Despite America's inspirational legacy, this has not always been an exceptionally tolerant nation and there are few Americans who would deny that. That being said, we've now gone so far in the opposite direction that it has become problematic as well. Tolerance taken to an extreme has actually impeded our ability to rationally discuss vitally important issues that will determine whether our country continues to be successful and prosperous over the long haul.
For example, the debate over gay marriage consists largely of one side talking about thousands of years of human experience and a potential devaluing of marriage that could lead to more society-damaging out-of-wedlock births in the future -- while the opponents of traditional marriage throw tantrums, try to get people fired for disagreeing with them, and shriek "homophobe" at the top of their lungs. This is highly ironic given that twenty years ago, most gay activists denied, publicly at least, that gay marriage was even on their radar at all.
A related issue is single mothers. Although we all know single mothers who work hard and are fantastic parents, if you look at statistics, it is absolutely undeniable that two parent households, on the whole, do a much, much better job of raising children. That's why it's desirable for our society to discourage single motherhood as much as possible -- but, if you point that out, you get howling feminists complaining that you must be a misogynist who hates women.
Then there's immigration. The whole point of allowing people to immigrate to this country is to benefit the people who are already here. Yet, if you try to have any sort of substantive conversation about how many people we are allowing into the country each year, where they should be coming from, or how we should choose them, the screaming starts again. "Why do you hate immigrants?"
It has gotten so bad that we can't even have a real discussion about how we should handle illegal immigrants any more. We have a coalition of business groups that benefit from hiring illegal aliens, Republicans who think they can pull in more Hispanic voters, and liberals who think illegals will become citizens and vote for them -- all essentially crying "You hate Hispanics!" any time someone opposes allowing an unlimited flow of illegal immigrants to enter our country and become American citizens. In other words, the only way to avoid being labeled a bigot is to oppose increased security measures any time they come up while always supporting the legalization of more illegals.
Then there's the dilemma posed to us by the war on terror. Most Muslims are moderate and are not hostile to our country. However, there is no reliable way to tell the moderate Muslims from the Islamic radicals who want to see us dead. Moreover, the moderate Muslims are usually very silent about the actions of the radicals and even tend to quietly support them when they engage in objectionable practices that have been previously held in contempt by Western civilization. In European nations, we've seen unconscionable restrictions imposed on free speech, Sharia tacitly accepted as the law of the land in certain areas, significant Islam related increases in rape and violence, and in some cases, non-Muslim women forced to take up the veil for their own protection. Shouldn't we be having a real back-and-forth exchange, free of shouts of "Islamophobia" -- about how to avoid importing the problems we're seeing in France, Britain, and the Netherlands into our country?
If you'll notice, these are all extraordinarily important issues that will ultimately have a great deal to do with whether our children live in a nation as great as the one we grew up in. Can we continue to be the pre-eminent nation in the world if we give the short-shrift to these momentous topics just because a few people claim to be offended?
Here's the reality: 95% of the time, if not more, when people yowl about racism, sexism, Islamophobia, homophobia, hatred of the poor, the environment, old people, etc., it's not true. Worse yet, most of the people doing the shouting KNOW IT'S NOT TRUE. They're merely crying wolf for political gain because they believe they may benefit personally from it -- or in the case of organizations like the NAACP, La Raza, GLAAD, CAIR, NOW and the alphabet soup of other groups that make a living off of having grievances, because it keeps them rolling in money and publicity.
Unfortunately, since the people benefiting from continually playing the tolerance card are unlikely to give it up any time soon, those of us who put our country first are going to have to be bolder about confronting them, drawing attention to the real issues, and sticking up for people who have the courage not to be cowed by political correctness. Whether our country remains a shining city on a hill or becomes just another unremarkable slum basking in its faded glory will depend on how successful we are at that task.