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Must We Respect the President?

It’s time to ditch them all, the blind followers and especially the blind leaders. How bad does it have to get before we all recognize our “leader” is blind, deaf, stupid, and we wish he were dumb.

I don’t make a habit of making such blanket statements because I truly appreciate a diversity of opinions and welcome a healthy dialogue, but the list of his bullying, disrespectful actions is only surpassed by the list of his daily lies. His political and business corruption is so breathtakingly brazen that we’ve not only stopped being shocked by him, we’ve also begun to accept and even expect the same from all the rest of them. So how can we have a healthy dialogue? It’s like arguing for the use of antibiotics or immunotherapy with someone who fervently defends a doctor who uses leeches to cure everything from infections to cancer. We can’t have a dialogue because some ideas are just plain wrong. It’s not a matter of opinion, it’s a fact, and just because you strongly believe a lie does not make that lie more true.

Donald Trump is a bully and a pathological liar. That’s the plain truth, and I don’t think many honestly disagree with that. But when I say something like that, people in red hats waving flags say, “If you can’t respect the man, then you should respect the office.” But that’s the problem, isn’t it? I do respect the office, and that’s why I am so offended by this ridiculous person sitting in that office. Would the world accept a foul-mouthed, homophobic, misogynistic, bigoted, pussy-grabbing, self-absorbed, corrupt Pope? I would hope not. I’m often troubled by the Catholic Church, but I feel a respect for the Pope. And that’s how I would like to feel about the President of the United States.

From an early age, children of my generation were taught to respect authority. It began with our parents and teachers who said, “Don’t talk back to me” and “Do what I say” and “Because I said so.” Those words, for better or worse, instilled in us a respect for authority without question. As we grew older, we were all too eager to go along with someone who wears the “cloak of authority.” Sometimes they literally wear it — the judge’s robe, the doctor’s white coat — and sometimes it’s the respect due because of their role, such as a professor, or a senator. When they measure up to the high bar set by their profession, they absolutely deserve that respect. When they don’t, then they are just some schmuck in a cloak. Respect should be earned, and respect can also be lost.

Sometimes it’s our own fault for passively respecting authority even though the fallible human wearing that cloak slides down the slippery slope to disreputable behaviors. Politicians aren’t held accountable, judges have immunity, professors have tenure, and doctors are presumed to be omniscient. In my life, I would have lost my firstborn child if I had blindly trusted my doctor. He was a competent doctor with the best of intentions, but he didn’t know everything, and he wasn’t infallible. He did, however, speak with authority, and he took offense when I questioned his actions.

I was thirty-six, bedridden and pregnant with my first child. I recognized early on that none of my doctors knew more about my body than I knew. Of course, they had more medical knowledge, but I was more in tune with my own body than anyone else. As the boss of my body, I would be doing a disservice to myself and my unborn child if I did not communicate my own insights to my doctor. In the end, because I respected his position while disagreeing with his choices, we were able to find a path that we both accepted. He would be the first to admit that my newborn daughter would have died if we had done it his way, and that my personal insights, when added to his medical knowledge, saved her life.

The lesson here is to respectfully question authority, and then, if that authority respectfully responds, you can work together. You may not get what you want at first, but then you might have to work harder to get it, whether it’s for your child or your country. No one said it would be easy.

However, if that authority is disrespectful of you, of your concerns, of the basic ethical and professional standards of his office, then you no longer owe that individual respect, regardless of the office, even if it’s the President. Each of us needs to challenge his actions and his fitness for office. We need to stop bickering over the efficacy of his blatantly immoral and self-serving choices. We need to shout that the Emperor has no clothes!

And then, while he sputters and spews, we need to respect the office and the standards and procedures associated with it. We need to follow the book, dot the i’s and cross the t’s so that, in the end, it is clear that the office is bigger than the man and is still worthy of respect. It shouldn’t be that tough because, let’s face it, he’s blind and has no clothes, not even the cloak of authority.

Writer and copyeditor. “What doesn’t kill us gives us something new to write about” ~ J. Wright

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