The American Tolerance
“World peace, like community peace, does not require that each man love his neighbor—it requires only that they live together with mutual tolerance, submitting their disputes to a just and peaceful settlement.”(John F.
Kennedy) As a “nation of nations” harmoniously weaved under a bold visage of red, white, and blue, America’s cultural and philosophical diversity has fostered an identity unlike any other. Our country’s distinct ability to merge colors of contrasting ideologies, ethnic backgrounds, and religious faiths into a prism of national unity has allowed it to further grow as a whole, in ways unfamiliar to other traditionally uniform societies. However, the driving force behind America’s rich cultural bond has remained adamant not in widespread immigration or periods of colonization, but in an essential civic value that has sparked global respect and acceptance under one flag, one land, and one nation: tolerance. Since the time of our Founding Fathers, the concept of tolerance has shined through the words of the “Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom” proclamation, written by Thomas Jefferson in 1786 to ensure an individual’s natural right to religious freedom. The second paragraph of the act declared that no person could be forced into participating in church-affiliated activities or into paying taxes in favor of the church, granting free will to worship or not to worship without ensuing discrimination.
This later set a precedent for the separation between Church and state, as modern schools and the government are forbidden to take part in religious worship so that lenience of differing beliefs is encouraged. The guarantee of religious toleration has been the reason for the large-scale fusion of faiths within schools, communities, and societies today, underscoring the beauty of cultural diversity itself. From condemning Hitler’s persecution of the German Jews to banning discriminatory employment practices towards African Americans, Franklin D. Roosevelt embodied the true nature of tolerance as the thirty-second president of the United States. Around 1944, Roosevelt advocated the immigration of thousands of Jewish refugees from Germany and Austria, as he spread religious tolerance to the Western Democracies in his plan to make them a large safety zone.
Roosevelt allowed the Jewish people to seek asylum in the U.S. in his belief that none should face the death penalty for practicing one’s desired faith, and rescued around 100,000 Jews when their native soil became a premises for concentration camps. By doing so, Roosevelt justified the misfortunes of intolerance to the European nations and promoted a new understanding of cultural acceptance to the American people. In the midst of the Civil Rights Movement, Roosevelt issued the Executive Order 8802 in 1941, which prohibited the federal government from hiring individuals on the basis of their race, color, creed, or nationality.
By promoting equality among all, millions of African Americans achieved more prominent jobs and higher salaries. Roosevelt stood to personify the great scope of religious and racial tolerance, even when leaders of other countries could not, as he once stated, “If civilization is to survive, we must cultivate the science of human relationships—the ability of all peoples, of all kinds, to live together, in the same world at peace.” As an American, the civic value of tolerance has given rise to a life defined by unbounded freedom, where monotheistic, polytheistic, and atheistic faiths coexist peacefully on shared soil; by countless dreams, where individuals of all colored skin can compete equitably for a top profession; and by unparalleled diversity, where individuals of all shapes and sizes, personalities and ambitions, and cultural descents unite under stars and stripes to represent the nation we are today.