Respect. n. Esteem for or a sense of the worth or excellence of a person, a personal quality or ability, or something considered as a manifestation of a personal quality or ability.
One of the greatest idiocies modern psychology has foisted upon western civilization is the idea that respect must be earned. This idea, carried to its logical conclusion, gives license to any sort of disrespect at all, and has created the culture in which we now live, where individual rights are paramount even to common sense. Think about it. Whose kids are passing through our court system right now? “Never Trust anyone over thirty!” Well those people are now over thirty, and their kids don’t respect them. Why? Because they saw that their parents had no respect for grandma and grandpa. Respect can indeed be lost, but a measure of respect is, contrary to what a friend of mine posted in a forum today, innate. It is the respect of position and/or of personhood.
First, let’s look at personhood. Life has value. All life. Not equal value (sorry PETA, a child is more valuable than a large mouth bass), but value nonetheless. Human life has particular value. This was recognized by our founding fathers by the phrase “they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights.” Once respect for life is lost, there are no more boundaries to cross. To live in a civilized society is to necessarily and voluntarily limit my own personal freedoms in order to preserve the dignity of yours. My rights end where yours begin. Civilization further assumes a certain measure of courtesy to be afforded to one’s fellow earth-dwellers, that’s why it’s called “civility.”
Second, there is the respect of position. Parent. Teacher. Police. Judge. All positions that can be, and in many cases are, occupied by some pretty sorry individuals. But a certain respect inures to the position's holder, that is due simply because of the position held. My favorite example is William Jefferson Clinton. It’s no secret, Mr. Clinton and I disagree on just about every position on which two people can disagree. I have little respect for the man. However, I have a great deal of respect for the office of the Presidency of the United States, an office to which he was duly elected and held for 8 years. Therefore, in the unlikely event that we should meet, I would smile and shake his hand, affording him the respect due to the office which he held. Given the opportunity, I might respectfully ask certain questions or state certain contrarian viewpoints, but I would do so with humility and grace, seasoned with a little backbone.
As we’ve seen here in this blog before, one can disagree without being disagreeable. If one truly wishes to bury the past, it takes a lot of work to shovel the dirt. Insults, indifference, distance, anger, bitterness and resentment make poor topsoil. They may truly place the past out of sight, but nothing new will grow there. The site will remain barren and scarred, forever a reminder that what is out of sight, is not necessarily out of mind.