More, a respected humanist and English statesman, once said that one can hold views and beliefs contrary to their fellow citizens and do so without malicious intent. He went further by stating that those individuals who disagree can still give good counsel and work diligently to address the grievances of a state and its people.
Let us now turn our attention to free expression which goes hand in hand with tolerance. Under the hallowed words of our federal Constitution, we are free to think, write, say and believe what we will so long as it does nothing to threaten or commit violence and other malicious acts against the life and property of others. We are entitled to our own opinions, not to our own facts and comprehending that distinction can lead a person to a life filled with respect and love for thy neighbors and to a society filled with beauty and diversity.
Finally, we enjoy unparalleled freedoms , rights and liberties in the social, political and economic realms. Demagoguery would have us believe differently. It is imperative for a populace in a democratic society to refrain from receiving information from one or even two sources for this would open up an individual to extreme bias and political brinkmanship. A well informed and educated society is best equipped to question the motives of their government and offer viable alternatives and solutions. Otherwise a government can easily pull the wool over the eyes of the people and do what they will. Be you a Democrat, a Republican, an Independent, a conservative, a liberal, a progressive, a libertarian, or what have you, it behooves us all to properly research, explore and question all aspects of public policy. To do otherwise makes one uncompromising, intolerant and willing to deny the free expression of ideas of others, and suffice it to say, that act is what is un-American and does nothing to cure the sickness afflicting our country. That is in my humble opinion.
With Utmost Respect and Devotion,
J. Rizzo Mertz holds a B.A. in Government & Political Affairs from Millersville University (2011) and is Director of the Center for Civic & Community Engagement and Advocacy