We must teach children tolerance, compromise

Published 9:10 am Friday, November 3, 2017

Of late, I’ve begun to realize the world around us is not terribly different in temperament than our 4-year-old daughter.

Anna is going through a phase in which any slight against her is perceived in her little head to be someone “being mean” to her. At least her mother and I hope it’s a phase.

Last week while trying to explain to Anna how the crisis of the moment was not, in fact, the end of the world, a sad reality hit me.

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Our world has become more and more just like this.

Anna may not be going through a phase at all; she may just be graduating to the class of modern day American.

I’m not suggesting that everyone suddenly has the mentality of a 4-year-old. That would not be fair.

However, our world of late seems far less tolerant for different perspectives, opinions other than our own or pretty much anything that does not fit into our own paradigm.

I inadvertently witnessed a prime example the other day.

One person tried to make a joke about President Trump and the other was immediately offended and suggested, “If you’re saying that about him and I voted for him, you must think that about me, too.”

That kind of associational logic was not as commonplace years ago. Heck, I’ve personally voted for a number of people who I didn’t personally like or respect.

When people lump groups into generalities they show their own ignorance. Not all people who voted for Trump believe in the same things any more than all people who voted for Hillary believe in other things.

But that’s how our world has become — the Hatfield’s and McCoys of 21st century America.

If the divisions stopped at politics, perhaps it would be tolerable. Simply avoid talking politics and political news and maybe, just maybe, the world would be a bit more tolerable.

But it doesn’t stop there.

Divisions permeate our lives on so many different levels — schools, churches, sports, you name it and you can nearly guarantee a polar opposite view exists nearby.

In thinking back to my life and wondering, “Exactly how did this happen?” I may have the answer —Burger King.

Remember in the 1970s when the fast-food chain began its, “Have it your way” marketing campaign?

Before that, if you went to a fast-food restaurant you just had to deal with onions, tomatoes, mayonnaise, pickles or whatever else you didn’t like.

Talk to my mother and she’ll be delighted to tell you of a story from when I threw a fit in a then-relatively-new Disney World because I was served a hamburger with a sesame seed bun.

Can you believe the gall of that restaurant?

Of course, the movement of our country into the collective, child-like state of mind did not happen just because of the hamburger chain’s effort to attract more business by customizing meals.

But certainly, our modern conveniences have made us all far more accustomed to getting exactly what we want.

On a local level, we’ve seen divisions pop up for years on a myriad of dividing lines.

Black vs. white, rich vs. poor, Natchez vs. Vidalia, city vs. county, public schools vs. private, private school A vs. private school B, the list could go on and on.

The problem for each of us to work on solving is: How on earth can we fix this?

Forty years removed from the start of the have-it-your-way generation, teaching tolerance and compromise is a must.

Kevin Cooper is the publisher of The Natchez Democrat.