Yesterday, I received a comment on a post I had written waayyyy back in June 2015 (not this post). It was so long ago that I had no idea what the post had been about and had to re-read the post to refresh my memory. It was ironic how everything I wrote in that post had changed in the last 3+ years. It made me start thinking, though, about what else I might have written ‘way back when’. And as I took a brief stroll through past posts, I was reminded of the quote by 19th century journalist/novelist Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr, “plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose” — the more things change, the more they stay the same. The following is a post I wrote on 03 November 2016, 5 days before the 2016 presidential election. Today, just over two weeks before the mid-term elections, this post is still as relevant as it was then.
“This world of ours… must avoid becoming a community of dreadful fear and hate, and be, instead, a proud confederation of mutual trust and respect.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower
“I’m not everybody’s cup of tea. But sometimes criticism can be hurtful. Be respectful. I’m a good piano player, I can sing well, I write good songs. If you don’t like it, fair enough. But give me a break.” – Elton John
I was plugging away, working on the post for runner up Idiot of the Year Ted Nugent, when something went SNAP in my mind and I knew I had to write this post for this afternoon. No worries, you will read all about Mr. Nugent tomorrow, but for today I need to talk about respect and kindness, or lack of, as it were.
It is only Thursday, and already this week I have, either directly or indirectly, been called ignorant, thin-skinned, dumb, uneducated, a freak, a f—ing liar, and more. Now, admittedly I take a strong stand on certain issues, and pull few punches in my writing, so I expect a certain amount of rancor. I have a pretty tough shell, but there is a straw that breaks even the sturdiest camel’s back, and I am increasingly disturbed by the extent to which some are allowing the rhetoric of this election drive their own behaviour.
At the end of the day on November 8th, long after the votes have been tallied and a winner declared, there will still be life on earth. Our day-to-day routines will not change, we will still have our families to take care of, jobs to attend to, meals to cook and homes to clean. We will still need our friends and neighbors. But at the rate we are going, will we have friends left? Make no mistake, this election is very important and it is understandable that people are vociferously defending the candidate of their choice. But I think this can be done without name-calling, without slurs directed toward individuals. If not then we are less humane than even I thought, and I tend to be cynical about human nature to begin with.
I know I am not alone in saying that I have lost friends over this election, friends whom I have known for years. I can say ‘good riddance’, but my heart remains sad. Are we truly such shallow beings that we are willing to directly insult others just to make our point? Can we not find ways to explain why we support our candidate without calling the other person ‘stupid’? Are we truly not the same people we were two years ago, or were these traits always there, merely lying dormant waiting for the right catalyst? If we cannot converse, cannot share ideas without being verbally assaulted, insulted, and screamed at, what does that say about us as human beings?
The ability to have a respectful, engaged, and informed conversation about politics is essential for a society that prizes the ideals of liberty and freedom. It was what the framers of the Constitution intended when they wrote the document to be short and understandable by farmers and tradesmen throughout the thirteen states. But the conversations I see today, the screeching, name-calling, ugly talk is more reminiscent of 1930s Nazi Germany where neighbor turned on neighbor, friend on friend.
The candidates in this election, one in particular, appear to have ‘inspired’ Americans to act in this manner, to call people names, to insult others and hurt their feelings. One of my great fears is that long after these candidates have left public office, long after you and I have left this earth, this attitude of cruelty and disrespect will remain, will, in fact, have become the norm.
I cherish my friends and family, and do not take them lightly. That said, I have a greater need for self-respect than I do the respect of others. You do not have to agree with me for me to like you. You do not have to vote as I do, like the same foods as I do, or even put your socks on the same way I do. But the one thing you must do is treat me with respect, for when you call me ignorant, my self-respect will no longer allow me to be your friend. It’s as simple as that. And you know the funny thing about self-respect? We each have to live with ourselves 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We have to listen to ourselves, our consciences, at 2:00 a.m. when we cannot sleep, and we need to be able to like and trust ourselves all day, every day. Others, we only have to deal with for short periods of time. So in the long run, our self-respect is more important than whether others respect us or not. Think about it.