Good-morning and welcome to the International Day of Tolerance.

Honest. I’m not making this up.  If you’d like more information, here’s the UN’s official background page on it.


Timely, huh?

I’m actually not a big fan of “tolerance.” I wish they’d named it something else.

The International Day of Awareness of Bigotry
The International Day of Respect for All People
The International Day of Countering Fear and Exclusion of Others
The International Day of Trying to Accept the Unacceptable

You know; something along those lines.

To me, tolerance is something you do while gritting your teeth and counting the minutes until your ten-year-old finishes her first violin practice.  It’s a temporary phase and you long for it to be over so you can go back to the way things were.  Tolerance is not meant to be permanent.

I’m more of an Acceptance advocate.  For it’s only with acceptance of some “new normal” that can we begin to figure out what to do next.

Acceptance of what is, helps us figure out what’s next. [click to tweet]

As many of you (but not all; I know), I awoke to devastating news last Wednesday morning. I spent my first hour that day making sure what I was reading was correct. Denial is the first stage, you know, in working toward that ultimate acceptance.

Unbelievable, was my first Facebook post. Then I changed my cover photo to funereal black and backed away from social media for a while.

I spent the day stuffing envelopes for a mailing I was doing for a local arts organization. It’s what I would have done had Hillary won. I wasn’t going to let the result of this election change my daily life. Not yet.

Mindlessly stuffing envelopes gave me time to think.

To feel.

To write.

Later that day, when I went to put my chickens away, I discovered I’d lost my Araucauna — the beautiful black and white striped hen that was always pecking at my legs — to some unknown prey animal. It was the final straw and I took advantage of it to have a good cry.

Crying, as you know, “creates a space for joy.” [click to tweet]

Thursday I got a massage and took a nap. I felt sad for Hillary, certainly; she’d worked so hard and so long. But I felt even sadder at the belief that my country is crumbling around me. It’s been crumbling for a long time:  more divisive, more extreme, more racist, more misoginistic than I’d realized. I’d been in denial, just like so many others.

And then I began to write. 

And So It Goes, I proclaim here.
Life goes on, no matter what might befall us. C’est la vie. 

My blog began as a safe place to explore cultural differences that confound us. And, in so doing,  get to understand ourselves a little better. 

“I prefer those cultural differences that make me gasp, Oh no!” I declared in my memoir, At Home on the Kazakh Steppe.

After a few years of posting about cultural differences in foreign lands, I turned my attention to my own (figurative) backyard, deciding there were plenty of cultural differences right here in front of me. I started, if you recall with the one about Breastfeeding Six Year Olds. That one certainly had me gasping, “Oh no!”

As I continued to stuff envelopes, a series of posts on the “Cultural Differences between today’s Republicans and Democrats” was practically writing itself itself in my head. For a few “brief, shining moments” the election results looked like a gift that had fallen into my lap, blog-wise. Lemonade from the lemon, you know.


Thanks to for the image.
Thanks to for the image.

Then I came to my senses.

I didn’t feel the least bit curious about who these people were who, in casting their vote, had brought my country to the brink of demagoguery. Besides, this wasn’t cultural. It was personal.

I felt flabbergasted, scared, worn out.  

I pride myself on being an open-minded person. But I had reached my limits.

Meanness, bigotry, selfishness, and greed
will not take up space in my open mind. [click to tweet]

I feel so strongly about this that I’ve toyed with the idea that the most damaging event of our 21st century is no longer 9/11 but 11/9 [click to tweet].

I’ll tell you why I think so.

11/9 is far worse because it will last much longer.  The first plane has hit.  It’ll take until January 20 for the second plane to hit — cabinet appointees et al.;  even longer for the next two. And the waiting is excruciating.

In my mind, this election (assuming the Electoral College does NOT DO what it is called upon to do) has exposed a metastasized mass more extensive than expected.

Let me add a little caveat here. I don’t see this as a simple, “if only Hillary had won.” No. Deep divides within my Democratic Party have also been exposed with this election. But I’ll save that exploration for a future post.

I know many have made comparisons with the rise of Hitler. But for me, what is more frightening than the supposition that we’re heading down the path that Nazi Germany took, is that what we face today is something this country has already experienced.

I’m talking about what happened in this country eight years
after the Civil War and the Emancipation Proclamation.

Enacted by states from North Dakota and California to Delaware and Texas, the Jim Crow laws maintained a caste system in this country based on race that lasted until the Civil Rights Act of 1965.  There’s much available on the Internet.  But I found the information from the National Park Service to be succinct.


In short, the opportunities that former slaves gained in the years following the civil war, were abolished. They lasted only eight years.  So, I think about the eight years we’ve had under President Obama.

Despite the Republican mantra about his failed presidency, we’ve actually had a few gains these past eight years.  Here are a few headlines:

From Forbes: Obama Outperforms Reagan on Jobs, Growth, and Investing
From the Washington PostObama’s Claim That Businesses Are in the “Longest Uninterrupted Stretch of Job Creation”
From Forbes: Who Is the Smallest Government Spender Since Eisenhower? Would You Believe It’s Barack Obama?
From the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities:   Income taxes were as low as or lower than they were at any point in the last 50 years.
From NBC News: 18 Million more Americans now have health insurance
From The Wall Street Journal: The Affordable Care Act has added years to the life of Medicare

You get the idea. But if you want more, click here. 

Today, they stand in danger of being wiped away, just as the benefits of Reconstruction following the Civil War were.

That’s just if Trump sticks to a classic Republican strategy, one of three possible scenarios I see. But with the people he’s now surrounding himself with and with his call to provide top security clearance for his three older children, that one is growing dimmer. In its place, I see two others unfolding.  And, if either of them hold true, this country will be yearning for a mere Republican ideology.

For one, Trump could establish himself as the rogue politician, beloved by the people, anti-establishment, unscripted, uncensored, uncivilized in many scenarios.  We’ve certainly seen that side of him. A buffoon to some, at worst.  An entertaining buffoon, though, to too many. He’ll confound his enemies and astound his allies. And folks like me will stop trying to predict what he’ll do next.

Or, he becomes the demagogue we fear most, the worst nightmare of most Americans who aren’t white, straight, Christian, male, and uneducated.

So, yes; it is a scary time for those of us who see change as something that has always happened in this country incrementally. Too slowly for many, absolutely; but mostly always forward.

That Congressman I once worked for used to say that the way our country was set up, it is much easier to prevent bad laws from happening than it is to pass good laws. And so it goes.

I urge us all to stay vigilant. Pay attention. And don’t be tolerant.

How about you? How are you this week? 

TOMORROW: What we can do.

29 Responses

  1. Frank Moore
    | Reply

    Linked on my FB page and hope I’ve enticed folks to read. Great blog post!

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Thanks Frank. Always appreciate your support.

  2. Merril Smith
    | Reply

    You’ve said it all here, Janet. It is important to be vigilant and to keep calling out. I’m not sure if it will help or not. I was hoping things would not be as bad as I thought they might be, but with the selection of his cabinet, DT is signaling the worst.
    I look forward to tomorrow’s post.

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Thank you Merril. I’ve so long been an advocate for looking on the bright side, staying open to new ideas, that this new stance of feeling alarmed is a strange one for me. At the same time, I’ve not felt so energized. Thanks for your comment.

  3. Yvonne Hertzberger
    | Reply

    Tweeted and shared. Some things must NOT be tolerated. I, too, have been told the accept “the will of the people”. But there is far more t stake here than winning a crooked numbers game. As a child of the holocaust these issues were the milk I was raised on. I see the writing on the wall. If we fail to say, loud and clear, that we will not stand for these kinds of oppression I fear for the future of humanity.

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Vigilance is my word of the day. Thanks for making your voice heard.

  4. Sharon Lippincott
    | Reply

    Yesterday was complicated. I rode to our weekly book club meeting at the library with my neighbor, a kindred spirit. Along the way she told me of hearing various people in her inner circle make comments like “I’m tired of being politically correct.” Like maybe this change of the guard gives people license to be hurtful and crude? I, myself, tend to gag at hokey PC, but kindness? Why would anyone be purposely hurtful.

    Our book club is a delightful mix of sage women. It’s open to men, but none ever show up. Some of these Texas women are pistols, for sure, and it leaked out just before the election that we are not all of a mind on politics. Yet you’d never know it by their actions. They are kind, polite, seemingly sensitive people. People I enjoy spending time with.

    Obviously these are people I need to spend personal time with. Soon. And ask them what they think about the statement, “I don’t have to be politically correct.” Ask them if they think it’s appropriate to use the N word again. I know in my bones they used it as a kid. So did I, in the next state west. Until I learned better.

    Lots of questions come to mind. These people want less government and lower taxes. I understand that. But they also go to church. Can we reach these people and remind them that Jesus cared for the outcasts? That Jesus was kind? Can they be a wedge in the door?

    I agree about tweeting and all that, but the real work is to change hearts, one by one. And the eyes attached to the hearts that need changing are unlikely to see our tweets. We are tweeting to the choir. We must get out and mingle with the fringe people we can tolerate, who might listen.

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Oh Sharon. You got me thinking with your Comment. I’ve long wondered about the origin of the term PC, curious about how it came to be seen as pejorative. So I googled it just now. Fascinating. I’ve always seen it as just another way to be sensitive, to show compassion. Not everyone sees it that way and the media has perpetuated the pejorative connotation. So sad. What has happened to empathy in this country? Compassion? Have we become a country of finger pointers? A people so afraid of feeling their own pain that they must deflect it onto some scapegoat? Tomorrow we’ll be talking about vigilance.

      • Sharon Lippincott
        | Reply

        I’m glad you discovered this flip side of PC, Janet. Yes, the original intention was compassion and sensitivity, but the PC Police rose to the fore decades ago. I’ve been in their sites myself on a couple of occasions, and the self-righteous chastising seemed totally uncalled for by everyone else involved. That has led to lasting damage to a couple of relationships, not on my end, but some who sympathized with me have been slower to let it go.

        Have you not read any posts about the difficulty of walking on eggshells, lest you appear incorrect and be chastized? Who can keep up with the latest boundary shifts? So easy to innocently transgress. Have you not read about the way this is stifling free expression? “Better to say nothing than to be zapped by the PC Stun Gun.” Believe me. I am a zealot about sensitivity, but the PC Police scare the stuffing out of me.

        • Janet Givens
          | Reply

          It appears I’ve been ignoring them. I have a rather rigid boundary around me when it comes to friendship, Sharon. It appears that’s saved me a lot of hassle over the years. I can’t imagine being afraid of someone in the guise of “PC police.” We should talk; I can give you ammunition. 🙂

          • Sharon Lippincott

            My trouncing was from a relative not a friend, and a lot water has gone under that bridge. But ammunition is always good to have.

            The posts I refer to are about society in general more than specific individuals, and strangely enough, I understand the people who are feeling stifled and ready to let loose. Not that I’d ever behave as they do, but I do understand.

            I see some remote possibility, ever so dimly through fog, that perhaps trashing PC may open the door for honest communication, not bubble wrapped in defensive correctness. You probably know the value of just saying what you think, in so many words.

            May this be so! But the ride may be seriously rough across that great divide.

          • Sharon Lippincott

            BTW, I hesitate to bring this up, because I am a Michelle Obama fan in general, but did you read the address she gave to graduating high school seniors last spring where she encouraged them to “monitor their families’ politically incorrect thoughts”?

            CHILLING! And potentially disruptive to family unity, for sure.

            Read here:

          • Janet Givens

            Not sure I follow, Sharon. High schoolers love a challenge. And I really can’t see how their challenging their parents’ assumptions as necessarily undermining family cohesion. Guess it depends on the family. Some families might not survive a little boat . 🙂

  5. Nina
    | Reply

    Yes, there’s certainly a difference between tolerance and acceptance. I’ve taught my daughters that we must always apply a discerning mind with tolerance because, as you said, some actions & ideologies are too damaging to tolerate. Sad times.

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      It is indeed. Thank you for coming by today Nina and welcome. A discerning mind: a very valuable gift to give your children.

  6. L. E. Carmichael
    | Reply

    I’m not a fan of tolerance, either. When it comes to people, it’s about acceptance, not tolerance. When it’s about thoughtless or evil action, it’s about standing up, in any way you can.

  7. Kathleen Pooler
    | Reply

    Thanks for a great post and I couldn’t agree with you more, Janet. We must hold our leaders accountable for any behavior that is an affront to our Constitution. As for me, I figure I’m in the bargaining phase of the grieving process, hoping good things will come from all this turmoil. I’ll blog about it on Monday. It’s so important that our voices are heard.

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      I look forward to hearing what you have to say, Kathy, as always. Thanks for stopping by. And thank too for those Tweets.

  8. Laurie Buchanan
    | Reply

    Janet — My hat is off to YOU for the message in this incredibly important post. Thank you.

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Thank you, Laurie. It was helpful to me to write it.

  9. […] Tolerance […]

  10. Christina Alexandra
    | Reply

    I think I dislike the word “acceptance” just as much as “tolerance” in this situation. To me, they both seem like something that must be endured in order to live with each other. Almost like a stalemate.

    I long for the day when we don’t have to “tolerate” each other, or “accept” that we have to share the same planet and just be happy we are all together.

    I know, dreaming, right?

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Hi Christina. I don’t think you’re dreaming. You raise important considerations. For me, acceptance has never meant approval. It is to me more understandable as the opposite of denial. The prisoner who yearns to escape, can’t do so if he doesn’t fully accept where he is. Does that help? There’s a kind of surrendering to what we cannot control. So our energy can go to something productive.

  11. Tim Fearnside
    | Reply

    Great post, Janet. It has me thinking more deeply about something I’ve been grappling with all week — in an oversimplified nutshell, whether what has transpired is more a “call to arms” or a call to reach out in an effort to facilitate deeper mutual understandings. ‘Difficult to know just what to do, although doing something seems imperative. With that in mind, I’m looking forward to reading next about choices :).

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Are these necessarily mutually exclusive, Tim? I feel as though, in spurts, I’m doing both. Both now interspersed with laughter, thanks to Sharon.

  12. Charmaine Martin
    | Reply

    This is a very enlightening thread for me . I am very grateful to you for stirring a somewhat complacency on my part with regards to understanding the terms tolerance and acceptance. We can both tolerate whilst being intolerant , is this something that is existential, the product of nurtured and experienced belief systems or an evolutionary psychology of the human condition as a collective? Similarly , “acceptance”, accepting differences is not the same as accepting that we have serial killers and psychopathy, deviant behaviour. We accept its existence in society but are not accepting of its behaviours.Love and empathy are our strengths in an increasingly divided society as is speaking out when silence is all we hear, “Evil triumphs when good men do nothing” is a test of that strength in all of us ” When society drifts from the truth, the more it despises those that speak it”.

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Chewing on these big questions is, for me, a critical part of living. I encourage you to keep on chewing, Charmaine. And I hope you’ll stop by often and add your voice.

  13. […] like I wrote a few weeks back in the post, Tolerance: the first plane has definitely hit. In fact, for this metaphor to work, the second plane has […]

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