Sunday, September 11, 2016


To be worthy of respect or veneration is not an objective state. It is not part of the physical makeup of a thing or the result of a transformation brought about by specific and controllable circumstances. Whether the United States of America and the flag which stands for the republic are all that they are cracked up to be is more akin to beauty, in that it is in the eye of the beholder. And just as two people can observe the same individual and come away with differing understandings of that individual's physical attractiveness, two people may be versed in the same history of a place and come away with differing understandings of that place's commitment to, and success in implementing, its ideals.

One of the primary components of Respect is Choice; this is what differentiates it from Subservience. Neediness not only encourages us to conflate the two, but to pretend that the latter does not exist; so that no matter what sanctions we threaten or impose for a failure to perform as we demand, we can tell ourselves that we have legitimately earned the esteem we crave.

Of course, this relies on a particular definition of "Respect," and it is not one that is universally shared - there are many people who would tell you that fear can be a component of respect, and I don't believe that I would argue that point with them. Still, as we understand that one may be afraid of someone or something, yet not genuinely respect them or it, the two are not synonymous. Given this, pressuring people into outward displays of obeisance is not the same as either earning, or being gifted with, their respect.

In the end, the difficulty lies in the inability to see into another's mind. We cannot see respect, only outward signs by which we infer its presence. And that has lead us to conflate the two. Which is often convenient in that it allows us to ignore the reasons that people may have for withholding respect, rather than engaging with them.

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