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Last night, reading Ian Buruma's "Murder in Amsterdam," I was reminded of my essay, "Tolerance is Easy." Today I dusted it off, updated a handful of references, and submit it here for your enjoyment.

It is a truism of Western culture that tolerance is hard. Tolerance leads to ostracism and death. Tolerance means braving the assaults of heartless CEO's and oppressive right wing Christians; to celebrate diversity, to have the courage to proclaim, "I'm no better than you are," is to run afoul of the gatekeepers of societal regimentation. It is easier to follow the path trod by the jack booted mobs of intolerance than it is to make a stand for acceptance.

This is a myth. In fact, tolerance is easy. More than this, tolerance is cowardice, tolerance is sloth, and tolerance is an ill-fated attempt to preserve the status quo. Consider Holland as a case study in national self-abnegation. The Dutch demonstrate the folly of tolerance in the face of intolerance.

No visit to Amsterdam would be complete without a visit to the Tropenmuseum, or Tropics Museum. Built in the 19th century to showcase the spoils of Holland's rapacious colonization, the design of the building, with its four-story-high atrium and the rich ornamentation of its colonnaded terraces, reflects the wealth generated by Dutch exploitation. From their early domination of the spice trade to the appropriation of southeast Asia's rubber supply, Dutch traders and slave masters helped  The Netherlands dominate the world of commerce and culture, and defined the architecture of Amsterdam today. Over the years, reflecting changes in Dutch culture, the museum has been transformed from a trophy case into a diorama of guilt.

In the twentieth century, having finished raping their colonies, and having witnessed close hand the horrors of war, the Dutch turned inward. With a welfare state financed by past plunder, they have been liberated from the minutiae of survival, and are now free to contemplate the foibles of their past. Using liberality and tolerance to assuage the guilt of living off ill-gotten gains, if Holland were a person, it would be Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Their heyday of conquest safely behind them, the Dutch today manifest an aura of tolerance, a blandness which makes them resemble nothing so much as Canadians with an active sex life.

A recent visit to Amsterdam was punctuated by a Hollywood-chase-scene of a taxi ride. The driver, an Arab man just oozing rage, rammed his Mercedes down side streets, bullying tiny cars driven by environmentally conscientious Dutch men and women. When they slowed for speed bumps on the canalside road, he accelerated so aggressively that a collision seemed unavoidable. He repeated this vehicular assault until the driver pulled to the side to allow us to speed past. The other driver’s response was the essence of Dutch tolerance. He glanced away, unable to take offense, unwilling to force his sense of propriety, of civility, on someone else. To do so would be judgmental, hence wrong. How very un-Dutch it would be today, to seek to impose a standard of behavior on another. It would violate the principle of moral relativism, which has been elevated to a national religion in a secular society.

Over the course of a two-day visit there were numerous opportunities to observe other angry young men defying the social standards of  their host nation. A Mercedes full of angry Middle Eastern men bullying their way through traffic became a sight as typically Dutch as tour boats on the canals, or drug addicts vomiting on the steps of abandoned churches. This transplanted Arab street was given a pass by the much-vaunted Dutch tolerance. Those who chose to make a stand, who tried to point out the foolishness of tolerating the intolerant, were murdered in the street, forced into hiding, exiled, or put on trial. The Dutch experience makes clear that at some point tolerance becomes counterproductive.

Last year’s rampage in Tucson should remind us that we too have succumbed to the temptations of tolerance. We too, have chosen to use tolerance as an excuse to avoid the hard choices a society must make if that society wishes to persevere. It is easy to look the other way when confronted with an obviously troubled individual. If he seeks solace in online role-playing saturated with violence, who are we to say that is wrong? Who are we to rise in defense of a civil society? Who are we to force our values on others?

To do so requires hard choices and sacrifice. How much easier it is to seek refuge in tolerance, to say there are no supreme values. To the tolerant, all choices are equally valid. To the tolerant, the idea of American Exceptionalism is racist, elitist, the handmaiden of bigotry. To be tolerant is to ignore those who seek to destroy us, whether they be a madman with a gun, a third-grade-teacher who views building her students’ self-esteem as her only mission, or an Islamist seeking to impose Sharia on a secular society.

Thanks to tolerance, we are willing to accept the destruction of a race rather than be thought racist, to sacrifice a generation on the altar of rampant violence, meaningless sex and valueless education rather than be thought judgmental, and to watch a great nation decline rather than be accused of patriotism.

Originally posted to MLGoodell on Tue Nov 22, 2011 at 12:09 PM PST.

Also republished by Trolls and Thursday Worst Diary Competition.

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