Opinion

OPINION: Tolerance needed on many fronts

tol·er·ance

/’täl(e)r(e)ns/

noun: tolerance

1. the ability or willingness to tolerate something, in particular the existence of opinions or behaviour that one does not necessarily agree with.

 

I learned a thing or two about tolerance last week, namely that many people in this fine city don’t have any of it for anti-same-sex couple sentiments delivered through their newspaper.

And they shouldn’t.

One of the letters we printed, in particular, incensed readers, touched the rawest of nerves and the outrage it produced flowed endlessly on social media channels. It was a marvellous example of the power and the immediacy of the Internet.

I’ve always been a vocal proponent of running letters that push the envelope. A strong opinion, whether it runs contrary to our own beliefs or not, is always welcome on the letters page. But there are limits to free speech (the classic line of yelling “fire” in a crowded theatre comes to mind).

Almost to a person, commentators found the letter disgusting and not representative of the community. And bottom line, representing and reflecting our community is a major part of the mission statement here at the Times.

To be sure, there are many in Chilliwack who don’t agree with same-sex couples raising a family. For many, if not most, this stems from their religious beliefs. As a close friend of mind said: “My religion doesn’t allow me the luxury to agree with what they (Justin and Brett) are doing.”

But in the same breath, he mentioned how he knew both men and how he believed they would make wonderful parents.

I’ll take that kind of tolerance. You don’t have to agree with people’s lifestyle choices, but at least allow them the freedom to make those choices without your condemnation.

I was heartened, really heartened, by the overwhelming support for this couple. If there is a positive outcome to this whole firestorm, it’s that I’ve learned just how open and accepting Chilliwack can be. I’ve lived here a long time and that hasn’t always been my perception of the community.

What sometimes is lost in the mob mentality of the social media world is tolerance for those with opposing views . . . such as our letter writer. Many would say he doesn’t deserve it, but I would disagree. One commentator mentioned the possibility of “getting a posse together for a lynching.” Make no mistake, that’s a death threat, and has no place in the discussion.

I will defend to the end the offending letter writer’s right to his opinion. But you’ve told me, in no uncertain words, you don’t want to see it in your community newspaper. And you won’t ever again.

Years of newspapering have given me a thick hide when it comes to public backlash against something I or the newspaper have done that is upsetting, but I have to admit this one stings a bit more than others. From all accounts Justin and Brett are incredible people. They are, as I have told them, to be commended for their bravery in sharing their story. Their supporters, and they are legion, are nothing if not passionate in their belief that they will make amazing parents. For me to have taken the shine off their heartwarming story is something I deeply regret.

There was no malice intended, no underlying agenda—just a lapse in judgement. None of us is perfect . . . except maybe those beautiful twins and the home and family they find themselves in now.

To those who have vowed to never read us again, I hope you can find a little tolerance for the imperfect nature of this business and the decisions we sometimes make. Let us earn your respect again.

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