Please take note of something as I write this. I am using the words ‘we’ and ‘ourselves’ including myself in those who ought to be ashamed. As I reflect on what I am writing about, I take responsibility for the times I have ventured into this.
We appear, as a nation, and as a people to have sunk to some new lows in how we interact with each other and we truly ought to be ashamed.
In Red Bank, New Jersey, at a town hall meeting to discuss health care, a woman in a wheelchair, who is disabled, was speaking about her plight. All the while the woman spoke, she was heckled. Congressman Frank Pallone said that the meeting was pretty much like that the entire time. No matter who spoke and no matter what they said, they were heckled. The hecklers were pro and con. Offensive behavior knew no boundaries. The one thing, however, that stuck out was one of the men who heckled this woman mercilessly fumed afterwards wondering why some woman in a wheelchair had more rights than he. My thought was simple. She didn’t have more rights than he. She had a right to speak and not be heckled, as did he. Simple. The really sad thing in this scenario, however, was that we as a people used to care, in special ways, for people who are disabled, in wheelchairs, or ill. Now we heckle.
Senator John McCain was at a town hall meeting about three weeks ago. Whether one likes or agrees with John McCain is not the point here. He is entitled to respect. He is a United States Senator and has been one a long time. He was the Presidential candidate of a major party. He served in Vietnam and paid the price of being in a prison camp for many years. John McCain has spent a lifetime serving his country. Whether you agree with him or not, he is entitled to respect. He was heckled by a person making accusations of him being on the ‘take’ from health insurance companies. He was not asked politely. He was heckled. It was disgraceful.
President Obama is addressing school children on Tuesday. Advanced reports are that he is going to use this time to tell them to stay in school, study hard, and work to achieve their goals. These are all, I hope, good things to most parents, teachers, and kids. If he uses the time to promote his political agenda with the children by telling them to talk to their parents about health care of whatever, shame on him. If he is simply saying that the kids should work hard, shame on people who are attacking him. Whether people agree with the President or not, we owe the Office of the President respect. I did not like President Bush a great deal, but I stood on a New Albany street to see if I could get a glimpse of him. Whether I liked him or agreed with him in any way, he was my President. When we treat the President of the United States with disrespect by refusing to listen to him or allow our children to listen to him, regardless of who the President is, we ought to be ashamed of ourselves. Sadly, we teach our children a dreadful lesson by our shameful behavior. Ideology trumps respect.
Several point on this.
We owe others respect for a variety of reasons.
Recently Representative Baron Hill met with people at local retirement housing facility. He had something of a town hall meeting with the folks, all elderly. I was speaking with one of the residents, an amazingly wonderful and gracious lady, I might add, and I asked her how it went and if people heckled Rep. Hill. She smiled and said, “No, we were raised to be respectful.”
We were raised to be respectful. These are words to live by. Let others speak. St. Paul wrote these words in Romans 12:
9Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; 10love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. 11Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord.
£ 12Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. 13Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.
14Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly;£ do not claim to be wiser than you are. 17Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. 18If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God;£ for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20No, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.” 21Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
I love those words, ‘live in harmony with one another.’ They are words that I seek, personally, to take to heart every day.
Secondly, one of the great Biblical virtues is humility. I do try to live by an adage that I might not be right about something. I might not be right. It allows me the opportunity to listen to others who just may be right. It does not mean we don’t have opinions, even strong opinions, but if we always have open hearts and minds to the wisdom of others, we might learn that we are not right about everything, all the time.
For me, a lover of sarcasm and wit, often at the expense of people I don’t like or approve of, this has been a wake up call as well. I am not a cruel person and I enjoy a good laugh and I enjoy making others laugh. For me, this is a soul-searching journey to assure that I, personally, always choose the words of Paul first, to love others with mutual affection and seek to show honor first, and to live in harmony with others.