Tolerance Zone

May 23rd, 2008

I read with interest the letters in response to "How Brown Turned Me into a Right-Wing Conservative" by David Klinghoffer '87, which appeared in the January/February BAM (Mail Room, March/April). I was appalled, but not necessarily surprised, at the mean-spirited nature of some of those letters. It appears that leftist readers have trouble accepting the fact that some seemingly intelligent people can actually believe in the biblical concept of God and can lean in any direction other than left.

Also in the March/April issue, I read about Jewish comedian Sean Altman '83, who pokes fun at Jewish ways. The article quoted the highly offensive lyrics of one of the songs featured in his album, Taller Than Jesus. If a Jewish person wants to poke fun at his own culture and religion, that's his business and the business of that particular community. But to write offensive lyrics about someone else's religion, and to use the name of Jesus in the title, that's not at all Kosher (if you'll pardon the pun).

What do these letters and the article have in common? They are further evidence that conservative believers and those who are more conservative politically receive nothing but disdain and ridicule from those on the "liberal" end of the spectrum. I am pointing out these observations because I think Brown and other universities should broaden the concept of "tolerance" to include those with whom you might actually disagree, such as conservatives, evangelical Christians, Orthodox Jews, etc. Let their voices be heard in a setting that is, after all, supposed to be open to all opinions and viewpoints, not just the PC line.

I suggest that Brown lead the way in broadening the concept of tolerance to include people with whom those on the left might actually disagree by encouraging an open, free, and civil campus that includes all viewpoints. The University should also make clear that shouting down, ridiculing, vilifying, or otherwise harassing those who have opinions contrary to yours will not be tolerated and will be punished as any other violation of the student code would be.

Brown leaders should declare the university a tolerance zone where all viewpoints will be allowed to be voiced in a civil manner and all people will be treated with dignity and respect.

Rev. Tony Beck '65
Beacon, N.Y.

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Related Issue
May/June 2008