Recently a stranger on social media was defending Fox News host Tucker Carlson’s disturbing and steadfast support of Russian President Vladimir Putin, along with the continual flood of atrocities being committed in Ukraine.
When I pressed the self-identified Christian man and questioned how a faith-based argument could be made for this kind of advocacy, he left a reply I’ve received a few thousand times in similar situations:
“Oh, you Liberals are so tolerant, unless someone disagrees with you!”
Yeah, that’s not how this works. One of the greatest lies people propagate is that all opinions are valid: that every position is somehow equally worthy of merit and deserving of consideration.
We’re often led to believe that in every situation where an impasse is reached, the most humane response is to “agree to disagree” and to coexist with that person. That sounds like a noble conclusion but in reality it simply isn’t true. It’s also dangerous and in situations where people’s lives hang in the balance it can be deadly.
The idea that being open-minded means being passive, is often weaponized by Conservatives in times of conflict. It’s a tried-and-true conversation-stopper: a supposed “gotcha” attempt to shame people on the Left into silence and submission, as if loud and sustained opposition to anything they believe or amplify is somehow an inconsistency that reveals our hypocrisy.
Ridiculous. It is not a requirement of tolerant people to tolerate everything equally. Our patience and understanding and forbearance are not infinite. There are limits.
We can be open to hearing someone’s story — and conclude once we have heard it, that something in that story has yielded a position that is too hateful or violent to presently bear.
We can be accepting of a wide swath of world views and belief systems and attitudes, while declaring some of them a bridge too far for us to share space with or have relational proximity too. We can be really good listeners — and eventually decide that what we have heard is fully abhorrent and not within the acceptable parameters of our morality.
Saying that we believe in diversity does not come with the expectation that we will object to nothing and that we will abide everything — actually it’s quite the opposite. Precisely because disparate humanity is of such importance to us, we can and should come to the conclusion that certain beliefs, legislation, movements, and people are antithetical to life, they are adversarial to that humanity:
Supporting a murderous dictator as he slaughters residents of a neighboring country by the thousands for real estate and resources, is not a valid opinion. Dehumanizing young people for their gender identity or sexual orientation and celebrating legislation preying upon them, is not a valid opinion.
Justifying a violent insurrection because you didn’t like the outcome of an election, is not a valid opinion. Defending the murders of people of color because you have unrepentant racism that devalues the inherent worth lives, is not a valid opinion.
There are many positions that decent people should disqualify.
Yes, countless perspectives on international conflicts or gun legislation or government spending or environmental dangers are within the confines of what our tolerance will accommodate and what reasonable debate will hold — but not all of them.
We can disagree on all sorts of issues without that disagreement being a deal breaker, but there are some things that as people of faith, morality, and conscience, we simply will not allow.
That isn’t a betrayal of our progressive stance, but an affirmation of it. Racism is not up for debate. Homophobic hatred is not worthy of equal time. There is no defense of genocide.
There are not two legitimate sides in every situation. No, not all opinions are valid.
Some are simply wrong.
The original version of this Op Ed was published on johnpavlovitz.com