The Man or the Office?  Which Do We Respect?

trump

Hardly a day goes by that I don’t wonder whether I should call him Chump, Asshole or Mr. President.  There are many decrying the use of my pejorative adjectives to describe our new president.  They say “Even if you do not respect the man, you must respect the office.”  This rule (I know not where it began) seems to have taken the form of “common knowledge” as though there was some ancient prescription that admonished us to always respect an elected or appointed official.

Ironically, the man in office now gave no respect to his predecessor.  Beginning with the birther conspiracy before Obama even took office and continuing right up until his election, the man now in office took every opportunity to denigrate and insult President Barack Obama.  Nevertheless, I am not using this as an argument to insult our new President.  It fails the test of morality in that we all know “two wrongs do not make a right.”

My dilemma stems from my difficulty with understanding whether we should assign respect to an office regardless of the character of the individual that might be in it.  Perhaps history could shed some light on this issue for us.  What does history tell us about this question?  Is it really a universal law that we must respect the office even if we do not respect the man?  Have people in the past always respected the office even when they disliked the office holder?  Should we respect the office or the office holder?

Let us go back to the time of Israel under the Roman occupation when Herod was king.  What did they say about Herod?

“On an appointed day, Herod put on his royal robes, took his seat upon the throne, and delivered an oration to them.  And the people were shouting, “The voice of a god, and not of a man!”  Immediately an angel of the Lord struck him down, because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and breathed his last. …” — Acts 12:19-24 

king-georgeMarching forward in time to the period of the Revolutionary war when George the III was ruler of the American Colonies, what did they think of King George?  Here is what is written in the Declaration of Independence:

“A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.”

Our second President John Adams was called a “hideous hermaphroditical character which has neither the force and firmness of a man, nor the gentleness and sensibility of a woman.” By James Callender, a supporter of Thomas Jefferson.

The insults were returned by Adams supporters who called Jefferson a “a mean-spirited, low-lived fellow, the son of a half-breed Indian squaw, sired by a Virginia mulatto father.”

President Abraham Lincoln who is today revered by many as either the greatest or second greatest president in American history received even more scorn than Jefferson or Adams from his contemporaries:

funny_lincoln_400

“George Templeton Strong, a prominent New York lawyer and diarist, wrote that Lincoln was “a barbarian, Scythian, yahoo, or gorilla.”  Henry Ward Beecher, the Connecticut-born preacher and abolitionist, often ridiculed Lincoln in his newspaper, The Independent (New York), rebuking him for his lack of refinement and calling him “an unshapely man.”  Other Northern newspapers openly called for his assassination long before John Wilkes Booth pulled the trigger. He was called a coward, “an idiot,” and “the original gorilla” by none other than the commanding general of his armies, George McClellan.” —- Knowledge Nuts

I could cite pages of examples such as the above.  History is full of examples of insults levied against Presidents, Kings and many other office holders.  I listed only a few to show that insults against an office are nothing new.  However, does this make it right or are these insults simply a lack of character?  What are our obligations to an “office?”   This question might be posed in one of two ways:

  1. We should respect an office even if the office holder is not worthy of our respect.

Yes!  We should respect an office because it represents an agreed upon authority.  If offices had no authority, institutions would break down and there would be no rule of order.   Democracy is based on the acceptance of authority emanating from the will of the masses.  No one person is above the masses in a democracy.

No!  An office has no intrinsic entitlement to respect.  The respect for an office comes from the office holder and not the other way around.  To simply respect a title because it is a title is both illogical and dangerous.  One can think of the harm that was caused by the respect that the Fuhrer had in Germany because he was the leader even when many disagreed with his policies and his behavior.

quote-the-president-of-the-united-states-whoever-it-is-deserves-a-certain-level-of-reverence-chris-matthews-117-93-79

  1. We should only respect an office when the office holder is worthy of respect.

Yes!  People can only remain free and independent absent of an authority that comes solely from titles, ranks and names.  If we obey or show respect for an office that is in violation of ethics or morality, we give away our free will.  Massacres, murders and other atrocities often arise from a group mentality or an unwarranted willingness to acquiesce to authority.  An office is not entitled to respect unless the office holder imbues the office with respect.

No!  People must show respect to the institution or office regardless of who the office holder is.  We must recognize that in the case of Trump, millions of Americans chose him over Hillary.  To disrespect Trump is to disrespect the millions of citizens in this country who following the laws of the land duly elected him to the office of POTUS.

do-not-respec

Well, there you have it.  I think I have laid out the “two sides of the coin.”   Now it is time for you to weigh in with your opinions.  Do not sit this one out.  Put your opinions in the comments section and let me hear from you.

Time for Questions:

What do you think? How would you answer these questions?

Life is just beginning.

“In a few days, I will lay down my official responsibilities in this office, to take up once more the only title in our democracy superior to that of President: the title of Citizen.” — Farewell Address, President Jimmy Carter.

For another opinion on this issue, see the article by Jonathan Chait.

Must We Respect the Office of the Presidency?

 

 

 

 

 

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. jeanine
    Feb 10, 2017 @ 23:08:13

    Growing up I was taught that you respect your elders, even if they did not warrant that respect. When I had my own child I vowed that I would let her voice her opinion and taught her that no matter who the person, regardless of age or stature in life, if they did not show her respect she did not have to show them respect back. I respect the office of Presidency, but not the fool occupying it now.

    Reply

  2. johnpersico
    Feb 13, 2017 @ 21:00:19

    Thanks Jeanine, I appreciate your taking the time to read and reply.

    Reply

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