Things fall apart, the center cannot hold…
The best lack all conviction,
While the worst are full of passionate intensity
William Butler Yeates
Unchecked, intolerance eventually marginalizes freedom of thought. Book banning, prohibiting discussion of race in American history, woke and cancel cultures punishing and ostracizing those who do not strictly conform to “approved” ways of thinking all reflect at some level intolerant views. And so, it appears that we have entered a new season of intolerance here in the Fort reflecting these and other dogmatic positions embraced at opposite ends of the political spectrum.
We witnessed this recently in the countywide primary elections, where character assassination, falsehoods, and appeals to base passions in pursuit of pure party orthodoxy triumphed over well-reasoned discourse. What mattered the most was proving to be a “true” party member and advancing a party’s factious and narrow self-interests over the broader public good. Or so it seemed.
Often cast as belonging to a few “extremists,” the intolerant views that we witnessed may reflect something more and less benign. The voice of broad public interests was resoundingly shouted down by those espousing intolerance, prejudice, fear, and petty self-interest. The center—the ground where the common good lies—was pushed aside by these “extremist views.” And the vitriol once reserved for the opposing party was turned inward against the center and “extremists” now lay claim to the center, a center that cannot hold.
Like other past elections, the outcome of these elections suggests that intolerance in our community may not be as confined to a few extremists as we would like to think. And it may also signal that we have entered a new season of intolerance here at the Fort where such views are commonplace and supported, even if not openly embraced.
Such narrow-mindedness, of course, runs contrary to our frontier sensibilities that respect freedom of thought, promote mutual respect, seek compromise, and build bridges of understanding across ideological borders. Here in these Borderlands—the space where divergent ideologies have often met and clashed—those sensibilities have enabled us to resolve vast differences and overcome difficult times in the past. They now obligate us to reject this season of intolerance and seek a space where all voices are heard and the common good triumphs over loud and noxious voices of petty self-interests.