It’s not the intolerance of progressives that is so insulting. It is the denial of their intolerance that is so abusive.
When I was growing up it was the liberals who more often held the moral high-ground. Those of us raised in the 1970’s heard it all the time — “the end doesn’t justify the means.” It was echoed in the media, in nearly every political battle, in entertainment and at water cooler conversations. By contrast it was intolerant conservatives who spouted, “America, love it or leave it.”
The American Civil Liberties Union came to the First Amendment defense of neo-Nazis in Skokie, Illinois. This is worth celebrating, especially today. Lawyers, many Jewish, fought for the rights of repugnant people, many of whom would like to see all Jews dead. Offended supporters of the ACLU left in droves. But the ACLU adhered to principle because … the end doesn’t justify the means.
Progressives have not just rejected that proud tradition, they have remade it into the ugly opposite — the end justifies all: Coercing speech with speech codes and forcing cake bakers to create statements against their core religious beliefs; social justice warfare and identity politics; the nanny state banning everything from plastic straws to tobacco products; and forcing private health insurance products at gun-point.
Progressives wield intolerance like the weapon it is. But are they kidding us or themselves when they smugly assert their tolerance? Do they believe their “Celebrate Diversity” bumper stickers, blind to the hypocrisy?
I find myself thinking about this since at the beginning of January I became a criminal in my tolerant hometown of Boulder. Boulder, which did so much to promote the civil rights of the LGBT community in decades past, when alternative lifestyles were misunderstood and feared, is now leading the charge against people like me whose lifestyle is misunderstood and feared.
I remember a time when, for public safety of course, some conservatives wanted AIDS patients to self-identify, to present themselves to the governmental authority, and be counted. There was an epidemic erupting after all, and “something had to be done.”
In Boulder, if your core beliefs include dressing as the opposite gender or following the teachings of the Koran our city government will bend over backwards to protect you from those who wish to separate you from your community. You’d never be forced to self-identify to government authorities, to submit to inspection, to be registered and made to pay fees to keep your core beliefs.
My strong belief in my Second Amendment rights is core to who I am. I know that is not understood by many today, however I am not asking to be understood. I’m asking to be left alone.
I am asking for progressives who run city government to live up to their assertion of tolerance and just let me be.
Because I own a long gun with a pistol grip and a detachable magazine, I had to the end of December to self-identify to the police, present myself for investigation and my gun for inspection, pay fees in order to receive a police-issued permission slip, all to avoid jail time, monetary penalties, and the confiscation and destruction of my gun.
I have never been convicted or even charged with a crime in my 54 years of life, but this week I became a criminal. I am no different then potentially thousands of other Boulderites who cannot bring themselves to submit to this ugliness. And yes, I know, most people today don’t see this as ugly or intolerant, but simply a reasonable thing to do about this “epidemic.” After all, something needs to be done.
For publicly stating that I will not comply, my daughter has been targeted at her Boulder school, the one with posters celebrating tolerance and diversity all over the walls. My refusal to submit has been commented on by teachers in front of their classes. She has been ganged up on by students and bullied because “her father is a murderer.” She is worried that I will be taken to jail. As a single dad to her and her handicapped brother, I have to admit I’m worried about that too.
I respect the police, greatly. The cops I know hate the idea of enforcing this intolerance. I ask them when they come to arrest me and confiscate my guns, they give me enough warning, so my kids aren’t around when they do it.
Jon Caldara is president of the Independence Institute, a free market think tank in Denver.