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Friday, August 24, 2007

Sifting history - part 2

This one was me getting peeved at what i consider to be stupid sayings that have little or no true meaning besides establishing some sort of moral superiority:

Respecting the Office - first posted to Cabal on 10/6/2004

In recent years I have heard people utter words akin to the following:

"I disagree with 'X' but we must respect the office!"

often followed by much nodding of heads and hearty agreement. The office in question has often been, but not exclusively so, that of the American President.

Well I don't understand it. To me respect is something that must be earned, not some quality to be thrust upon some idealized concept of a person or institution. It is an important thing. How exactly does one 'respect the office' if you have little or no respect for the incumbent? I suppose that you can pay lip service, ensure that you always use the title "Mr. President", "Prime Minister", etc. Not expressing your views in the overly direct way that you might like to is perhaps another way of 'respecting the office', but is this true respect? Surely this is courtesy and I would agree that in our dealings with our leaders courtesy should be shown, just as it would be wonderful if everyone showed courtesy in their dealings with the rest of the world.

When a new "insert title here" is elected they then embody the office. It is their responsibility to live up to our expectations as laid out in their election pledges, promises and manifestos that encouraged us to vote for them in the first place. It is up to them to earn our respect by carrying through or at least by offering sound reasoning for taking steps that we may disagree with; respect can be offered even if you disagree with the stance adopted by the other person.

It is not our responsibility to offer respect to someone just because they have reached a much vaunted position, especially when that position is one of service to the people. Particularly in this day and age when so much in election politics depends on how much money one can raise. Respect is our gift to be offered at our discretion, not something that can be demanded just because of where a person works, no matter how influential a position. If you believe it should then perhaps you might feel more comfortable living in an earlier age where you can at least have a ruling monarch to respect. Respect should not be an automatic requirement, especially in a free democracy where we can question our leaders and system, supposedly without fear of reproach.

So if you feel aggrieved by the incumbent, the next time someone says that you should respect the office I encourage you to say:
"No. I think that the office is an important institution and I am proud that it exists. However I will only respect the incumbent if and when s/he does something worthy of that respect, and stops making, what I view as, a complete tits-up of the job!"

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