Hey Everyone!! :-)
As you may have guessed from the title, today I'd like to talk about a topic that seems to be coming up more and more, respect. Or, more specifically, what respect means and whether we owe it or others need to earn it. I'm sure there are plenty of people who will disagree with me about some of what I say in this post, but I'm going to give you my two-cents worth, anyway.
My opinion on this is mixed. You see, I do believe that a certain minimal amount of respect is due to all human beings simply by virtue of the fact that they are fellow human beings. I think it's incumbent upon everyone to show respect for the lives, safety, and physical well-being of everyone else. In other words, no one gets to threaten or jeopardize the lives or safety of others without their consent, no matter who those others may be.
Are there exceptions? Yes, as with most "rules" absolutes don't really work when it comes to respect. For instance, if someone is trying to kill you, you are not required to respect their life so much that you won't defend your own. But, for the most part, that basic respect is owed to everyone.
Also, there is the respect due to the rights that are shared by everyone. If you live in the US, like me, those rights are defined in the Constitution and Bill of Rights, but I'd argue that most, if not all, of those rights really are human rights. Though, there are plenty of humans on this planet whose rights are not respected by those in power. Which is an enormous problem, but not one I'm going to address in this post.
But, in my opinion, that's where respect that is owed ends. From there on, I believe respect needs to be earned. What do I mean by that? Well, for instance, I hear pretty often that "we have to respect other people's opinions." Really? Why? I mean, I agree that we have to respect other people's rights to have opinions that we disagree with insofar as we don't imprison or assault them for holding those opinions. But that doesn't mean we have to respect the opinions themselves, nor does it mean we have to remain silent and refrain from criticizing those opinions.
If someone is a bigot, their bigotry doesn't give anyone the right to physically attack them. And they can't be arrested simply for expressing a bigoted opinion. But others are certainly free to dispute those opinions and to speak out against bigotry. There is no respect due to the idea that some people are somehow inherently superior to other people.
Likewise, when it comes to a position or title a person may hold. Once again, the basic human rights of the person always need to be respected. But they are not due any additional respect just because of a label they claim or job they occupy. Such things aren't suits of armor to be put on to protect someone who has not earned the respect of others from criticism or ridicule.
For instance, I'm repeatedly informed that I "must" respect Donald Trump because he's the President. Oh, I must, must I? And why is that, pray tell? What, precisely, has he done to earn my respect? Because, generally speaking, I'm not inclined to respect narrow-minded, thoughtless, immature, dangerously and willfully ignorant, bigoted man-children, no matter how many exulted positions they are unqualified for that they have managed to con their way into.
Does that mean that I would condone violence against Trump? Of course not, that would violate the basic respect due to him because of our shared, no matter how tenuous the connection is, humanity. But the fact that I'm against murdering people doesn't mean that Trump is somehow exempt from criticism. On the contrary, now that he has managed to fool enough people to get into the White House, he's the employee of the American public. And just like any employee, he's subject to being reviewed by his employer. And that would be me and thee, my friends.
If a person wants respect for their opinions or their position, I believe that they need to say or do something to earn that respect. If they fail to do so, then no respect is owed. In fact, I would argue that offering respect to those who don't deserve it helps to normalize behavior and attitudes that should be considered extreme and repulsive. And that's something I'm not willing to do.
So, is respect earned or given? My opinion is yes to both and no to both, which I know is hard for many to swallow when so many people seem determined to out extreme each other, but there it is. That's my answer, and I'm sticking to it. ;-)