Tolerance – do we know what it means?

This post was written about a year ago – but posted today, when this issue has come up again in my son’s circle of friends.

Whenever someone tells me that our culture is old and rich, I shrug.  Whenever someone tells me that we are a non-violent and satyagrahi country, it makes me want to puke.  Whenever someone says that we are understanding ……. I look at them with disbelief.  The fact is that we are racist, bigots and narrow minded.

I was surfing the net for some strength to face certain truths about myself…. and I came upon this, The Museum of Tolerance, and it brought tears into my eyes.  I was quite complacent and proud of myself because I do not practise intolerance.  Its a big step – since I was born and brought up a Jain.  Jains grow up feeling that they are blessed, because after doing good karmas for many many lives, they get to be born a Jain, which is the best of the human race.  We are almost divine – so our religion teaches us.  And if we follow all the precepts of the religion, we will definitely attain moksha.  Its pretty far out.  Any way I am a lapsed Jain, a sinner, so I am not superior and will definitely undergo many more cycles of life.  My live in help eats out of the same utensils we do, and I do not do things like get cheaper rice or stuff for him.  Non vegetarian food is cooked and consumed in our home, yes even on a Tuesday – all days are the same for us.  It does not matter to me what religion is being followed by my friends and loved ones.

So I thought I was tolerant – but am I?  Kid#1 has a friend who is gay.  He had never declared it – so we did not know.  Apparently his younger sibling opened his mail box and snooped into his emails and private stuff and found out…… and told their parents.  They live about two houses away.  The parents did not take it well at all.  The father actually slapped his son and told him “My son is dead for me”.  The boy came to talk to me, for some emotional support.  I said all the sympathetic things, but deep inside me was a feeling of relief that my son is not gay.  I was actually happy that I did not have to face this.  This is how tolerant I am.  I think I have gone quite a few steps down in my own self-estimation.

One of my best male friends was gay and it did not bother me.  He was the sweetest guy I knew.  This friend of Kid#1 is a loving affectionate and polite boy.  But when it came close to me and my family, it simply freaked me out.  All men are created equal irrespective of caste, creed, colour, religion and sexual orientation.  Yes I believe this and hate reading news about nuns being raped or Moslems being discriminated against.

The single most meaningful exhibit in this Museum building was the one dedicated to the civil rights movement – one of the most volatile and emotional periods in American history. A wall of large monitors at the exhibit reflects images and video from that period: African-American men and women being sprayed with fire hoses, hit with clubs, and hung from tree limbs by people who refused to believe all men are created equal.  We as a country are too hypocritical and cowardly.  We will bury this period somewhere deep and refuse to believe it ever happened …. and hope and pray that our children and loved ones do not force us to face our own narrow mindedness.

Today this issue came up again.  The boy has been given an ultimatum – to either become “normal” or leave home.  What is normal anyway?  Why is homosexuality such a bad word?  Why can’t we let these people co-exist peacefully – just because they are not like us?  Who says heterosexuals make great members of the society or parents?  Where is the outrage about the children who suffer as a result of divorce, infidelity, abuse, and other “crimes” perpetrated by heterosexual couples? Are we to believe that even those kids are better off than those who would be raised by two loving parents who happen to have the same plumbing?  And why don’t I freak out so much on facing lesbians?  Just because I have sons and not daughters?

I have no answers … I wonder if any one does?

Do read this on the same subject


13 thoughts on “Tolerance – do we know what it means?

  1. There are issues that we can look at very open-mindedly but when they hit closer home we realise we aren’t half as unbiased as we would like to believe! It holds true for almost all of us.

    As for homosexuality, there’s nothing wrong with it at all from my point of view. It’s a social orientation and just as “normal” as any other.

    You are right D. Its just an orientation … but its a difficult and lonely path to walk on

  2. This new look is so coooool!!!!!!!!!! just lurve it 🙂
    Yes we are an intolerant people, and getting worse by the day.
    You are not intolerant, or you would have forbidden your son from ever having anything to do with this friend. The relief that it isn’t your child could be just the relief that he will not have to face this intolerant and bigoted society.

    ONCE AGAIN ..LOVE THIS NEW LOOK and am wondering if my comment will also get a cute frame once I click submit…

    Hehehehe, yes it got a lovely frame. MayG is so talented hai na?
    Thanks for your comment. I never thought of forbidding the boys from meeting the other kid – heck, his sexual orientation is his own business. But the kid himself has kind of dropped out and meets them less. Sad isn’t it. Yes I would hate my sons going through this pain and knowing that I am powerless to help them

  3. there is no doubt in the fact that we are a bunch of intolerant people… I always tell people who say that the hinduism is the most tolerant religion to &#+# @#%… I mean with the most defined cast system we say we are tolerant…

    I also treat my live in maids infact all maids the same way that we live and I had to put up quite a big fight with my mil on that and till date I know she is not happy with it but then we have to start from ourself…

    And as far as homesexuality is concerned… we as a society are far from accepting it… I know a friend who was well aware that of his sexual orientation but still married as he didnt want to create a issue in his house… now his life and his wife is none better than hell… my own sis is bisexual and if my mom knows she’ll completely freak out I know… but my sis has never tried to hide it.. its out there in the open on her facebook…orkut etc… but yes she knows that is seen only by friends… i feel things are changing in our generation atleast in some aspects

    PS: sorry for doing a mini post in the comments

    That friend of yours is a coward and a cheat….his poor wife. Your sister is a brave woman. This issue came too close to me for my comfort and made me face my own hangups

  4. I agree regarding the friend… I have never forgiven him for that and we hardly talk these days and u are no different ritu… when I heard abt my sis the first time I took my own time to face it too and God know what will happen when parents come to know abt it

    We are so unprepared to face this sigh!!! This kid’s father asked “How gay are you?” as though it was fever and could be measured in degrees.

  5. First time here Ritu. You have a nice blog. This topic is so close to my heart because my brother just came out of the closet. Its about an year now. He was very very depressed after he came out to us. My parents though pretty old fashioned have now come to terms with it. But the initial few months was really hard on them. We are now trying to be as supportive as we can. We just want him to come out of his depression and be as happy as possible. Being gay is not a crime or a disease and it is not even something that they choose to be. I hope there are more people like you who can openly standup for this cause.
    Sorry for hogging up your comment space.

    Oh don’t apologise Sunitha. Like every blogger I simply love comments. It was very brave of your brother to come out given the social and sexual mores of our country. My own reaction to this shocked me, so I can imagine. I hope he comes out of his depression. He is lucky to have a supportive family

  6. Same happened with my cousin. When he came out, his parents went mad but have accepted it now. I came to know much later and was surprised when he said that he’d totally understand if I never spoke to him again! He’s disowned ’cause he just finished a double PHd in math but otherwise he’s a nice person! 😀

    He can speak to the NAZ foundation. They have support groups and do help in family counselling. It helps if mom & dad are a little net savvy. Plant good articles and let them read. I did the same. I researched and wrote. It helped.

    Yes, this kid is also speaking to Naz. I hope it works out

  7. Ritu, maybe you were shocked because you did not imagine it could be so close- its one thing to read about this or watch TV. And it is not about being “non accepting” just about being jolted. I would not want anyone close to me to be gay, they face so much discrimination- I know where you are coming from.
    On that kid, what kind of an ultimatum is that for that kid? Like one can change one’s nature? And I can go off into- what kind of parents……But I am glad he has an elder person figure around- like you to talk to.

    I totally agree. The question “How gay are you?” really shows how ignorant and unprepared the father is. I am his friend’s mother …. its not the same thing as your own parents. He is so depressed and bitter, but at least he and his partner are talking with support groups……

  8. Here they are pushing to ban gay marriage and the kind of ads you see on television are so horrendous. Like “my kids should not need to know that a man can marry a man” and yada yada…

    One of my Indian friends was worried that gay marriage will affect immigration (!??!) because then they will cheat and get into the country. Like straight people have an automatic morality meter built in and never cheat at all.

    What I don’t understand is how 2 people unknown to you getting married is going to affect your life. But for them, it is so many issues…inheritance, adoption, health care benefits that are tied to this status. Would you rather that a child be raised in an orphanage or a juvenile home rather than with a gay loving family??

    My point exactly. Ours was a straight marriage that collapsed because my husband would stray every time he could. If affected my boys so much that my elder one refused to invite him to his wedding. There is so much hate. A gay loving stable family would be preferable

  9. There is nothing wrong with anything or anybody when it comes to their personal decision and being a homo is very much a personal act… BUT we have to grow up mentally a lot to accept these facts which are out there… its a habit of all of us to preach n not to believe in it…
    but thats even a good sign that we do know our own limitations and we silently criticize them… one day we will overcome them…

    I realize that, and now I realize that maybe I am not as broadminded as I thought

  10. First of all please do accept my best wishes on the wonderful new blog site Ritu 🙂

    I should probably not be shocked (being a medical professional) about gays and lesbians and the sort. But seriously I do care for my ass and would definitely keep away from the gays. I don’t mind lesbians though 😀

    LOLLL Ravin, funnily lesbians (a few of the girls in my hostel in college were lesbians) do not disturb me. Gays do (even though I thought they did not)

  11. We’re all faced with such dilemmas…things that make us question whether our protestations of tolerance are mere lip-service. Like you said it’s when it strikes closer home that you really wonder…

    Yeah, it sure makes one sit up and think ………..

  12. This is pretty much the situation my friend went through, though his parents didn’t react quite as badly. Nonetheless he came from a conservative household.

    I think homosexuality is frowned upon as whole in the Indian community, but I’ll agree, male homosexuality bears far more stigma for some reason. Perhaps for you, it is because you don’t have daughters, but I’m sure the reasons are very varied.

    Great post!

    Yes, Saroj. Your post is wonderful too. Am editing my post to add a link to yours

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