This is not a lesson for everyone, but it’s definitely a lesson for you.
As it stands right now, I’m bearing witness to a very complicated world. Never before have we been this connected, and never before have the opinions of so many been able to be broadcast so clear. For better or worse, we are now all connected and can band together at the drop of a hat to unite under a common cause.
Uprisings in the Middle East, while violent and still in progress, would never have been possible without this level of connectivity. Protests against Wall Street here at home, while polarizing as far as support goes, would never have been possible without the Internet and its spawn, Social Media.
Use this power wisely my sons, for one thing I see right now is that many people simply have it wrong. Groups who have, wrongly, never had a voice before, now feel that, wrongly, established voices should be demonized in lieu of the new kid on the block.
Let me make this very clear to you, my wonderful sons, you are but two people on a planet of billions.
Much of what you believe with all your heart, is wrong…in the eyes of others. Just as much as what others believe with all their hearts, is wrong…in your eyes. There is no way around this, nor should there be. If we all thought and acted the same we would be but robots; lemmings who do nothing but repeat the actions of those around them. But the fact of the matter is that the majority of us are free, and with that freedom comes expression. With expression, comes variety of expression.
Know this boys, whatever life you choose I accept and love you just the same as I do right now when I kiss you goodnight and tuck you in with your stuffed animals. You two, of a planet of billions, can choose to do and be whatever you want as long as you respect and tolerate the lives of those around you.
What I will not accept is either of you thinking that you have the right to tell anyone else what to think or what to believe.
This is my problem with the state of affairs as they are right now. The word tolerance is being abused and misinterpreted. Tolerance is not only for the small and oppressed, tolerance is for all, even the big guy. Tolerance also does not mean acceptance; you are allowed to disagree with someone. Like I said, there are billions of people out there, but unless one of those people is about to kill, hurt, or abuse someone else, you are to tolerate. Walk away if you have to, but tolerate.
I love that people who have long felt alone and unsupported now have support through global connectivity. But in turn, I expect that these groups tolerate the beliefs of others, even those established and that have been in existence for years. Yes, and even if those groups are dated and archaic in their beliefs. In many cases, such institutional beliefs have been around well before we were all born, and will be around well after we die.
Tolerance for those around you even though their opinions and actions might differ from yours.
To the progressive society, whose voice is louder than it has ever been right now – you are not correct simply because you are in the minority or now just discovering your voice along side those who have had theirs for a long time. Tolerate those voices just as much you do that great uncle who still uses certain words and holds certain views.
Tolerate those voices just as much as you want them to tolerate yours.
I firmly believe that your generation is going to be the beginning of a momentous change in society. I grew up amongst those of an older generation who still talked and believed in certain ways, ways long gone. I don’t hold this against them, just as I’m asking you now not to hold this against others.
When you are adults, I’m going to be that crazy guy of an older generation. And guess what? My views are much more tolerant and acceptable because of my experience and upbringing vs. the experience and upbringing of my elders. Again, there is nothing wrong with this older generation, they were simply brought up a certain way and had different experiences. But my more tolerant experiences will now be passed down to you, who will then pass them down to your children.
So, I charge you boys with this – continue this change in society with respect, love, and tolerance for your fellow human. Be kind, share the planet, and take pride in all that you do and say.
I love you both and know you will do the right thing.
This article originally appeared on Chelmsford Patch on 8/3/12.