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Tolerating those with offensive viewpoints a test of patience in prison

By Brian Wood - | Apr 4, 2016

I consider myself fairly thick skinned but today I found myself getting offended.

I had discovered one of my neighbors keeps a picture of Osama Bin Laden and says the Al Queda leader is his hero. He believes Osama Bin Laden was inspired by God when he masterminded plans to kill thousands of innocent people.

Religious tolerance is one of the ideals our country was founded upon, but where do we draw the line and recognize someone as an enemy of the state? That is probably a question for a different forum.

I told a buddy about the situation and asked if I should be bothered by the beliefs and opinions of this religious zealot. My buddy, who has a way of being crass, funny and wise all at once, wittingly said, "First off, the idiot should have referred to (him) in the past tense when calling Bin Laden his hero, because not so long ago he was shot in the face by the good guys. He's freaking dead now and the world is a much better place for it."

He then pointed out there are a lot of individuals in here (and everywhere else) with ideas that would likely bother me if I knew about them, so he asked why I chose to get upset, just because this guy chooses to voice his opinion.

I admit, he had a good point.

Some synonyms for the word "tolerate" are "endure," "stomach," and "bear"; whereas, some synonyms for "tolerance" are "acceptance," "patience," and "open-mindedness." When I was no longer just enduring prison and had accepted this situation, things became much better for me.

Perhaps it will be the same with people -- if I can ever get to that point. I don't know what they've experienced and who am I to judge? Though, when I see a big Hitler tattoo on a guy's chest it is tough for me not to do just that.

I'm not saying I shouldn't have an opinion, because that wouldn't be practical. I need to have my own moral compass. I'll always disagree with hurting innocent people, the criminal mentality, gangs and lots of other stuff I run into on a daily basis here. What I am saying is it will be in my best interest to accept that people think differently than I do and to not let their beliefs upset me.

I grit my teeth whenever I hear one certain man in my section speak. There are reasons for this, but I'll keep my judgments to myself. He recently got beat up by a kid in our section after calling him a derogatory term for "homosexual" and hitting him. The other party was not innocent and now both are in the "hole."

I know I shouldn't find delight in another's misfortune, but I couldn't help but smile when I heard about it.

I find the section a little less grating with him gone. I imagine I might have found serenity more quickly if I had been a more patient and understanding person.

Thinking this through has brought some clarity and helped me calm down, and that might be the first step toward becoming more tolerant. I think developing acceptance for people and their beliefs is a worthwhile goal, even if my motives are not entirely altruistic.

Brian Wood, formerly of Layton, is an inmate at the Utah Correctional Facility in Gunnison. He pleaded guilty to nine felony charges for offenses from 2011 to 2014, including counts of burglary, drug possession and prescription fraud. He could spend up to 35 years in prison, depending on parole hearings.

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