I am going to try to present this idea without expressing too much bias or opinion. I tell you this right away because it is going to be very hard for me to avoid going on tangents that have nothing to do with what I am trying to say. That being said, let me get into this observation: our society is intolerant. While we can point to any political group or any individual and say they are intolerant of a specific religion, race, sexual orientation, or any other belief system, I believe it goes much deeper than that. Our society is intolerant of being told that it is wrong. Every person without exception has an extraordinary desire to be right, no matter what.
Take for example what is happening in Wisconsin (and these are the facts, not opinions): Governor Scott Walker swiftly took away collective bargaining rights for public teachers, an action that created many angry school districts, parents, and, most of all, teachers; the school districts that went along with Walker's plan saved millions of dollars and laid off very few, if any, teachers; school districts that did not go along with the cuts fired more teachers and are still in financial trouble; the budget cuts have helped Wisconsin go from a $3 billion deficit to a surplus. Again, these are facts; no one can refute that these things are true. On the other hand, though, Walker's tactics have been depicted as bully-ish and irresponsible. There is now a movement to recall him from office and restore a democrat to the governor's office so that public workers can get their benefits back. Both sides believe they are right and are willing to do anything to defend their belief, including berating, harassing, and verbally assaulting each other. This is not something that only one side is guilty of; both sides partake in senseless arguments that do nothing but ostracize the other side. In America we believe and have fought for the freedom of speech; but when someone states an opinion or belief about the situation in Wisconsin, it does nothing but spark a fight because no one respects that opinion.
Do not get me wrong; along with the freedom of speech we also have the freedom to disagree. However, this freedom to disagree does not mean that one has the freedom to be rude and distasteful. This attitude to being told you are wrong or finding opposition to your belief, in my opinion, comes from our society's current treatment towards young children when they make mistakes in school. When I studied Eduction in college, I read many articles and studies that claimed that it is detrimental to tell children they are wrong; that we need to make them feel positive all the time. While I agree that it is important to build children up, current behavior by young people in today's culture show that this idea is not working. We may have made students feel more positive, but we have taken away their ability to handle and deal with rejection and opposition. Instead of teaching them that everyone makes mistakes and that they can use them as learning experiences, we have babied them and made them overly sensitive. Instead of teaching them that there will be people that will disagree with them and how to respectfully debate or discuss issues, we have left them lacking in these skills and they revert to immature bickering and tasteless insults.
How can this be fixed? It needs to be fixed first and foremost in how we treat young children. It is imperative that children know that they will not always have their way and not everyone is going to agree with them. To reiterate, this is something that people on both sides of the political spectrum are guilty of to one degree or another. If someone is told that they are wrong, they must be respectful even if the person who told them they are wrong is not. It is time that everyone takes the higher road. It's time to be civil.