I’ve needed to rant for a while, but this isn’t a Pit-worthy rant:
It’s often stated that “Respect is earned, not given.” But I think that attitude is precisely part of the reason why civil discourse has become so ugly today. I would argue that, in a certain sense, a certain kind of respect is given, not earned.
I think there are two forms of respect: **Voluntary **and involuntary. The voluntary kind of respect - “admiration” - is the respect for someone, or something, who is praiseworthy, good or noble. This sort of respect can never be produced on demand; *only *earned, because it is nearly impossible to admire someone or something that despicable.
The second form of respect is **involuntary **respect. This respect has to do with position and status, not person. It is the respect for the President of the United States, the Queen of England, or a four-star general in the Army - regardless of what you may think of the person himself or herself.
During Bush’s presidency, I was bothered by liberals who refused to respect President Bush (the president) despite their dislike of Bush as a person, and during Obama’s presidency I am bothered by conservatives who will not show respect for President Obama (the president) despite their dislike of Obama as a person. (I think Romney’s “You’ll get your turn in a moment” quip to President Obama during the 2012 debates was inappropriate, for instance.) I think that one should respect the person who holds the presidency, due to the office that it represents, as a separate respect, even if one dislikes the person himself or herself.
Closely coupled with this is the growing inability of society to have respectful disagreement. The focus on *who *is right rather than *what *is right is part of the reason why society is so polarized and politics so venomous.
I think that society can get back in the direction of the right track by focusing on respecting a leader’s office or position* irrespective of liking or disliking that person as a person* (one can dislike Bush or Obama as much as they want while still showing respect to the presidential position/status.) Respectful disagreement opens doors despite being a voice of opposition, while disrespectful disagreement slams it shut.