Special to the Tribune-Star
I didn’t have to look up the word “respect” in the dictionary. It was something we learned in a small town in Indiana. We learned to respect people by what they did and what they stood for.
We respected our teachers because they were our teachers. We respected our pastors and our priests because they were what we saw and what they did. We respected the police, even the patrol boys on the corner. (Most of the programs supporting patrol boys were sponsored by this newspaper.) And we grew to respect elected officials because the adults around us had elected these people to their offices. And we respected our presidents, even though they may have been from a party our parents did not belong to. I respected George W. Bush because he was the elected president of the United States. (Even though I thought George W. was the dumbest president since Millard Fillmore, and I’m sure that isn’t being fair to Mr. Fillmore.)
I’ve watched during the past few years the respect awarded to the president of the United States, duly elected by a large majority of Americans, and the disrespect is quite evident, and quite stupid.
During an address by the president to Congress, a representative from South Carolina (a state that has been in constant revolt since the American Revolution) yelled at the president, calling him a liar. During the presidency of Andrew Jackson, a senator from South Carolina, one Mr. Calhoun, had threatened to secede from the Union if a bill he objected to was passed by the Congress. His threat was rescinded when President Jackson threatened to send in the Army and hang the traitors from the nearest palmetto tree. That threat of secession and disrespect for the Union would come years later when the South Carolinians fired the first shot in what was to become the Civil War at a cost of 600,000 Americans dead.
The recent sign of disrespect came at a press conference when a right-wing blog writer interrupted Mr. Obama. The president was very calm and said, “I’m sorry, but we’ll continue later,” and resumed the press conference. This blog writer, like Rush Limbaugh and other malcontents, would say later he was sorry. He thought the president had finished. The man is a flat-out liar.
This is a direct sign of the current disrespect for the sitting president.
My favorite president of the 20th Century was Harry S. Truman. He inherited the presidency and had to finish the most terrible war the world has ever seen by making the decision to end the war by dropping two atomic bombs on Japan, whose government was ruled at the time by a rigid, military dictatorship.
Harry Truman had a tough job. And he directed the war and his civilian efforts for what he considered to be what was best for this country. Some wag had made some derogatory comment toward Mr. Truman, and Harry said, “I don’t give a damn what you think about me, but you better respect this office, the office of the president of the United States.”
I never would disrespect the office of the president, regardless of what I thought about the man in the office. Perhaps some Americans should buy a dictionary and see what the word “respect” means.
Ronn Mott, a longtime radio personality in Terre Haute, writes commentaries for the Tribune-Star. His pieces are published online Tuesday and Thursday on Tribstar.com, and in the print and online editions on Saturday.