Say what you will about the potential for war in Iraq – I believe that it is possible for people on either sides of the issue to discuss it reasonably and respectfully. However, when President Bush said today that he “respectfully disagrees” with the worldwide anti-war protests this weekend, I’m given reasons to doubt his words… at least the first one. Perhaps it’s because he doesn’t show the least interest in actually understanding those who oppose him. And therein lies the crux of the problem.
See, to me, to respect someone’s views means that you’ve taken time and effort to understand them. It means that, even though you disagree, you can grasp the other person’s views and are able to respond reasonably to them.
Based on his statements today, Bush has failed to do this. For example, from the article:
I won’t say that nobody in the anti-war movement feels this way (there are always extremists), but I think I can safely say that very few who are protesting for peace believe that Saddam is not a risk to many things, including peace. In making this statement, Bush is doing one of two things. He is either basically ignorant of the views of the peace movement regarding Saddam Hussein, or he is deliberately misrepresenting them. Either way, he is plainly not respectful of those views.
And again here:
“Doing nothing”? I’ll go out on a limb here… I don’t think anyone is advocating that the United States “do nothing.” Here Bush has gone even farther than before, by making the options black and white. The peace movement is for continued (and increased) inspections in Iraq, further diplomatic actions, and other forms of regime change. It does not support a shooting war of agression with Iraq, but neither could it be said, in any stretch of the imagination, that it supports “doing nothing.” Bush again shows a blatant disrespect for those who protest the war effort, by displaying either complete ignorance on the matter or malign mischaracterization.
And this is respectful? The protests are “irrelevant”? He equates the protestors around the world with a “focus group,” and this is how he shows respect? This strikes me as not only disrespectful, but a very poor representation of American government. In the America I live in, the views of the people can be many things, but they are never “irrelevant.”
Here’s the thing: I myself feel that the U.S. has not yet fully justified its case for war in Iraq. That’s my opinion on the matter. I’ve met people who disagree with me, and many of them can do so respectfully. They take time to hear me out and understand me. I also make an effort to hear them out and understand what they have to say. I do not call their views “irrelevant.” That’s some of how I show respect to the other person, and I expect the same in return.
If President Bush had simply said he disagreed with the protestors, I wouldn’t see a problem with that. Of course he does. However, to say that he “respectfully” disagrees is disingenuous on the face of it, and he proves himself false with his own words. One cannot have respect for people one believes to be “irrelevant,” and one cannot respect views one doesn’t even understand.
Protests are one way for Americans, and others around the world, to make their feelings and opinions known. Bush’s response, talking about respect while displaying disrespect out the other side of his mouth, shows me that he’s not only disingenuous, but a poor leader of a free people. When he talks about respect in this loose fashion, I lose respect for him.