This Is What Tolerance Looks Like


So, Kevin, age 15 and now a sophomore in high school, came home yesterday and was telling me about his day at school.  He said that in his art class, they have been assigned to create some artistic rendering representing Generation XY, and that it should have some sort of political statement (a potentially volatile assignment, for sure).  What he came up with is a cartoon of Freddie Mercury, Ian McKellen, and Billy Joe Armstrong, all people he admires, and all gay/bisexual.  The political statement Kevin wants to get across is that same-sex marriage should be legal.  When I asked him why he thinks same-sex marriage should be legal, he said, “Well, making it illegal is like making marriage illegal to someone just because their hair is blonde.”

Man, I love this kid.  And what he’s saying isn’t just regurgitated dogma fed to him by me or anyone else.  We, as a family, of course talk about tolerance – how could we not with Finn in our midst?  But Michael and I try to frame our discussions in a way that allows the kids to think for themselves.  I think that’s one of the greatest gifts a parent can give their children: the ability – the freedom – to think for themselves and to come to their own conclusions about the world.  I’d like to believe that Kevin was just born with an open, tolerant heart – actually, I believe that about pretty much everyone; it’s upbringing and life that changes that – but obviously having a brother like Finn has driven it home for him, and his ideas about tolerance and acceptance extend far beyond the world of disabilities.

So he and I talked about his project and his thoughts for a while.  I said to him, “You know, Kevin, that probably some of your very close friends don’t share your views about this topic because they come from families that are against it because of their religious beliefs.”  He said, “Mom, I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I have friends from just about every belief there is.  I have a Muslim friend, a Christian friend, Catholic friends, an Atheist friend, a Mormon friend, and a Buddhist friend.”

Maybe he’s just growing up in a different time than I did – maybe diversity is the way of things nowadays.  I’d like to think so, but I don’t know.  Maybe it’s just where we live.  But the fact is, Kevin could care less.  He seems to give everyone the benefit of the doubt, regardless of their skin color, their orientation, or what church they attend (or don’t attend).  And I have to say, that probably makes him more tolerant than me; I’m so weary of all the religious rhetoric.  I’ve become very jaded about it, and in all honesty, people who start going on about God become suspect to me: I doubt their ability to think rationally.  I know I’m not supposed to say that, or think that.  Like I said, Kevin is apparently more tolerant than I am in that regard.  And for the record, he’s undecided about what he believes.  Which I think is very cool.  He doesn’t seem to be easily swayed by whomever he’s hanging with.  He has a mind of his own that he’s only beginning to discover.

The older he gets, the more proud I am of the person he is and the person he is becoming.

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9 Comments on “This Is What Tolerance Looks Like”

  1. Holly F.
    September 6, 2012 at 8:01 pm #

    Love, love, LOVE that bright son of yours! And I love the way you are rearing your children.

    I recently told someone on Facebook that it would be extremely hypocritical of me to demand respect, equal treatment, and rights for my son if I wasn’t willing to give the same to others.

    For the record, I’ve always been supportive of gay marriage. Trent’s birth did not change anything for me, but it drove the point home just like you said. I went from being only slightly vocal in support to being very vocal, just as vocal as I am about disability issues. And I went from only answering my childrens’ questions about their Aunt and her girlfriend to actively engaging them in discussion of what it means to be gay, how we should treat those that are gay (and ALL PEOPLE), and why it is not in our best interest to deny any group something that other groups are allowed to have.

    When they tell their Aunt Ray Ray and Beth that they love them, it is such a sweet, truthful statement. Oh the happiness that Aunt Ray Ray and Beth feel to know they are welcome in our home and that we are helping the next generation know and practice kindness and acceptance.

    You never know Lisa, our children might be the friend that prevents a young gay person from thinking about or committing suicide because of their pain. Or one of our kids could be gay themselves…and will never feel that pain because they already know it doesn’t matter to us. It gives me chills to think about how far the act of raising children this way could reach.

    • Lisa
      September 6, 2012 at 8:24 pm #

      Holly, I’ve said before that just based on the sheer number of kids I have, the odds are that at least one of them will turn out to be gay. I want my kids to never be afraid to be whoever and whatever they are, and to never be afraid to tell me.

  2. Sue
    September 7, 2012 at 1:20 am #

    What you wrote about being wary of religious people really resonated with me. When people start off with “The Lord guided/I trusted the Lord/My prayers were answered…” I feel like they might as well have just said “The little green men from Mars have landed and said/done/told me…” I find it especially disturbing during presidential elections. I was in India recently and it is so amazing to experience a culture with a totally different dominant religion (Hinduism), which is itself so different from Christianity. It really drives home the point that religion is a societal construct.

    • Lisa
      September 7, 2012 at 4:22 am #

      So true. I find it very disturbing, too, that religious beliefs play such a big part in the presidential elections. It should be completely irrelevant.

  3. Marissa
    September 7, 2012 at 2:08 am #

    If any of your children marry someone who does believe in god or they choose to believe in god at some point in their life, will you tell them at that time that you question whether or not they think rationally? Don’t you think think that statements like this effect the choices that they may make.

    You make it very clear on your blog that you don’t GET people who believe in God. With your strong feeling on this, I find it hard to believe that this wouldn’t give hesitation to your children about their beliefs when it comes to God.

    • Lisa
      September 7, 2012 at 4:25 am #

      Marissa, of course kids are going to be influenced to some extent by their parents’ beliefs – I don’t think there’s any way to completely avoid that. I’m certainly not indoctrinating my kids to any belief system, though. I have seven kids – chances are at least a couple of them will end up believing in god. I really don’t care if they do or don’t; I’m more interested in their happiness and integrity as human beings. If any of them do believe in god, it will make for some lively discussions, that’s for sure 🙂

  4. paula
    September 7, 2012 at 4:15 pm #

    It is sad that religion is a major part of the presidential elections. Truth is…..these are the people that vote. And the Republicans/Democrats know it. So, even though a LOT of people claim they have no religious beliefs or affiliations, the majority of Americans that vote or give a damn are Catholics, Mormons, Lutherans, Presbyterians and Methodists. Are they everyone? No, they are not. But, I wouldn’t sell burgers to vegetarians, and our presidential hopefuls try hard to speak to those citizens, that are going to vote. That’s what is great about our country. The freedom to believe and be whatever it is you believe.

  5. Sue
    September 7, 2012 at 11:38 pm #

    I am an atheist. I have a PhD in genetics and I am a biology professor at a major university. When my kids ask a “why” question about nature, I say things like “Those animals evolved to fill that niche.” People gasp in horror at this and say things like “what if he says that at school?” Ah yes, when did evolve become a four letter word? I’m just telling him the truth. I’ve made it clear that I don’t believe in God, but there are lots of different beliefs in the world. So if one of my kids ends up believing in God, that’s fine with me, as long as it doesn’t lead to hatred, judgement, and exclusion of others. THAT I can’t tolerate.

    • Lisa
      September 8, 2012 at 12:14 am #

      Sue: a woman after my own heart.

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