What Has Happened To Respect?

There are certain basic lessons we learn as a part of growing up in a civil society.  One of the most important of these is to show respect for others, whether or not you agree with them or like them.  Just as you have a right to your opinion, they have a right to theirs.  Sometimes we are expected to show respect, if not for the individual, then the position they hold.  While all of us can remember teachers we viewed with disdain, we understood that we were expected to treat them with respect.  Civil society is based on an expectation of respect for the rights and freedoms of the individual.  However, those rights and freedoms can only be secure if there is respect for the institutions that govern us, and the individuals that lead them.  It is this contract between the governed and the government that safeguards our freedoms and liberties.  A lack of respect from any party to that contract endangers its stability.  Civil wars and revolutions are the result of such contractual breakdowns.

While I am not warning of potential civil unrest in this country, I am obliged to point to the unprecedented level of disrespect displayed over the past few years.  When an elected member of Congress feels that he can yell “you lie” to a President in the middle of his State of the Union Address, or when another Congressman feels that it is appropriate to say that he can’t stand to be in the same room as the President, we have to be concerned about the decreasing level of civility in our civil society.  It is a fact that the GOP has displayed  unequaled  disrespect for the President, for the American people and for each other.  The rants and accusations of the right have been astounding.  The Birther movement and the Tea Party have combined to show rabid disdain for the President.  They have questioned his veracity, his loyalty, his motives and his religion.  Their behavior has not only been unconscionable toward the President, but the Office of the Presidency as well.

English: Anti-Obama protester at an Austin, Te...
English: Anti-Obama protester at an Austin, Texas “Tea Party” protest on July 4, 2009 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We are all well aware of what the polls have indicated on such issues as gun control, immigration and jobs.  American are overwhelmingly in support of action on these issues.  Yet the Tea Party-controlled GOP congressional majority has neglected to act on any of these concerns.   They have blocked all Democratic attempts to respond to these demands.  They have shown total disrespect for the needs and desires of  the vast majority of Americans.

Anyone who has been following the news this year is well aware of the vast disagreement between the Tea Party and right-wing of the GOP and the establishment, more moderate Republican members.  While disagreement within the ranks happens in both parties, the disrespect of the newcomers typified by Senator Cruz, is not often seen.  Few newcomers to the House or Senate have shown such total disregard for the wisdom that experience brings, as have those Republicans elected in 2012.  The arrogance and disrespect for those with greater seniority displayed by these newcomers is astounding.

There can be no doubt that progress in resolving the many issues confronting our nation is dependent upon an atmosphere of mutual respect.   There must be a willingness to listen, discuss and compromise.  This past year has provided an example of what happens when that willingness is replaced with arrogance and hubris.  Let’s hope that 2014 brings back the respect and civility that enabled our country to become a “beacon of democracy” to the world.

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