Thursday, October 21, 2010

Respecting the President of the United States

When I was a child, I was taught that the office of the President of the United States of America was something to be revered. Regardless of who held that office, regardless of your feelings about that person's policies, the office commanded respect unlike any other.

To a point, the President of the United States was considered a hero. Children I went to school with grew up wanting to be the president.

I don't see that anymore. I don't know if it's a result of the 24/7 news cycle, brought on by cable outlets and the Internet, or if it's the mass explosion of vitriolic, right-wing public "discourse." But the office of the President no longer commands such respect -- even, it seems, from those who are supposed to be the president's base.

If one follows the media narrative, a president's supporters should be in lockstep agreement with everything an administration says or does; any deviation from the administration's agenda is seen by many as betrayal and a lack of respect. Members of the opposing party are shown as -- and even expected to be -- rude and disrespectful.

These days, if you disagree with President Obama -- according to the media, at least -- you hate him personally and think him a Marxist, a socialist ... whatever Tea Party-inspired insult you can imagine.

In the days of President Bush, and in one of the rare instances in which the false narrative of "both sides do it" holds some truth, there were comparisons from the fringe on the left to Hitler, Nazis, The Joker ... even a picture depicting President Bush as a vampire feeding on Lady Liberty.

Apparently, one can ignore the prestige of the office of the President if you have a deep-seeded hatred for the person holding that office. I strongly disagree with just about everything President Bush did, and in some cases, I feel a criminal investigation of his administration is justified, but respect for the office he held prevents me from stooping to such seemingly accepted levels.

The office always deserves respect, because the President of the United States represents the entire country, not simply the portion of the electorate which voted for him. That respect does in fact transfer to the person holding the office; even if you vehemently disagree with a White House decision or policy stance, that respect should still hold.

If we as a country cannot respect our democratically-elected leader, then how can we expect the rest of the world to respect us?

Respect means no name-calling, no Nazi comparisons (there goes half of Glenn Beck's show), no vitriolic language. In today's climate, respect doesn't mean liberals have to be in lock-step with President Obama; I'm certainly not. But part of that respect is holding the administration accountable for its promises and making sure President Obama lives up to his word.

Respecting the President does not mean being his cheerleader. No president, regardless of party, needs that; it does nothing to help this country move forward.

Besides, the image of Keith Olbermann in a skirt waving pom-poms is a tad frightening.

As a teenager, I was quite conservative, and as such, I disagreed with President Clinton on virtually every issue. But he was the President of the United States, and I was taught that anyone in that position deserved respect and admiration. If I had a chance to meet anyone who was once president, I would jump at that chance, regardless of my personal political feelings.

Honestly, how often can you say you met a president? There's a reason these men are still called "Mr. President," even after they've left the White House.

Consider it this way; Michael Vick spent almost two years in prison for his role in a dog-fighting ring. Now that he's out of prison and back in the NFL, fans are on his side again, cheering him as he makes plays on the football field and seemingly forgetting what he did.

I'm not saying Vick doesn't deserve a second chance, but what does it say about this country when a convicted dogfighter is cheered, yet President Obama is called a socialist and jeered for trying to make health care more affordable for everyone?

It is possible to disagree with a president without being disagreeable and vitriolic; if the modern right wing realized this and actually employed such respect, we'd all be better off. As for the left, respect includes making sure the administration doesn't go back on its promises; when I write the White House asking it to live up to its word on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," that's not disrespect or betrayal, that's asking President Obama to do what he said he'd do.

Sadly, such respect and substantive discourse wouldn't fit Fox News' narrative, nor would it make today's corporate-owned mainstream media any money.

And really, who needs respect when there's a profit to be made?

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