The first Muslim representative on the Hill was big news, but I just heard about the first Buddhist on the Hill today.
A more diverse House could be a sign that our representative government is starting to look more like the people it represents. (Remember when it was a big deal to have a Roman Catholic president?) But I’m not ready to shout from the rooftops about our pluralistic leadership just yet.
Tolerance is not an easy thing, a mentor once told me, because to be truly tolerant, you must be able to listen to the viewpoints of those who are intolerant. Check yourself — are you up to the task?
By the way…Wouldn’t the new atheist intelligentsia have a field day with that statement? I interviewed Sam Harris while writing for the Camera, and I suspect he might put this in the category of “idiot compassion.” Or maybe it would fall under his larger umbrella of religious moderates being too tolerant — so tolerant that they let fundamentalists quite literally get away with murder.
The caveat is that the intolerant, the fundamentalists, the extremists — call them what you will — will always be around. Therein lies the wisdom of tolerance not as an antidote, but as a balancing factor. One Muslim man and one Buddhist woman will not turn Congress into a pluralistic love-in any more than a few religious moderates can stop hate crimes or racism. But perhaps they can provide much needed balance in a world full of people living at both extremes.