It is not desirable to cultivate a respect for the law, so much as for the right.
Love, friendship and respect do not unite people as much as a common hatred for something.
I’d like to discuss something I find sorely lacking in this country today. Respect. In some places there is a severe lack of it, in others none at all, and some places have the wrong idea about just what respect is. So, to begin, let’s look first at the classical definition of ‘respect’:
You can see from the definition, especially the use of the word “esteem”, that one might believe you respect people you like. Though this is the most common occurrence it is not the only way to lend respect to someone. Disagreements do not need to lead to disrespect. It is not disrespectful to disagree with someone. It is highly disrespectful to believe you have a right to your ideals while someone else doesn’t have an equal right to theirs.
This manifests most often in politics. Politics is an almost universal thing. There are different types of governments all across the globe but you tend to see the same problems. And many of these problems seem to be exasperated by the lack of respect between the parties involved. so when one side does win the argument they can’t just leave it at that. We can’t just enjoy being right, we have to punish the other side for daring to be wrong or to challenge us.
Take the debt ceiling argument. On more than one occasion, the President and Harry Reid gave Republicans the fucking bone they’ve been begging for, and what happened? It wasn’t enough for many of them. They were given what they wanted and they STILL turned it down without a thought. They have no respect. They can’t just “win”, they have to make sure the other side is punished.
Let’s look at a more personal example. One that I’m sure pissed off more than a few people across the country. Last month Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz took to the floor of the House to make her argument against the Republican economic plans and question her fellow Florida Congressman’s support of it. Here is what she said that became such a huge problem for her fellow Congressman:
“The gentleman from Florida. who represents thousands of Medicare beneficiaries, as do I, is supportive of this plan that would increase costs for Medicare beneficiaries, unbelievable from a Member from South Florida,”
That’s it. One of the most benign, routine political statements ever uttered. I’m sure no one on in that building had a single problem with what she just said. Well, the Congressman in question, Allan West(I refuse to use Mr. as I believe he does not deserve the title), took MAJOR offense over these words and issued a ridiculous e-mail response to Mrs.Schultz’s office. It read in part:
“You are the most vile, unprofessional, and despicable member of the US House of Representatives. If you have something to say to me, stop being a coward and say it to my face, otherwise, shut the heck up. Focus on your own congressional district! I am bringing your actions today to our Majority Leader and Majority Whip and from this time forward, understand that I shall defend myself forthright against your heinous characterless behavior……which dates back to the disgusting protest you ordered at my campaign hqs, October 2010 in Deerfield Beach.
You have proven repeatedly that you are not a Lady, therefore, shall not be afforded due respect from me!”
?!?!?!?!?!?!?!? Are you kidding me?! All she said was you are wrong on the economic bill and THIS is how you respond! Talk about a disproportionate response. First of all Mrs. Schultz, if you’re reading this(Hey! I can hope!), allow me to volunteer my time to go to West’s office and tell him things he needs to hear TO HIS FACE. Such uncouth arguing is beneath a lady of your refinement. Best leave that to scoundrels such as myself. And this is obvious in Mrs. Schultz’s response. Which was basically no response. She didn’t get down in it, she rose above it. ‘Cause, even after all this, I bet Mrs. Schultz still repects the man enough to work with him even after he has shown he has no respect for her what so ever. Coward?! What man verbally intimidates a woman through e-mail? But this is a taste of the vile disrespect coursing through the veins of most Republicans. Boehner and Cantor are fools but they’re not this stupid. Fellas, get your people under control. This is Congress. You don’t act like the regular guy on the street. A higher standard people. A HIGHER standard.
And if this weak, Milquetoast statement made you that angry, maybe you should leave politics. It gets much, MUCH worse. And this leads to my next point: People who confuse criticism with a lack of respect. This covers A LOT of people. How many terrible days begin with a simple critique taken the wrong way and escalated? I think we all know someone like this. Probably more than one person. It’s hard to deal with them. Most times you just don’t want to. Everyone fucks up. Everyone makes mistakes. Having this pointed out to you is not a slight. Suggesting a different path is not an insult. It doesn’t mean you have been disrespected. In reality, the person probably would have never bothered to help you if they didn’t have a little respect for you. They might not like you but they may respect you as a fellow worker, student, or just a fellow human being.
And that last one is a sticking point for me. Respect for a fellow human being. This is something our species has struggled with since the dawn of civilization. Mostly because, for most of that time, white people considered themselves the only actual human beings. I once heard a Republican pundit on TV say he “respected gay people and their ‘situation’ but,….”. Well, that’s good to hear. He respects their “situation”. And what situation would that be I wonder? Their sexual preference or the lack of human dignity shown to them by this country. But that’s part of most talks on gay rights. Disrespect and backhanded compliments. It’s a similar issue with immigrants, before that black people. And the genesis of these feelings is always the thought that they are somehow less of a human than the straight, white majority. Not that they are an example of the beautiful diversity of humanity but somehow a defect. They don’t deserve respect because they are not equal.
But you don’t HAVE to like someone to respect them. You don’t even have to agree with them. You just respect them as an individual, equal to you in every way. I don’t like internet trolls. And I know name calling can be a sign of disrespect. But I still respect them as people. Like the Tea Party. Sure it’s basically shown itself to be the intolerant, uninformed mob it is, but I respected their initiative. They have shown people that even a proportionally small group can make big noise on Capital Hill(did I use the wrong form of capitol? Or am I using words to say things?). I also respect them as my fellow citizens. Disagreements or not, they are only doing what any of us should do. This is what keeps our country going. The fact we can disagree, sometimes bitterly, but still pull together as one.
Presidents take more than their fair share of disrespect. President Obama is no exception. From veiled suggestions that he may be a “Muslim sleeper agent” to blatant racist remarks and physical threats, I don’t believe even Clinton has had to put up with the bullshit this President has heard. But the man respects the job. And that is so key. He respects the office of the President of the United States. And, probably more than any President in some time, has treated the office with the respect it so deserves.
Now we can transition to respect for authority. Lost in what I’ve said so far is the fact that respect, for the most part, is earned. Respect for your fellow man and the planet you live on are pretty much standard but respect earned in life is hard won and easily lost. Much like freedom. People must respect your right to exist and be who you are. Everything after that is negotiable. This is difficult when dealing with authority. Authority, by nature, exists to control. For better or for worse we are expected to submit to it. This is not the right way to approach it. The basic concept of authority is disrespectful. Man is not technically free. We do not have unquestioned sovereignty over our own existence. At least, not if we want to remain a part of society. Authority tends to become remote and inconsistent.
Though it is debatable, I believe you are taught to conform and submit to authority your whole life. Never question your parents, your teachers, or any other person with authority. Never challenge the majority, always stay in the herd. This is not the hallmark of a democracy but of authoritarianism. Authoritarian governments have no respect for their office or the people they control. Parents and teachers should be encouraging their children to ask more questions. To never, NEVER just accept something. No one respects a doormat. They just keep walking all over you. Just because a man with a badge told you something was wrong doesn’t mean it is. That piece of tin doesn’t make them your superior. But the police force has been co-opted. Once the greatest source of relief for so many in this country, police sirens are now met with fear and skepticism. And who can blame them?
Killers and thieves walk free but we made sure granny and her pot farm went down! Gangs are literally tearing cities apart but we gotta make sure Officer Smith meets his arrest quota so he can get that paycheck. And this is where you can’t really blame the police force. Our criminal justice system is becoming more and more for profit everyday. Police forces around the country see their pay shrink, their benefits and pensions disappear. So many districts have lowered the standards for being a police officer. The good cops are overshadowed by the multitude of high school dropouts harassing a man for just walking down the fucking street in front of them. a friend of mine got pulled over recently for nothing. I know everyone says that but this guy is one of the most honest people I have ever met.
Anyways, he’s on his way home after work and two cop cars get behind him and flip the lights. TWO CARS! So, being the guy he is, he pulls over, gets his ID and registration ready, and waits for the officers to ask for them. They don’t. They ask him to get out of the car. Weird. so he says, “Can I ask why I was pulled over?” Lemme answer that, “Of course you can. It’s your right to know.” But these officers said no. Also weird, and illegal. So there’s really no surprise about what happens next. Without telling him why he was pulled over or reading him any rights, they attempt to frisk him. When he stops them they threaten to arrest him for “resisting authority”. Not resisting arrest, “resiting authority”. He still had his chef’s jacket on but they ask him, “Where are you coming from?” If it were me I would have said Chef Boyardee Look a Like competition, but he says work, or course. See, he’s an honest guy. He expects the police to be at least as honest as him. At this point he still believes this is just what the police do.
So they tell him to roll his sleeves up. Now, dude LOVES his tattoos. Has a full sleeve on one arm and getting pretty close on the other. I guess this told the cops he was a drug addict because they started asking him about “track marks”. You know, like what heroin addicts have. So after about 5 more minutes of hardcore fucking with him and not finding anything to arrest him for, they just let him go. But this is all par for the course in the city he lives in. Everyone knows it, no one denies it. The city government argues that he police do a great job keeping crime off the streets. Mostly because people are too fucking afraid to drive the streets. And the city doesn’t care. Arrests equal money for many in office. Kentucky has one of the highest number of prisons in America. We incarcerate more people than any state bordering us. EVEN TENNESSEE!! Mostly pot offenses but money is money and we stopped being human beings in their eyes long ago.
We think the police work for us because we pay for them. Well, we don’t sign the checks. We don’t decide how much is in that check. The city does. They work for the city and whatever crazy assholes are in charge. They exist to keep the status quo, which is also decided by the city. There is no respect for the police force and what it is, so naturally that will trickle down to you and me. So it makes it very difficult to respect their authority when you realize who vested it in them. And it’s hard to respect your duty when others constantly make you feel insignificant. Honestly, the police are in a no win situation and that isn’t right.
So what am I really trying to say? I guess I’m just saying we need to focus more on respect. Respect not just for people but for the process. For life and basic fucking dignity. You ain’t gotta wake up tomorrow and start liking everyone and everything. Just respect their right to be there. Respect disagreement. Respect the fact we aren’t all the same. And,most of all, respect for yourself. You are worthy. You are good enough. Your opinions matter and your thoughts are valid. And you don’t need the rest of the world to agree to know that it’s true.