Archive for April, 2010


tol·er·ance

Tolerance is this word that is thrown around, by myself included, which tends to mean different things to different people.  In a previous post Amy Schultz called me out in my use of this word in the context of tolerance toward homosexuality versus the mainstream Christian viewpoint that homosexuality is wrong.  Her comment read as follows:

“I think you just spoke out of both sides of your mouth! To say that disagreeing with a lifestyle is intolerance, is in itself a statement of intolerance and not respecting the idea of agreeing to disagree!  This is where definitions are important!  Let’s come to some agreement with what tolerance means definitively. To love others in spite of disagreement is tolerance in my opinion.  Agreement with the lifestyle as tolerance would mean to achieve unity we must have uniformity and that is not interesting at all!  That is like listening to music with no harmony, only unison voices.  Love helps us to rise above differences and come to common ground with our differences and diversity.  It also creates interest and harmony.  Religion that requires everyone think, act and look the same is legalism, not Christian.”

I have to say that I have the utmost respect for what Amy is saying here, and I agree with her reasoning for bringing this to our attention.  I would like to both define tolerance, as well as state my position on tolerance.

Tolerance is defined as:

1.   a fair, objective and permissive attitude toward those whose opinions, practices, race, religion, nationality, etc., differs from one’s own; freedom from bigotry

2.   a fair, objective and permissive attitude toward opinions and practices that differ from one’s own.

3.   interest in and concern for ideas, opinions, practices, etc., foreign to one’s own; a liberal, undogmatic viewpoint.

4.   the act or capacity of enduring; endurance: My tolerance of noise is limited.

So, it is clear that key elements to tolerance are the attitudes that people carry, not necessarily the feelings that they have toward a particular opinion, practice or person.  This is an external projection of one’s own beliefs and feelings onto a given person or situation.  The interest in, the concerns for and the capacity to endure ideas that differ, or are foreign to one’s self are internal abilities that one can strengthen through practice and increasing familiarity with these different and foreign entities of the world.

To me, the most important elements of true tolerance are being liberal (favorable to or in accordance with concepts of maximum individual freedom; free from prejudice or bigotry; open-minded; free or not bound by traditional or conventional ideas) and undogmatic (unwilling to accept dogma, especially in religion; not asserting opinions in an arrogant manner, not pertaining to a set of presubscribed tenets or doctrine authoritively laid down, as by a church.)

As we have seen time and time again, societies of men/women have established opinions beliefs and principles that we later come to realize are simply social constructions of our surroundings in which we often use our governments, our churches and our personal unwillingness to understand those who practice different life patterns.  Dogmatic practices have lead to the death, persecution and suppression of blacks, Hispanics, women, Jews, “witches,” Native Americans, mentally and physically handicapped, little people, homosexuals, the poor, and many many other sects of societies.  People and their cultures have been socially mishandled due to preconceived notions, and also from misrepresentation or direct language coming from religious texts or leaders.

I would like to add that this is not imply that I believe all behavior should receive tolerance.  For one example, if the actions of a person inflicts harm or stress on another person or takes advantage of another person who is an unwilling participant or is incapable of making an informed decision, I believe this to be wrong because a person is essentially stripping the justice, the fairness and the essence away from another human being.

Thanks Amy!  I hope I clarified my current position.  I look forward to your response as well as those of others.

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Thinking Without Borders

I would like to try a little exercise.  Think about how you feel about the topic of illegal immigration as a whole.  Think about the first few points that come to mind when terms like “illegal aliens,” “anchor babies,” and even “Hispanic population” are brought up.  What is your position on the way in which the US should handle the issue of immigrants entering the country illegally?  How do you classify those who break the law and cross the boarder without the proper documentation?

Ok, now please consider the next few questions without the mentioning of stats, as I believe them to be often times misleading, fabricated and distracting from the purpose of this exercise.  Please be honest with yourself and post the answers if you feel so inclined.

1)   When was the last time you were directly impacted by someone who entered this country illegally, and how?

2)   How many people do you know that have lost their job or have not got a job because an illegal immigrant took it at a lower rate?

3)   What type of good or danger do you believe illegal immigrants bring to this country?

4)    How do you think you would view the justice system if you came from a place where law is not something to be respected, but is to be feared, run from and is viewed by a large population as corrupt?

5)   For those of you of a particular faith or ideology that guides your morals and values, how would you be expected to handle the situation by your religious/spiritual figures and leaders or your ideological world view? (ie.  What Would Jesus Do?)

Illegal immigration has obviously been a “hot-button topic” for several decades and continues to draw in more and more criticism from all ends of the social and political spectrum.   Whether you believe that all immigrants need to be shipped home or they need to be given full amnesty, whether you believe that they steal jobs or increase our levels of agricultural production, whether you believe that they are a root cause of the crime in this country or you believe that there are deeper sociological elements that are to be examined, whether you become annoyed with the Spanish option when calling your utility companies or if you embrace it as a sign of how diverse our country has become, whether you see illegal “aliens” as a nuisance to America or as people that have every bit of a right to be here as we do, there is one common denominator that appears to be consistent:  A great divide exists between people’s level of intensity in their position on the issue and their level of understanding of it.  It seems that there are so many generalities, statistic based opinions, racist panic campaigns, and inexperienced “experts” that it has become almost impossible to remember where we all were before we started becoming tainted with aggressive right wing hatred… and yes, often times radical liberalism that may not take the protection of borders, economy and national security into a high enough of a prioritized consideration.

Just remember, every time we make a judgement call about an underprivileged  person or group of people that we don’t truly understand, we are depleting their potential for having a fair shot in life.  This goes for illegal immigrants, Muslim citizens of the middle east, the US, or anywhere else in the world, the homeless population, homosexuals, uneducated mine workers of  Appalachia, women, physically or mentally handicapped, blacks in the ghettos and beyond, or any other underprivileged and poorly represented sects of society whose members have a harder time obtaining the necessary resources to survive, let along advance in society, strictly based where and by whom they were born.

Your comments, your opinions and your votes really do make a difference in someone else’s life.  Imagine if you were in their position.

In this rookie bloggers attempt to acknowledge and understand the reasons behind so many of the divisive subjects that are plaguing this country and this world, it seems that there are some major issues regarding the delivery of the messages that drive the heated debates behind these subjects.  So often me and others that I have spoken to get wrapped up in this sort of matter-of-fact way of talking about subject in which we really don’t have near as much of a clue about as we’d like to think.  It is these subject that I will tackle in order for us to gain a better understanding, but also to realize how little we actually know about…well…anything really. So, let’s get started with some of the concerns that I have with some key issues:

The economy: We can’t even turn on the news or read the paper anymore without hearing something about the economy, usually implying some terrifying outcome to something that the President, or Wall Street, or corporations, or the Republicans, or whoever are doing.  From everything I understand about modern economics (which is not a lot), all we really have to work with are a whole lot of theories about the production, distribution and consumption of goods and services.

Granted, the economic survival of our country is extremely important  to the lives of nearly every human on this planet, but it seams as though there should be a better, more effective way to handle this subject in our mainstream discussions.  For example, the healthcare debates that went on for almost a year were enough to drive a person away from American politics all together.  Sarah Palin’s laughable speeches at the Tea Party rallies, Glen Beck’s psycho-skeptic engineering of “facts”, Ed Schultz calling all Republicans idots, Chris Matthews inviting people on to his show only to cut them off mid-sentence and yell over them, and all of the other ridiculous punditry that attempts to be taken seriously.  These are not leaders, they are entertainers.  The are not educators, they are spokesman for corporate entities.  Even if any of them do really care about you, which I doubt, they are being extremely irresponsible with their handling of issues that effect our lives.

I recently had the pleasure of meeting Bob Reynolds, CEO of Putnam Investing.  He referred to Oregon as a communist state due to our passing of bills that tax the rich.  My argument to him was that we can’t all expect to have the same economic system work for everybody.  There’s a culture in Portland that is more liberal and concerns itself with the well being of all of its citizens no matter their financial disposition.  Granted, not everyone in Portland is happy with this, but fortunately we live in a pseudo-democracy with semi-sovereign citizens where we can decide by a vote what is best for our communities.

Religion: I’m not sure that I even have to acknowledge the deep rooted hypocrisies that are clearly embedded in mainstream religious cultures.  Preach one way, but act another.   Preach against abortion, but support war efforts.  Preach against violence, but scream at those who adhere to differing values.  Insist that you love people as Christ did, but judge the lifestyles of those who don’t act in accordance to your understanding of the world.  Because really, that’s all it really is…an understanding.

One of my favorite saying:  “Certainty about the next life is strictly incompatible with tolerance in this one.” – Sam Harris.  I believe this to be the truest statement regarding man’s understanding of God, and afterlife, and any of the folklore and values that construct man’s understanding of  these highly controversial topics.  I believe that if most men knew how much they “know” about God and Heaven, we would have a better world.  And what do we know…NOTHING.  Some people have faith, some people have hope, some people are afraid not to act in accordance to their religious leader’s interpretation of scripture due to the graphically terrifying consequences of not “believing”, and some are just told so often from birth that God acts and looks a certain way, so they don’t learn to doubt and question the alternative options.

Imagine what would happen if all religious people could look at the world and all of the people in it as a mysterious landscape of ideas and wonders to learn and grow from, rather than having some set idea that the way they understand the non-understandable is the only correct way.  Imagine if they could look at a person of a different faith and know that the truth is that others have just as good of chance of being right as they do.  Imagine if they could know that the truth of the matter is, they don’t know what God thinks about homosexuality, so until they know for sure, every person is treated exactly the same and is supported in their relationships every bit as much as a person who prefers the physical and emotional company of someone of the opposite sex.  But so long as so people continue acting as if they know what the almighty creator thinks, or even that he/she/they/it even exists, violent divisions will continue to destroy this world as they have been for thousands of years.  The problem now is…we have nuclear weapons instead of catapults and swords.

Politics: I will make this one fairly short.  I honestly believe that there is a war going on inside of our country that is driven and controlled by the violent rhetoric that has ripped through our media system.  This war, I believe, is going to seriously upset the progression of our country if a serious cultural paradigm shift doesn’t occur soon.  John Stewart, on the O’Reilly Factor, said it perfectly:  “Here’s what Fox has done, through their cyclonic perpetual emotional machine that is 24 hours a day, 7 days a week: They have taken reasonable concerns about this president and this economy and turned it into full-fledged panic attack.”  And though Fox is not he only bad guy, they are certainly the loudest and most aggressive. I want to continue with politics later, but I will say that there are some serious discussions that we could be having about some incredibly important subjects, but instead we’re too busy insisting that we’re right and that we know enough to be staking a solid claim in these issues to the point where we can call our positions fact, without taking the time to truly understand.  And if we look at the situation and see that we don’t understand it, then its ok for our position on that subject to be “I don’t understand”

A glance at some things to come.

Welcome!!!

Hello Everybody,

I welcome you to my blog.

My name is Lathen Gorbett.  I have been an Oregon resident for most of life, and have come to really love Portland, the Northwest, the outdoors, and the wacky liberalism that is so predominant in the Willamette Valley.  As much as I often times think that I have a real grasp of what’s going on with human nature and on the way the world works, I have come to realize that the best ways to understand something is to experience it, to question it, to doubt it and to be humble to the discoveries that can take place through the exploration of it.  It is for this reason that I have decided to start this blog.  As a way for me to learn more about what the world has to offer, and to bring as many people along with me as possible.  I am not a writer, nor am I an expert on any of the subjects that will be discussed, but I hope that with enough diverse participation that we may all become more enlightened.

This is my attempt to bring people together in order to have encouraging discussions about topics that are often times divisive, but that I believe have the possibility of enhancing peace and democracy.  This can be done by shifting away from the discouraging rhetoric that has clouded the mainstream media, and into a civil engagement of ideas, opinions, experiences, personal understandings, values and legitimate concerns.

There are so many things in this world that have the power and the prerequisite qualifications to be highly divisive, even to the point of wanting to take another person’s life, but it seems so clear that the topics that we see people fighting over on Fox and CNN are strictly for entertainment purposes and that they serve very little sense of civic leadership or informing the public.  There is an accelerating depletion of objectivity in our “news” media, and a growing demand for dramatic “infotainment.”  The problem is:  these are important issues that they are playing around with…and they are real.

So, please join me in building constructive dialog that can help us all gain a better understanding of what is happening in the world around us.  The easiest thing we can do is to listen to the pundits, and accept their words as fact.  Or…we can dig a little deeper and find out what is really important to each of us so that we may better server the world, its citizens and the communities within it.

If there is one thing that I have learned from my experiences as an American citizen, its that, even with all of the great people out there, it is far too easy to find enemies.  Let’s work on creating more alliances.

Thank you,

Lathen