Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Sock It to Me?

Funny thing: I don't remember Democrats showing George W. Bush some f*cking respect when he was President, and yet he was their President too.  There was the Chimp meme; there was the fake Nostradamus verse about the village idiot ascending to the seat of power; there was the fussing over his inability to say "nuclear"; and so much more. 

This isn't to deny that the output of the Republican hate machine exceeds the output of the Democratic hate machine in virulence, or that the Republican vitriol doesn't get an extra punch from racism.  It's just to say that if the President should be treated with respect (not to say reverence) simply because he's the President, then Obama fans are in no position to cast the first stone.

I don't think the Office of the Presidency should be reverenced, however, as I've said before.  The President isn't King -- though many Americans clearly miss having royalty -- and disrespect for the office isn't lèse majesté.

This bit from the Canadian political philosopher Michael Neumann is more relevant:
Respect is not a duty; it is not even desirable in many cases. Where ‘respect’ means not beating people or putting them in jail or driving them from their homes, it is a fine idea. But you shouldn’t do those things even to people you hold in contempt. To call this sort of restraint ‘respect’ is to disguise clear moral values in gummy slush.
So you could argue that the kind of abuse that Americans level at their presidents shouldn't be directed at anybody, but that goes against every tradition of political discourse and human interaction.  And few people really care about it except when a president they like is on the receiving end.  The attitude expressed in the image above would be more impressive if it came from a Republican, or if a Democrat spoke up during a Republican administration.