Aretha Franklin made the Otis Redding penned song R-E-S-P-E-C-T famous in the '80s. These days however I often think of the word more in the context of Peter, Paul and Mary's folk classic, wondering where has all the respect gone, long time passing?
The lament comes on the heels of recognizing that respect is one of the most often cited core values for individuals, businesses and organizations. The International Olympic Committee counts respect (together with excellence and friendship) as one of its three defining principles. Companies from Shell to Barnes and Noble to Yahoo tout respect as a core corporate ideal. Respect ranks high in the list of seven core values of the United States Army. Both political platforms refer extensively to respect. Today's youth recognize it's far better to be respected than to be "dissed." What's up then, in politics?
The word that carries such heavy symbolic meaning comes from rather simple origins. The Latin root word respectus means to "regard" or to actually look at and consider something, or someone, including - or maybe especially - their differences. We are often eager to show our respect for each other's religious, cultural or ethnic differences, but oh so reluctant, impatient and downright angry when it comes to differences in political ideology.
There are some Americans who wish there were good candidates to choose from. I have been trying of late to recognize that there are. Clear differences between all of the candidates that ask for our vote exist - at every political level. But each candidate does indeed deserve our respect, that is, our reasoned consideration of these differences. Having different visions, different policies and personalities isn't an invitation to ridicule.
Many say the presidential race is too close to call. This time gives each of us a unique chance to consider our role when we are called upon to unite as a nation. Because no matter who wins, that call will come. Rightly so. We emphatically demand our leaders put aside petty partisanship to cooperate for our country's, our state's and even our county's collective good. Cooperation is borne of respect. It is patently unfair to expect respect and cooperation from our leaders unless we too are willing to hold this core value in high esteem.
I can't hide from the fact I have been disrespectful. It doesn't sit so well. I've found respect and sarcasm are difficult bedfellows. There are times and places where sarcasm is the preferred dialect. And laughing at ourselves often is the best medicine. Ridicule however does little to persuade or unite. Biting sarcasm, even my own, isn't usually so funny. One source I ran across explained sarcasm breeds sarcasm. Our national dialog seems to support this theory. Perhaps then respect can breed respect. There is however only one person I can look to in order to give it a try.
One of the best definitions I ran across for respect is simply the ability to value the person that stands before you. Hopefully, that is exactly what we all are able to do come Nov. 6, no matter who ultimately stands before us.
Cindy Bargell lives outside of Silverthorne with her husband and two daughters. She is a card-carrying PTSA member, real estate and natural resources lawyer and part-time gymnastics coach. She welcomes your comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.