In 1837 Hans Christian Andersen published a Danish fairy tale called The Emperor’s New Clothes (originally known as Keiserens Nye Klaeder). Here’s how the story goes (retold in my words)…
A long time ago there lived an emperor who really loved showing off his impeccable taste for great clothing. Think of him as a modern day male fashionista. Two guys approached the emperor one day saying, “Your highness, sir emperor, we notice you appreciate the nicer things of life. We just happen to be purveyors of the finest custom line of men’s clothing.”
The two men convince the fashionista emperor to create a new wardrobe from the most rare materials. Fine clothing usually comes with some unique qualifications. High quality raw denim pants, for example, can be worn for months without needing to be washed. If you wash them every week you may not be worthy taking care of such quality. So what was the qualification to the emperor? Well, the clothing is only worthy to be seen by the non-stupid. If you are a stupid person the clothing will not be visible. Only the most worthy intelligentsia can behold the beauty of the clothing.
The clothiers took his measurements and went to their studio to get started. The emperor wanted to make sure everything was legitimate. He sent two of his most trusted men to check on the progress. Neither admitted they couldn’t see the clothing. They each thought of themselves as non-stupid progressive citizens. So they told the emperor the clothing was as beautiful as promised.
The day came for the emperors new clothes to be unveiled for all to see. Correction, for all of the non-stupid to see. The emperor paraded down the street “wearing” his new high-quality fashion to the applause of everyone. Everyone, of course, was too afraid to admit they were stupid.
Finally, a small child saw the emperor and exclaimed, “But he has nothing on!” The crowd began whispering. “Do you see any clothes?” “No, do you?” Word quietly spread through the crowd until everyone in the crowd shouted that the emperor was indeed naked. The two men had duped the entire empire. Everyone, including the emperor, went along with the masses because they were afraid to be the only stupid person.
A little child was unafraid to state the obvious. The obvious had become hidden underneath apparent niceties and self-convincing behavior.
I have started to wonder if there is another type of parade going on in America today. A parade where it seems stupid people are blind to the beauty of the new clothing. I have started to wonder if the emperor in the new parade is actually naked. The emperor dancing through the streets of America and dancing through the media outlets bears the name “Tolerance.”
Are his clothes beautiful? Is he naked? Am I too stupid to see the clothes? Let’s look at just two examples consuming our non-stop news coverage.
“Tolerance” has become the Emperor with New Clothes
Exhibit #1: Donald Sterling
I was in middle school in the 1980’s when political correctness swept our country. Yes, there are many wonderful aspects to the idea. Yes, there were many things in American needing to become more politically correct. I received all the training under the direction of our school board and then received a lot more politically correct training when I worked for a Fortune 500 company. I resisted none of what I was taught, I thought it made a lot of sense.
The last few weeks in America, however, have made me uneasy. It all started with L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling making private comments to a woman about his dislike for black people. All of us, hopefully, will admit Sterling’s comments were terrible. Why would someone who has devoted so much of his life to the NBA make such an asinine statement? Racism is a wickedness within humanity.
I was a bit uneasy, however, with the backlash toward Donald Sterling. A secret recording within his own home from a lady who appears to be of at least questionable character led to severe rhetoric against Sterling. Almost no one tried to give Sterling the benefit of the doubt. No one withheld judgement until understanding his side. No one tried to see it from his perspective. No one wondered if he needed to receive additional human resources training with the hope he would come to see the error of his way. All of the previously mentioned perspectives I was clearly taught were healthy for a tolerant politically correct future.
It wouldn’t have surprised me during the backlash against Sterling if someone would have yelled, “Get a rope. Let’s string him up” (joking…kind of). The NBA then acted swiftly. Sterling must sell the team. Sterling is never allowed again to own an NBA team. The commissioner then went one step further, Sterling is not allowed to attend an NBA game for the rest of his life. The last statement is the one that made me uneasy. What if Sterling would come to be enlightened? What if he truly repented and truly apologized? Convicted felons who have served their time are allowed to go to NBA games. Sterling officially did not even commit a crime. Would he still never be allowed to buy tickets for a game even in the cheap seats?
To go back to the fairy tale. Can stupid people go to an NBA game? If you can’t see the emperor’s new clothes can you not attend an NBA game? Will people need to undergo racism and perhaps homophobic evaluations before being allowed to go to an NBA game? Will people failing the test be marked for life as outsiders unable to ever attend events designed for the enjoyment of the non-stupid?
I am afraid our tolerant culture has become more like the atmosphere of the Salem witch hunts and less like our advertised advanced intellectual society.
“Tolerance” has become the Emperor with New Clothes
Exhibit #2: Michael Sam Kiss
Just as I was chewing on all these ideas a dude kissed another dude on ESPN. In full disclosure I must admit I’m writing a book right now on homosexuality so I’ve been spending a lot of time interacting with books and people on this issue. I have a long history having gay friends, co-workers, roommates and relatives so I know deep down that I’m not homophobic. I could give you a list of people who are gay who would confirm I love them very much.
The first openly gay NFL player, Michael Sam, found out this week he had been drafted by the St. Louis Rams. Out of jubilation he leaned over and put a big wet kiss on his boyfriend. It didn’t seem too over-the-top, it was a pretty quick kiss, but I think it was probably a surprise to most of America. Some people felt like his kiss on LIVE national television was a bit like rubbing it in the face of those who do not support his lifestyle.
Former Super Bowl champion Derrick Ward tweeted, “I’m sorry but that Michael Sam is no bueno for doing that on national tv.” He then added, “Man U got little kids lookin at the draft. I can’t believe ESPN even allowed that to happen.” Miami Dolphins safety Don Jones also expressed his disapproval, tweeting “horrible” and “OMG” after the kiss was aired.
The Miami Dolphins acted swiftly. Although Jones deleted his comments and apologized for his comments, the team still ordered him to pay an undisclosed fine and barred him from team activities. Jones would be allowed back on the team after completing “training for his recent comments made on social media.” He would undergo cognitive training to make sure he would never be so stupid again to disagree with the actions of a gay man. Am I the only stupid person who can’t see the new clothes of tolerance? Am I the only person thinking the Dolphins’ cognitive re-training program sounds like a bad science-fiction plot featuring a naked tolerance?
The Dolphins released a statement saying, “We met with Don today about respect, discrimination and judgment.” Did the Dolphins respect, discriminate and judge Don Jones for disagreeing with Michael Sam’s public display of homosexual affection?
Does tolerance have a nice new wardrobe? The freedom of speech advocates from a hundred years ago loved the saying, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” Is that no longer believed to be true? Have we re-written it to say, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it…unless you’re a racist, a conservative Christian or against any public displays of homosexuality.”
I’m a news junkie. I love to watch at least an hour of news everyday. In addition to watching the local news, national news and even the public television version of the news (yes I have it bad); I also like to end the day reading the news on my tablet in bed. I feel like the last three weeks have been a parade of tolerance through the streets with “new clothes” on. Everyone is saying how tolerant they are and how much they hate the haters, how people boast in having a zero tolerance policy, how we should teach the haters a lesson they’ll never forget, and how the haters are stupid people.
I don’t want to be a stupid person. That’s not on my bucket list. I want to be progressive. I want to get it. I want to see the clothes of tolerance. I really do. But, I have a problem. I’m feeling more and more like the little kid looking at the naked emperor named Tolerant dancing through the streets. I so badly want to yell, “Tolerance is naked! His new clothes aren’t real. We’ve been duped. We aren’t tolerant.”
I leave with you three quotes haunting me this week:
This shift from “accepting the existence of different views” to “acceptance of different views,” from recognizing other people’s right to have different beliefs or practices to accepting the differing views of other people, is subtle in form, but massive in substance. To accept that a different or opposing position exists and deserves the right to exist is one thing; to accept the position itself means that one is no longer opposing it. The new tolerance suggests that actually accepting another’s position means believing that position to be true, or at least as true as your own. – From D.A. Carson’s excellent book, “The Intolerance of Tolerance.”
The lesson I’m learning from Carson’s quote is we need to realize the term tolerance has been redefined. Tolerant people previously were able to disagree with each other, even try to convince other people peacefully of their own position. The new tolerance can only exist in a land free from disagreement.
Where they have burned books, they will end in burning human beings. – German Romantic Poet Heinrich Heine in the 19th Century
Henrich Heine warns us against spewing hatred toward the ideas of other people. It’s healthy to disagree, it’s not healthy to prevent the other person from speaking. It’s easy for hatred toward a person’s ideas to move from the idea to the person.
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out– Because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out– Because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out– Because I was not a Jew.Then they came for me–and there was no one left to speak for me. – from Martin Niemöller (1892–1984) about the cowardice of German intellectuals
The humanity and dignity of all people must be respected. If you find yourself on the winning side you need to make sure it wasn’t at the expense of human dignity. If all people aren’t able to live freely, no one is truly living freely. We are all one shift of the culture away from being targets of tolerance.