Famed magician Penn Jillette said he “really” doesn’t like the word “tolerance” in an episode of The Glenn Beck Program that aired Monday.
“It’s a word that often brings to mind condescension,” he explained. “There’s a way you ‘do’ tolerance. … ‘We were out to dinner, and there’s your wife’s friends and I tolerate them.’ It’s such a negative connotation. And so often when you’re in a group of people, and someone starts saying nuts stuff that everybody knows is nuts stuff, … everybody smiles and nods and lets them move on. And that kind of tolerance seems, to me, to be not good.”
Jilette said the world needs a “kind of tolerance that says, ‘I like you as a person, and you’re wrong.” The person doesn’t need to be vilified, but their beliefs don’t need to be unquestioningly accepted either, he explained.
“And once you have that conversation, you have to be able to go back to where you and I are,” Beck added. “I think you’re wrong on things; you think I’m wrong on things. That’s cool. I still like you.”
“It’s just finding that exact tightrope that you have to walk down of being able to live and exist with someone and at the same time, not give up your own principles,” Jillette agreed.
Jillette cautioned, though, that a person’s goal shouldn’t be to try to change the mind of a person they disagree with.
“You never try to change their mind,” he said. “My goal sitting down with you must not be, must not be to say, ‘How can I get my friend Glenn to become an atheist and not a Mormon?’ That cannot be my goal. My goal has to be, ‘Can I speak to this person from my heart on whatever happens to come up?’ And that subtle difference to me is the tightrope. I can’t be trying to manipulate you. I can’t be saying in the car on the way over, ‘I’ve got the argument that will convince him!'”
Jillette also cautioned people on both sides of the aisle against “wanting to be outraged.” He specifically referenced the backlash against Memories Pizza in Indiana.
“You’re dealing with what we have to be very careful of, which is turning people into hypotheticals,” he said. “This was never going to come up. Never once, never ever, was [this family’s objection to catering a gay wedding] ever going to hurt anyone. It never was going to. And my problem is tears being shed, police being called for death threats, people screaming, people yelling, people saying we need more government, people saying we need less government.”
“It is people wanting to be outraged on both sides, and carry on on both sides,” Jillette continued. “And you know as well as I do, there was never going to be a conflict between one gay person and that pizza place for as long as we’re going to be alive. Never going to be.”
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