“I would rather be where I am celebrated, not just tolerated.”

Someone made this statement during a meeting I attended. To put it in context, this person was talking about dreams, about the work and focus and perseverance invested in making them reality. The point was: just as important as the dream itself is where one decides to invest in it, to build it. How much greater its actuality will be when it is welcomed and shared than if it is greeted with disdain.

This conversation has replayed in my mind many times. I think every one of us longs to be celebrated for the life and effort we pour into our dreams. It is one of the reasons dreamers are drawn to Denton. Artists, musicians, writers, entrepreneurs, and all manner of visionaries feel safe within our original, independent culture that embraces the pursuit of individual passion. This is a wonderful attribute largely responsible for Denton’s essence and our unique sense of place.

Denton County Courthouse-on-the-Square, downtown dentonThe word “tolerated” has niggled at me for a long time. In the quote above, it is negatively implied, tolerated being not as good as celebrated. Dictionary.com defines tolerance as “a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward opinions and practices that differ from one's own.” It sounds like a compromising, peacemaking way for the masses to get along. A good thing, right?

Tolerance is one of the most used words in society’s politically correct jargon. We are encouraged to exercise tolerance for one another’s differences and keep negative opinions to ourselves. We should be inclusive and consciously not discriminate. This is all great stuff.

Where tolerance loses its glamour for me, however, is when one decides another is intolerant and therefore “bad.” If two parties disagree, is one intolerant of the other? Or is one party putting the cone of shame on the other because they do not agree with his own opinion? In which case, who is really the intolerant party? Isn’t tolerance agreeing to disagree?

I do not presume to have an answer or present any solutions to the tolerance conundrum. It is worth pondering, though, because intolerance has become a label in American culture akin to the scarlet letter. I haven’t yet figured out who the tolerance police are, but sometimes people, businesses, and groups have the label publicly forced on them - not for intolerant action, but for merely holding a difference of opinion.

I have wondered if tolerance is even a real possibility in the way we are attempting to apply it in our culture. Think about it. Tolerance only exists if when two parties disagree, they are each tolerant of the other. How can one be singled out as intolerant?

When Tim and I married after dating for years, we still managed to surprise each other with irksome previously unknowns. For instance, he believes toothpaste should be squeezed from the bottom of the tube. I just squeeze, right in the middle. He likes to stack things to sort through later. I see stacks as clutter. Little things in the grand scheme of life, but big enough in the day-to-day routine that we learn to either compromise or just tolerate each other’s ways lest we live together in turmoil or quit and go separate ways. Over toothpaste and stacks! This is a simple analogy, but it is the same. Is one of us wrong, bad? No. But tolerance requires that, if compromise is not an option, each of us embraces that truth and lets the other do their thing their way. That is living together.

So, why on the grander scale can’t we do the same? I suppose that’s like asking why we can’t balance the federal budget like we would our personal checkbooks. Is it simply not possible?

Denton. Original. Independent. The essence conveyed in our brand is tolerance plus. It is celebrating our uniqueness, which is the collective of all of our individual selves and those that visit among us. This is a grand statement implying that that we choose to live together in spite of how we squeeze the toothpaste, for better or for worse. And beyond that, we opt to celebrate and not merely tolerate the differences that make us Denton.

Ours is not an easy assignment. There will always be multiple perspectives on any topic, opposing arguments for every issue, and hundreds of ideas for the best way to face a challenge. This is individuality at work. It is a good thing. The key to delivering on and preserving our essence is moving forward and deciding each day that Denton will continue being the home of original and independent.