On International Tolerance

“But instead of democracy,” I was saying, “what they got is just more oppression.”

“Or perhaps they just got too much democracy,” Mr Magundi responded. “We have a strange notion that democracy and tolerance go together. But they don’t. Our Constitution has a Bill of Rights precisely because democracy is naturally intolerant. If we allowed the majority to impose its will, it would crush minority opinion, minority religion, minority skin color with an iron boot.

“So when we see oppression of minorities or intolerance of dissent in other countries, we have to remind ourselves that those things are often expressions of pure democracy: that they are the will of the majority carried out in a perfectly logical fashion. And if we are to have peace with those countries, then we must tolerate their democracy. We must say to the nations around us what we say to our individual neighbors: ‘I think your religion is malarkey and your opinions are offensive, but you have a right to them as long as you don’t force them on me.’

“We will have to tolerate nations that say that women are inferior to men. We will have to tolerate nations that imprison homosexuals. We will have to tolerate nations that refuse religious freedom to Christians because the great majority are bigotedly Buddhist or Muslim or Unitarian, or refuse religious freedom to Buddhists or Muslims or Unitarians because the vast majority of citizens are bigotedly Christian. That is the only price at which we can buy peace.

“And I won’t like it. I’ll hear the tales of injustice and oppression, and my heart will bleed. And I won’t be able to say anything but this: ‘Come to America, you who are more enlightened than your neighbors. If you yearn to breathe free, we have room for you here. We’re hardly even using Wyoming. Come to America and teach us your great traditions, and by the way bring your favorite recipes, and leave the small-minded bigots to wallow in their hatred.’”