Of late, I’ve had more than a few bigots present me with the argument that their bigotry is merely a difference of opinion, and that, as a liberal preaching tolerance, I should have equal tolerance for that opinion.
This is one of those “your argument is logically flawed, and I think you know it but have decided to pretend it’s not” moments. Here’s the flaw, in case you are of this particular mindset and come by it honestly:
The notion that bigotry of the sort that would drive one to, say, vote for Donald Trump, or root for the Supreme Court to overturn the legalization of marriage equality is “just a difference of opinion” is false. A difference of opinion is this:
Me: “I think gay people are, you know, people, and the right to marry is a fundamental civil right.”
You: “I don’t think gay people are normal, and the right to marry only applies to people in normal relationships, so I don’t think they should get married.”
Me: “You’re a bit of a douchebag, but whatever.”
That’s a difference of opinion. However, when you say this:
“I think that gay people shouldn’t have the right to get married, and I’m going to vote for a dude who is going to do his best to enshrine my particular prejudices in law and force everyone to believe what I do…”
That’s beyond opinion. You are taking action to force your opinions on the behavior of others.
“But, but,” you say, “You want to force ME to believe that being gay is normal! And to act like your opinion is the right one! You want to make laws, too!”
Well, yes and no. Yes, I do want to make laws to protect others’ civil rights. Got me there. But those laws don’t force you to be gay. They don’t prevent you from getting married. They don’t force you to be nice to your married same-sex neighbors. They don’t force you to not be a douchebag.
You are, in fact, completely free to keep acting like a douchebag. You’re just not allowed to interfere with the choices of others while doing so.
This is the difference: when your “opinion” extends to making policy, then it’s not “just” an opinion anymore. It’s an action.
I am not tolerant of actions I disapprove of morally. My liberalism doesn’t say I need to be. I don’t have to be okay with you wanting white supremacy enshrined (even further) into law. I don’t have to be tolerant of you wanting a racist to be Attorney General. I don’t have to be tolerant of you voting for a pussy-grabbing grifter to be President of the United States. I don’t have to be tolerant of the Rules of the Senate applying only to women who are Senators.
What you’re not getting, people-who-think-tolerance-extends-to-every-damn-thing-you-say, is that actions have consequences, and that tolerance of those actions helps the fascists and the racists and the sexists.
When it comes right down to it, everyone believes their opinions are right, and differing opinions are wrong. Otherwise…there’d be no opinions. So, yeah, I do think I’m right, and you’re wrong, when we differ. But if it’s because you like sushi and I don’t…whatever. But it’s it’s because I like black people and you don’t…well, the level of wrong I think you are increases by an order of magnitude.
And you’re damn right I am intolerant of your attempting to force that wrong opinion on me and everyone around me. And I will fight to force you to keep your damn opinions off of my body and my country.
TL, DR version: Opinions start being actions when you start electing Nazis based on them.