September 27, 2008

PAST DIFFERENCE:

Why Americans are more tolerant: Canadians often consider themselves to be more tolerant than their "backwards" neighbours to the south. But is this simply a myth? (Pete Vere, September 23, 2008, Western Standard)

Which brings me to the second reason the American concept of freedom of speech won me over. With free speech comes responsibility. This is not a leftist cliche, although it’s often misapplied by leftists. What this really means is that freedom of speech is every citizen’s responsibility. That’s you and me. If your neighbor says something hateful or abhorrent, speak up about it!

Americans feel more secure speaking up. This is what makes them more tolerant than Canadians. Ingrained in their psychology is the belief that every individual is equal under the law, and rights and freedoms are every individual’s responsibility. Thus they might gripe about minorities, but in the end Americans accept them.

Look no further than our parallel elections. With the exception of Elizabeth May, leader of Canada’s fifth party, every major party leader north of the border is a middle-aged, middle-class, mild-mannered white male. And when gender is excluded, Ms. May fits the stereotype perfectly. Yet even then she is not projected to win any seats.

In contrast, the U.S. election has produced two strong female candidates - one of whom is married to a snowmobile-racing champion from a First Nations community. One of the presidential candidates is an African-American born of a Muslim father. The other a tough-talking former Navy pilot and senior citizen who often bucks his own part

We talk about tolerance in Canada. More often than not, as our electoral choices show, Canadian tolerance is just an excuse to avoid discussing our differences. Thus Canadians stick to what’s comfortable, what’s least likely to offend the most people. We don’t want our differences to cause division and disrupt the social peace.

Americans, on the other hand, relish their differences. Tolerance is created by confronting their differences, then discovering that they share many of the same values and concerns. Americans understand, rightly, that tolerance is a product of free speech. The First Amendment allows them to get past their differences, correct misconceptions, and move on to more pressing issues.

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 27, 2008 6:11 AM
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