This the worst sort of prejudice and intolerance and it has been rampant on the right. It is one of the most disgusting examples of ignorance feeding fear. There are myriad just like it, however, and too numerous to either cite or count. It seems like it is the signature trademark of the Tea Party, which is an unfortunate departure from the Founder's vision for our country.
As Rene Dubos said, "Human diversity makes tolerance more than a virtue; it makes it a requirement for survival."
Nothing could be truer for the United States of America right now. We have always had some amount of division, from the early years of Tories and Revolutionaries to Federalists vs. Anti-Federalists to North vs. South, Democrats v. Republicans. Many of these differences have overlapped with yet another source of pluralism: the thoroughly unique mixture of national origin, race, ethnicity and religious belief. America has always been among the most diverse on the planet earth. When I was a young it was celebrated and called, "The Great Melting Pot." It was a GOOD thing to be diverse as a country.
As long as America could be tolerant, diversity was embraced. Somewhere along the line, we have lost our tolerance for differences and the lack of tolerance means the lack of mutual respect. The result of this loss of respect for others is the deep division we see today in this United States of America. We see more North vs. South (though it is usually couched in Blue States vs. Red), progressives vs. right-wing and Democrats vs. Republicans. The bottom line for the government is a sort of political paralysis of will. Nothing can be accomplished as a country as long as we hold "the other" in contempt and view them with deep suspicion. We need to remember the concept of E Pluribus Unum: Out of many, one.
What is more, we need to relearn mutual respect. Only then can we embrace toleration and cooperation while acknowledging our differences. It can be good to be able to see through the eyes of the other or to be able to walk a mile in their shoes. It is necessary to embrace this kind of empathy in order to be able to say, "We are different in some ways but we share a love for America. Let us agree on what we can and compromise about the rest."
How do we get to that ideal place? We get there through humility and hard work, through a willingness to bend like the willow in the wind. We can bend and not break. Flexibility is the close cousin of tolerance. We can see that there are differing points of view which may be as viable as our own and there may be room for both.
Tolerance is the great virtue of the true patriot. To love this country is to be able to reach out and extend an understanding hand to other, the one who differs in perspective and maybe in religious belief, political stance, ethnic background, race or sexual identity. When we can do that, when we can respect others for who they are, this nation becomes stronger. Without it we are divided and divided we shall surely fall.
My vision for this country is that we seek this goal together: to walk through the wilderness of division to the promised land of tolerance and respect. There will always be differences but they can be allowed and tolerated and even celebrated. John F. Kennedy said this,"If we cannot end now our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity."