Lance Berkman is right about tolerance killing our country, but not for the reason that he thinks. Recently, the former baseballer spoke out against the Houston equal-rights ordinance (HERO) that would prohibit discrimination in the workplace, housing accommodations, and public areas (such as bathrooms) on the basis of race, age, sexual orientation, and several other different characteristics. Berkman painted HERO with a broad brush, focusing on the fact that you could not discriminate against a transgender person using a restroom of the gender with which they associate.
Berkman was quite the ballplayer in his day, but for the non-sports fan he’s hardly a household name. So assuming that Berkman—a white Christian who also happens to be wealthy—is a bastion of wisdom on the topics of minority and social issues, the people of Houston were no doubt confused into thinking that HERO was all about allowing transients to throw a dress on and head into the nearest women’s restroom to do God-knows-what. The ordinance failed when taken to a public vote.
But, not to be finished with his stomping all over things that which he doesn’t understand, Berkman shared more when discussing the issue of tolerance in the United States:
“To me tolerance is the virtue that’s killing this country,” he said on a Houston’s KTRH 740 AM on Wednesday. “We’re tolerant of everything. You know, everything is okay, and as long as you want to do it and as long as it feels good to you then it’s perfectly acceptable do it. Those are the kinds of things that lead you down a slippery slope, and you’ll get in trouble in a hurry.”
“As a Christian I felt that I had an obligation to stand for what is right,” Berkman said. “I am about articulating my belief system and taking a stand for it when I have the opportunity.”
Well, here’s one thing that we can agree on, Mr. Berkman. Tolerance is killing this country. For the longest time, America has set the bar at merely tolerating people that are different than you. The rule of thumb, if you’re going to be a wealthy white Christian, is that you should be tolerant of African-Americans. You should be tolerant of homosexuals. You should be tolerant of transsexuals. My question is, why set the bar so low?
We shouldn’t be preaching tolerance, but acceptance. There’s no reason that anyone, whether they’re white, black, Asian, Christian, Muslim, Jewish, rich, poor, or a part of the ever-shrinking middle class, should have to settle for merely looking at someone that is different than they, shrugging, and saying “I don’t understand it, so I’ll just tolerate it.” Why not learn about those who are different?
I’m sure the first transgender person Lance Berkman meets and gets to know—and I say it that way because I’m certain he’s never had a real conversation with a transgender person—would be eye-opening for him. Having spent the majority of his life as a privileged, white Christian in the state of Texas, I wouldn’t take the leap to say that Berkman has ever been forced to think outside of his own bubble.
He’s not alone. A large portion of our country refuses to get to know those that are different from them. Look at major cities like Chicago that are extremely segregated. I’m not only talking about the fact that there are areas that are primarily white, black, or Hispanic; the Hipsters congregate to one area of town, the LGBT community thrives in another portion of the city, and other demographics hide themselves away as well.
As humans, we are naturally fearful of things that we do not understand. As Americans, we’re trained to hate things we don’t understand, as well. This is accomplished through television and other forms of media—seriously, just turn on Fox News any old time and see if you can’t go 15 minutes without some form of hate speech being used. This is all part of the product we get for having set the bar at merely tolerating others. It’s really sad that we’ve become so brainwashed, as a society, that we equate a brown-skinned person with a bomb to terrorism but a white guy with a gun to mental illness.
So thank you for shining a light on a real issue, Mr. Berkman. Insufferable as you may be, with your bigoted opinions on things you willingly choose to not understand and the fact that you once played for the St. Louis Cardinals; you did hit the nail on the head in part. Tolerance is part of what’s wrong with our country. Until we preach acceptance, understanding, and community among all different types of people, we’ll never advance to a society that doesn’t discriminate against people simply because they don’t understand, and don’t want to.