Monday, November 10, 2014

The One about Respect - Redux

It grieves me that I feel I must re-hash this subject. Previously, I wrote on respect, respect given to authority, and the apparent lack thereof in the USA. After some recent conversations and reading of various comments sections, I feel that this is a message that needs to be brought back into the limelight (and perhaps with the backing and understanding coming from some greater maturity).

Respect comes in two forms: major and minor. I see minor respect every day here in the South. It is the consideration of others, others' needs, and others' humanity, manifesting itself through such actions as holding doors, offering up seats on the bus, or offering a lady your jacket. Major respect, though, seems to be something seldom or selectively given. This is the respect and deference given to someone because of his or her actions or position. Examples of this would be standing as a teacher or honored visitor enters the room, standing and/or saluting a veteran or current member of the armed forces, or maintaining a certain degree of decorum when discussing or in the presence of a person of rank or office.

What is so hard about offering such respect?

From my observations, I have seen this pervasive trend underpinning such lack of respect: people need to earn their respect. Now, yes, that is true, but it is also a completely subjective statement, which allows for someone to be given great or no respect depending on the attitude or opinion of the person giving/withholding respect.

I'm sorry, America, but how selfish and self-centred can you get?

Let me make this simple:

  • Every human being on this planet deserves a modicum of respect, which increases with age. Why? They are human. That's it. By dint of their humanity, they automatically receive a measure of deserved respect that cannot be taken from them. 
  • Every position deserves an appropriate degree of respect. The military gets this right, my high school got this right, why can't America? The teacher deserves respect from his students; the principal deserves even more. Police, firefighters, doctors, lawyers, CEOs, and even politicians deserve respect due to their stations.
  • Every action deserves some amount of respect. Right or wrong, heroic or criminal, an individual's actions gain or lose him respect.

Now, both of the latter two criteria are conditions which add to the first. Please note that they are additive. Also note that they are self-contained. Actions do not detract from respect due to rank and neither does rank detract from respect due to actions. a heroic janitor and an imbecilic CEO still receive respect despite their low rank or poor actions.

So, on to the question at hand: why do so many Americans show such disrespect to Mr. Obama?

Now, I get that many disagree with his policies and actions. I do as well, but that still only diminishes respect gained from one aspect of respect. You see, regardless of how much I disagree with his actions as president, he still has the full respect deserved for his position as president and for his humanity. That means, in discussions, I refuse to contort his name into defamatory statements (see, "Nobama"), I refuse to engage in ad hominem attacks, I refuse to entertain certain speculations and conspiracy theories regarding personal agendas/backgrounds which are non-conducive to polite discussion, and I refuse to flat-out bash the man for any mishandling (perceived or real). similarly, if I ever meet him in person, I will still look him in the eye, shake his hand, and treat him with the deference and consideration due his position.

America, what if I told you you can disagree with someone and still show respect?