So much for tolerance

Rick Bartlett is a Sacramento author of children’s books, baseball poetry and rambling observational missives on the folly of man.

I’ve finally figured out what it is we humans want more than anything in the world. It isn’t fabulous riches, a championship for the Cubs or a date with a 20-year-old ambidextrous supermodel.

Our true heart’s desire—what we really wish for when we blow out the candles—is simply to be left alone. We want to be free to act on the truth of who and what we are, free of judgment, retribution or condemnation. We want to be black, white, brown, gay, straight, bi or asexual—or none of the above—and have that be OK. We want to hang the Ayatollah’s likeness over the fireplace and still be able to invite our neighbors over for a barbecue.

But it’s not OK. Not always and certainly not with everyone.

So I’m compelled to ask the following question: What exactly is it about the concept of tolerance that we all find so intolerable? And why do we all appear to embrace our intolerance with such natural ease and utter devotion?

Maybe we acquired intolerance during childhood, like measles and the ability to roller skate. It could be some of us learned it by listening to Grandpa Joe rail against union busters and the “yellow hordes.” Perhaps there’s a blip in our DNA waiting to be discovered that’s responsible for our pettiness and un-Christian behavior. (Wouldn’t that be convenient? You could turn in your neighbor for placing 5,000-watt bird bath in his front yard and then blame your meddling ways on your family gene pool.)

I do know this much: Our inability or unwillingness to accept and embrace our fellow man is causing us to unravel at the seams.

What’s the answer? More importantly, what are we going to do about it? At this point—and I say this with all due respect—prayer breakfasts and a symbolic linking of arms at high noon probably won’t do the trick. I suspect if we are going to start living up to our true potential as a global collective, it only will come with a lot of kicking and screaming.

My fear is that the big clock will reach midnight before we figure it all out and we’ll end up paying a very high price for not inviting our neighbors over sooner.