RESPECT: The Seven-Letter Word is the Problem

The Golden Rule is a simple thing, really. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. In a more modern vernacular: treat others as you want to be treated. Simple. Only, as we have clearly seen in 2017, that isn’t happening. Protests, political sniping, mean tweets, cyberbullying, racism, sexual harassment… the negativity that surrounds us is palpable. It also is rooted in one fundamental problem: we no longer respect each other.

Maybe we never have had that respect. It could be that the expansion of American into an economic and cultural juggernaut glossed over our inherent disdain towards those not like us. Perhaps we choose not to remember, instead opting for a shade of history more to our liking.

Regardless, of whether this lack of respect increasing apparent in 2017 is a new phenomenon or retelling of the same story in a different way, it’s an infliction we are acutely feeling the effects of.

There is hope for our political process. Michael Bennit is the people’s champion. He is The iCandidate.

Political polarization

There is no more perfect example of lack of respect than in the political arena. Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle struggle to maintain cordiality, let alone the bipartisan friendships that one would expect to form. Working towards the common good has morphed into an “us versus them” mentality. Consensus is never the goal. Compromise has become as dirty a word as scandal once was. Now the former is rare and the latter reported as if it were business as usual.

Not limited to our elected leaders and their staffs. The American people have not been more divided since the Civil War. Some of that is the natural wedge contentious issues of the day have driven between us, some is due to the media, special interests, and political parties using the divide to advance their own agendas. Division means ratings, clicks and likes. It stokes fears for which any number of groups claim to be able to assuage if you give them money or votes or support.

The division has led to an intolerance of people who don’t think like we do. Millennials are snowflakes. Liberals and progressives are socialists or communists. Conservatives are racists. Gun owners are killers. Odds are that you believe one or more of those. Ask yourself why.

We no longer respect opposing viewpoints. Civil discourse has been traded for civil disobedience. The free exchange of ideas in colleges has led to demonizing speakers and designation of “free speech zones” to prevent triggering. We already need permits to protest. How long before we need one to dissent?

Competing ideas are now characterized as dangerous, and too many people preach to their audiences that those who hold them should be silenced or even purged from society. Each side views the other as evil, as if they have the monopoly on all that is good. It’s a malignant thought process that has spread through America like a cancer.

Certainly, some ideas should be rejected – there is no place for racism or sexism in our society, and its continued existence is a challenge to us all. But isn’t painting whole groups with such broad strokes the type of stereotyping we all abhor? Or are we only pretending to abhor it?


Respect Perishes in the Chasm of the Great Divide

Ferguson. Baltimore. Charlottesville. Las Vegas. Charleston. Dallas.

These events have morphed from atrocities to divisive flashpoints. Whether it is a police shooting, violence against police, race relations, or gun control, they are examples of tragic incidents used as leverage. Instead of stoking a national debate, it has stoked outrage. Instead of initiating a search for a solution, it begins a shouting match where both sides name call, point fingers, levy blame, and ultimately end up in a stalemate with the same problems.

Black Lives Matter. Blue Lives Matter. #RESIST. MAGA. Kneeling players. Antifa. White supremacists.

Some of these movements were born from evil and prejudice. Some out of frustration with the status quo. Some are political movements and others a response to them. All of them were born from the lack of respect around us. All of them advocate a lack of respect and intolerance in different ways. Maybe that is the intention. Maybe it’s the unfortunate consequence of advancing an agenda. In all cases, they have served to further divide us from who we are: Americans.

America has historically struggled with race relations. It has grappled with gender relations. It has had to contend with mass immigration. It betrayed Native Americans. Some of these periods are among the darkest of our times. The ones we need to learn from. That can’t be done by removing statues or banning flags. By tuning out those different than us and ignoring their pleas for equality…for justice…for respect.

One of the hallmarks of America is our ability to confront our problems. It is often painful. It’s often slow. Change usually is, but it does happen.


The Echo Chamber of Social Media

This division plays out on computer monitors and mobile devices across the country. Its trolls feed the never-ending hunger for content – much of it designed to elicit an emotional response. To play on your fears. To validate your opinions. To belittle and demean those you disagree with. To give you something to share or retweet to express your own outrage. And you fall for it. We all do.

Nothing is gained by the widespread circulation of hateful rhetoric. Both sides. Both parties. Both genders. All races. All religions. Yet almost everyone engages in it. Politicians. Celebrities. Journalists. Students. People.

There is nothing wrong with passionate disagreement: America was built on it. There is nothing wrong with advocating for your political stance. There is nothing wrong with trying to save lives…for minorities and for those who serve to protect us. Maybe we would be further down the road if we were more mindful about how we do those things.

Call me an idealist. Chastise me for wanting to see the best in my fellow Americans. Label me a dreamer for thinking we can get to a place where we can jump over the rift that divides us instead of looking at each other through binoculars across it.

People long to be treated fairly and with respect. Maybe the answers to all these problems that tear our society apart like with that simple premise. Maybe it’s something we can all have a hand in fixing. It’s a simple thing to do and the world would be a better place for it.

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Copyright 2017 Politics as Unusual

About Mikael Carlson

Mikael Carlson is the award-winning political fiction author of The iCandidate and the Michael Bennit Series of political dramas. He has also written the thriller The Eyes of Others. His current series, The Black Swan Saga, are epic dystopian political thrillers that showcase a world of corporate governance dominated by elitists. The first two novels, America, Inc. and America, Inc.: Bounded Rationality are available now. He lives in Danbury, CT.

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  1. This article is insightful. Lack of respect is not just an American issue, it is a humanity issue. We should start today with a respective gesture and see the difference it makes in someone’s life.