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Tennessee Intolerance

Posted by dystressed on July 31, 2008

About four days ago, I was in a hotel room out of town when the news came on television about a church shooting in Knoxville, Tennessee.

To be perfectly honest, my first thought was that I was glad I was so far away. My next thoughts drifted back to the families of the victims and what could have possibly been going on in the mind of the shooter. I have been kind of lax in my recent posts, so I decided I would take this opportunity to dissect the news and analyze what was going on in the shooter’s mind.

Unlike most of the recent tragic shootings in the U.S., the shooter is alive and well. We actually know why he did it. By his own admission, he wants to kill liberals and put an end to the liberal movement. Now before I get too political, I must warn readers that I am a liberal, so I couldn’t help but take this man’s actions a bit personally.

Jim David Adkisson wrote a letter explaining his actions, and he left his home wide open for police to search because he actually believed he would die in the shooting. As circumstances unfolded, however, he is alive and two good people are dead. Seven others are injured.

Adkisson has no ideology as he was not himself a churchgoer. Rather, he was caught up in the rhetoric of right-wing pundits who blame all of society’s ills on the liberal movement. Since he could not get to the leaders of the liberal movement, he chose to target those who voted them into office. The Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church was targeted particularly because it preached tolerance.

Tolerance, in Adkisson’s perception, was the worst thing about liberals. Tolerance allowed gays to marry… and so on. Adkisson likely envisioned himself as a sort of avenging angel for the wrongs against America, so he bought a shotgun at a pawn shop, packed it into a guitar case, carried it into a church, and started firing at people during a children’s musical.

Knoxville News Sentinel image

Knoxville News Sentinel image

Killing innocent people is absolutely the wrong way of trying to win a culture “war.”

There is a lot of hot air blown by all sides, but the term culture war is a red herring. The culture war itself is nothing more than the eternal battle between divergent points of view. Society does not progress without disussion, debate, reasoning, and most importantly, compromise.

In fundamentalist circles, compromise is known as the tool of the devil. But in reality, compromise is what makes America great. Compromise gave us the tri-lateral, co-equal branches of government, the Bill of Rights, and a bicameral legislature (a congress with two houses, with representatives apportioned by population and Senators apportioned by the number of states). Compromise also got us some negative things, such as the three-fifths compromise, the Kansas-Nebraska Act, and Don’t Ask / Don’t Tell. But by and large, compromise works for altruistic ends. Compromise is necessity. Compromise is a tool of democracy, a tool of freedom.

As important as compromise is, it cannot function without tolerance. Tolerance is defined as “the capacity for or the practice of recognizing and respecting the beliefs or practices of others.

As we rage on in this culture war, with our emotional attachments to our own opinions, we must respect the fact that we do not know everything on our own, nor does some divine power (or right-wing writer) give us all of the answers. It’s just a shame that people don’t think things through before they go off half-cocked.

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One Response to “Tennessee Intolerance”

  1. andyscathouse said

    Nice write up. I am glad someone here wrote about this.

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