[OPINION] Campaign 2016 Has Helped Define What Respect Means to Me

When anyone demands respect as some sort of prerequisite for civility or tolerance, that’s a red flag.


I had a lunch with a friend today, and inevitably the conversation turned to tomorrow’s election.

My friend is gay and happily married since 2014. His husband is a career Navy man. My friend is former Army, and they both enjoy the many Federal protections that come with their service. They are hoping to start a family with the adoption of a baby in the near future.

He is under no illusions about what a Trump presidency could mean to his marriage, his military benefits and his entire life. Like all LGBTQ citizens, he’s frightened for his future. So much so, that he has completely cutoff communications with his parents and other friends who are voting for Trump.

There’s been a lot of that going around lately. I call it The Great Unfriending of 2016. Myself, I have finally come around to my lunch companion’s view that disavowing friends and family who support Trump is a not an arbitrary or defensive reaction. It is a political statement and a personal necessity. A vote for that man is a vote against my rights, my community, and me.

It took me a while to come around to that conclusion. I’m a nice guy with an open mind. I’ve always been willing to entertain opposing opinions when they are offered with thought and without malice.

I have attempted to hold many calm, logical, fact-based conversations with Trump supporters this year. Inevitably, they end up in an argument for Trump’s hate-driven, misogynistic lie-based platform until finally I hear the last-resort manipulative mantra of the ignorant: “You need to respect my opinion.”

When anyone demands respect as some sort of prerequisite for civility or tolerance, that’s a red flag. It’s often an indicator that the user is insecure in their position. But to me, as a lover of language, it’s also an abuse of concept.

It may be that this is just a question of semantics, that folks are using the wrong word to mean the right thing. By definition, respect is a feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements.

By casting your vote for Trump, you are enabling a man who is a danger to me. How can I admire anyone that stands for that? How can I not view your support of that as anything other than an assault on my way of life? So, no, I have no respect for that.

I’m not saying it’s not important to treat others well. Maybe there’s a different word that’s more appropriate, one that communicates more accurately what we are after.

I propose we bring back courtesy. Courtesy refers to treating other civilly and in a manner one would like to receive in return, the demonstration of politeness in one’s attitude and behavior toward others.

That’s what we’ve lost this election season, the ability to treat each other politely. That I can get behind. I can be polite until the cows come home (or in this case, the Donkeys). As Blanche Devereaux would say, to do otherwise would be un-Southern.

The granting of respect is my choice and not owed to anyone. If you’re casting your vote for Donald Trump tomorrow, you don’t get that.