“Knowledge will give you power, but character respect.” – Bruce Lee
“Nothing is more despicable than respect based on fear.” – Albert Camus
When dealing with people I am meeting for the first time or do not know I always operate under a single guiding principle, be respectful. This guides all my interactions with everyone from my wife to the person assisting me at the register. The color of your skin, your profession, your income, your gender or even your political affiliation do not matter, I will always start my interaction as respectful as possible until such time that a person has proven that they are not worthy of respect. Respect for me is a big deal and I believe it is the cornerstone of a functioning society. Without respect there are no civil debates, no compromise and no peace in our streets.
Recently a video has been making the rounds of a young man in New York who berates two New York City Police Officers for no other reason than he felt like being a jackass. For several minutes the two Police Officers patiently endure this young man yelling obscenities and making absurd judgments about them while trying to enjoy what is probably a well-deserved break. At the heart of this video is a complete and disturbing lack of respect for those Police Officers who on a daily basis put their lives on the line to keep us safe. This young man doesn’t know the first thing personally about either of the officers, but this does not stop him from making assumptions about the officers and casting dispersion on their character. I wonder where is the national outrage on this young man’s behavior. Would we tolerate this behavior had this young man behaved this way towards two Rabbis, two elderly people, two lesbians or even two school teachers or is this behavior now tolerated because cops have been so vilified?
This is the society that we have been creating. A society where civility and respect are completely optional. A society where a young man can wear a Che Guervara and openly disrespect law enforcement. (The irony being that socialist societies tend to frown upon freedom of expression and usually crack down on disrespect of authority with violence.) A society where the young man berates law enforcement and then two minutes later when he angers another man runs to those very same officers for protection. If this were an isolated event it would not have bothered me, but disrespect is rampant today. Look at the modern college campus where opposition speakers are met with not only very disruptive protests, but violence and riots. Look at the way people treat each other online in spaces like Twitter or FaceBook. The Left is using disrespect in an attempt to silence opposition through fear. It is a strategy being used because they can no longer debate in the arena of ideas. It is power being wielded by those without character and engenders not true respect, but respect based upon fear of being labeled a racists, sexist or homophobe. They have confused respect for one’s character and respect for the potential damage they might cause and thus have lost the moral high ground.