Tag Archives: policy goals

Respect and Civility

I know it will come as a real shock to those who read this blog, but I have opinions. A point of view. And admittedly, a regrettable tendency toward snark. (A Republican colleague at the University regularly greets me with “Hi, Snarky!)

I know those things about myself. At my age, I should.

Nevertheless, I was taken aback by a recent email from a reader agreeing with a column I’d written for the Indianapolis Business Journal. He informed me that such agreement with me was rare, and chided me for what he perceived to be a lack of respect for those holding contrary positions.

I thought about that accusation, and I decided that he is half right. Although I hope that I “walk the talk” with respect to my frequent calls for greater civility, civility is not respect. It is possible to be perfectly polite–perfectly civil– to someone for whom you have no regard.

So, what about the “respect” allegation?

I do have respect–great respect–for people who clearly share a commitment to important social goals (equal treatment under law, amelioration of injustice, official accountability and the like) but who disagree, sometimes strongly, about way we define those goals, or the policies most likely to achieve them. They are well-intentioned people with a perspective that is contrary to mine–a perspective I try  (not always successfully) to understand.

But it is true that I do not have respect for people who are self-serving and intellectually dishonest, the self-aggrandizing and/or antagonistic types we all come across–the “look at me!” know-it-alls who clearly aren’t interested in leaving the world a bit better than they found it, or making things any easier for those having a hard time. They are the trolls, the race-baiters, the angry name-callers, the people who don’t engage with the specifics of any discussion but seem only to be looking for a fight. My lack of respect for them undoubtedly comes through, because I tend to simply ignore such people. There is no point in feeding animus.

In my own defense, I think respect has to be earned.

Everyone is entitled to be treated civilly. Not everyone is entitled to be respected.