Alec Baldwin and Tolerance

Yeah, Alec Baldwin Really Is a Bigot”
The Atlantic

Ta-Nehisi Coates
November 27, 2013

English: to fill
Alec Baldwin (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

After long years fighting the battle for the soul of the GOP, it is a bit of a relief to look across the aisle and watch similar battles take place on the other side.

At a superficial level, it is fascinating to watch the American left try to find a way to reconcile Alec Baldwin’s vocal and active support of LGBT rights on the one hand, and his insensitive, ostensibly homophobic outbursts on the other. It echoes struggles we have on the right about some of the personalities in our own party.

Schadenfreude aside, though, Baldwin’s less-savory remarks hint at something darker, the possibility that there are those hiding among the ranks of celebrities and other notables whose professed values are at odds with the values they truly hold. How difficult it must be for such luminaries to live a life in contradiction of their values, merely because they fear the approbation of others who are less tolerant of viewpoints other than their own.

I do not know if this is the case for Baldwin, and even if it is I do not wish to defend his outbursts. He is a public figure and thus must live with the consequences of his public behavior.

But it does suggest that we need to remain vigilant against all forms of intolerance, not just racism, sexism, or religious chauvinism, but also intolerance of alternate viewpoints. We have become a nation where racial intolerance is unacceptable, but where it is still considered quietly appropriate to shun someone because his political viewpoints are different than yours. For example, fear of blacklisting has driven many Republicans in Hollywood all but underground, yet the industry that did much to celebrate the defeat of McCarthyism now seems to be cultivating the same sort of ideological intolerance from the other side of the spectrum.

We may never know whether Baldwin was just a closet conservative who was finally driven to extreme behavior by his own cognitive dissonance. We do know, however, that no American should cultivate or countenance political intolerance. We are all entitled to our views, however unfathomable they may seem to others, and if those views are arrived at honestly, without fear or enticement, they are legitimate. We must go back to the ethos that says that I may disagree with what you believe and say, but I will fight to the death for your right to believe and say that.

That is a good fight, and it does not just take place on a battlefield, but in the workplace an in our own hearts. This holiday season, we would do well to recommit ourselves to the sort of open-mindedness that allows us to believe good things about fellow Americans with whom we disagree vehemently.

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Author: David Wolf

An adviser to corporations and organizations on strategy, communications, and public affairs, David Wolf has been working and living in Beijing since 1995, and now divides his time between China and California. He also serves as a policy and industry analyst focused on innovative and creative industries, a futurist, and an amateur historian.

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