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It’s not like I can’t remember her first name. In 1968, teachers didn’t have first names. She was simply, “Mrs. Hartfield”, the History and Civics teacher. It was a wonderful class. Our discussions of current events were full of the news of the day, and in the Spring of 1968, there was much to discuss: Vietnam, campus demonstrations, Israel, Ulster, LBJ, the Civil Rights struggle, the Soviets, elections, and on and on. Those discussions sparked the interest in current events which follows me to this day. One in particular was the discussion of tolerance as related to the violence in northern Ireland.
“Tolerance”, explained Mrs. Hartfield, “means simply: You don’t kill someone just because they believe differently than you.” None of us in that hot, humid, classroom had much of an appreciation for the importance of religious and political tolerance. We had been raised in a society that, for all of its imperfections, was politically and religiously a tolerant one. The thought of Protestant on Catholic violence seemed totally foreign to me, as it would have meant that the Catholic family who lived across the street from me would have been my enemy, instead of my best friends.
And, I’ve had close to 40 years of additional life experience since that time to reflect again, and again on the importance of tolerance. And it all goes back to, “you don’t kill someone simply because they believe differently than you.”
This isn’t a column about muslim intolerance. If you need a column to tell you that the muslim world has produced the most consistently intolerant and repressive society that the world has ever seen, then you just haven’t been paying attention for the last 400 years or so. Continue reading