The Emperor’s Chair: “Respect”

By Graham Glover

Yes-ma-am-No-Sir

One of the many things I appreciate about the Army is the importance of “respect” in its ranks. From the day a civilian arrives to Basic Training, respect for one another, our nation, and those placed in positions of authority is ingrained as a core Army value. This is most evident in the formal manner in which Soldiers address one another, “Yes Sir”, “Yes Ma’am”, “Yes Drill Sergeant”, etc. Even when speaking to those of inferior rank, a title is still used and respect is always shown. Disagreement does occur, but seldom in a disrespectful or bombastic manner.

Granted, the Army isn’t perfect. Disrespect does occur from time to time. But I am certain that those who serve in our nation’s Armed Forces understand and exemplify respect more than civilians. I mention this not do discredit the 95% of Americans who are not currently serving, but as a means to highlight one of the greatest concerns I have about our civil discourse today – the rapidly disappearing value of respect.

Barack ObamaTake for example how many of our citizens address/speak of our President. When I joined the Army in 2008, I was taken aback and saddened to hear refrains such as: “How can you go to work for an Army led by an ignorant warmongering man who has taken our nation to war for no reason other than to fill his pockets will oil money?” Or what about today, when I am confronted by comments like: “Our President is a Communist who hates Christians.” Last January, after President Obama’s Second Inaugural, I posted a small excerpt from his speech that I appreciated on my Facebook page and in my daily ‘Chaplain Minute’ email. You would have thought I had sold my soul to the devil based on some of the comments I received. Regardless of our party affiliation, it’s pathetic that so many people echo similar refrains on a regular basis about their duly elected president.

This past week I read and heard commentary about the late Nelson Mandela that was nothing short of shocking. Granted, Mandela had his faults (by the way, we all do…), but is this not the man who led his nation out from the evil that was apartheid? If I didn’t know any better, I might have thought Mandela was a tyrant on par with Stalin and Hitler, instead of a champion of freedom for millions.

obamacare-fraud

Or what of the debate our nation continues to have about health care? I’m still not sure where I come down on this issue. I firmly believe our government has a responsibility to provide healthcare to all of its citizens, but I’m not convinced the federal government is the best means to run this massive program. Nonetheless, I don’t think those who believe the private industry remains the best answer to our nation’s health care ills want sick people to die or that those who support national health care are statist control freaks. Our civic discourse on this issue however could lead one to believe both of these things.

I realize policy debates can get passionate. After my post about abandoning the culture war, I was confronted once again with such passion. And I like passion. I like debate. In fact, I like passionate debate. Nothing excites me more than a heated political discussion, especially with those whom I disagree. But can we Americans show some more respect in our dialogue with one another? Is there no room for disagreement in our society any longer? Can we find room to compromise – not on our convictions – but on our public policy?

American political parties stand-off

Perhaps I’m being too nostalgic for a time that never existed, but I cannot believe that today’s civil discourse is healthy for our republic. Respect is a virtue the Army teaches well. It’s one I pray our nation learns to embrace again soon.

10 thoughts on “The Emperor’s Chair: “Respect”

  1. I tend to think that many take a defense of disrespect in order to gain the upper hand of the argument. The strongest wins out… right? People in general are not all that interested with truth, but control over what it said to be true is what matters. I think also a lack of critical thinking skills is also a huge part of the problem. It’s easier to name call or cry out “I’m offened” than come up with a well thought out debate. Thrasymachus auguring against Socrates in Plato’s Republic is a good example of how many argue today.
    As for health care I think we need to ask the question of what health care is and what it isn’t before any solutions can take place.

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    1. Lisa, excellent reference to Plato’s Republic. Maybe we should launch an education campaign that requires mandatory reading of Plato and other classics. I’m certain that would help with our understanding of discourse in society! But such a campaign would certainly be labeled “elitist” and quickly dismissed! Thanks for your comments!

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  2. My favorite part of the John Adams biography by David McCullough was the part describing the mud slinging between his supporters and the supporters of Jefferson. Here were two men who co-authored the most important document of the revolution running against each other for President, and the discourse dropped into the mud pretty quickly. I agree that the President is our leader, and as a nation we spend too much time attacking the person rather than discussing the ideas. Thanks for a good morning read.

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  3. Great idea! You could call the group “Education vs. Propaganda”. It would probably get labled. Though anyone who enjoys “The Hunger Games” would probably take up some interest in Plato’s observations.
    I find that in many ways Plato had a good understanding of the human contintion.

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  4. “One of the many things I appreciate about the Army is the importance of “respect” in its ranks. From the day a civilian arrives to Basic Training, respect for one another, our nation, and those placed in positions of authority is ingrained as a core Army value. This is most evident in the formal manner in which Soldiers address one another, “Yes Sir”, “Yes Ma’am”, “Yes Drill Sergeant”, etc. Even when speaking to those of inferior rank, a title is still used and respect is always shown. Disagreement does occur, but seldom in a disrespectful or bombastic manner.

    Granted, the Army isn’t perfect. Disrespect does occur from time to time. But I am certain that those who serve in our nation’s Armed Forces understand and exemplify respect more than civilians.”

    Really? Like these examples:

    http://www.wjla.com/articles/2013/07/amy-weidner-demoted-by-idaho-national-guard-for-running-porn-site-91396.html

    http://www.airforcetimes.com/article/20131121/NEWS06/311210027/1st-lt-among-four-convicted-sex-offenses-Oct

    http://rt.com/usa/female-army-prostitution-ft-hood-738/

    I find holding the military as an example suggests a blindness to its many (not “from time to time”) faults and deficiencies when it comes to respect. It doesn’t much matter if you say “Yes Sir” if your actual behavior betrays real respectfulness.

    I certainly long for much more civilized discourse in our society today. There is a substantial amount of fact-less and class-less discourse that passes for “debate” in our society these days. It is sad. As an example…in many venues my questioning of your claim of the superiority of Army respect would quickly result in a flurry of attacks, insults and accusations questioning my intelligence, patriotism, morality and gratitude.

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    1. Mr Doe, I’m glad you seek a more civilized discourse in our society. On that, you and I agree. I too concur that much of what we see/hear is fact-less, class-less and sad. In this venue, I for one will not use your commentary to attack your intelligence, patriotism, morality, or gratitude. Nor do I think your post reflects a negative characterization of them.

      As for the articles you highlight, I will note my original post which said the Army is not perfect. The military, like all of society, is plagued with sinners and the consequences of our sin. I would however challenge your suggested claim that the military is a place that breeds disrespect. Granted the issues the articles you raise do occur, but I hardly think they are a reflection of the military. I’ve been on Active Duty for 6 years and on my estimation, there is a great deal more respect in the military than in the civilian world.

      That being said, I would also challenge your claim that rhetoric doesn’t matter. It does. A lot. How we speak to one another, as in, “Yes sir,” etc. goes a long way in how inflamed a conversation can get. Plus, the rank structure of the military, I think, helps situations from getting out of control too quickly. As a whole, I think society is increasingly becoming less patient in our words and deeds, many of which are the cause of the rhetoric we see in our politics.

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  5. Now that I have lived in the South for more than 28 years, I have learned the true meaning of respect–in this region. Everyone is considered equal, whether they are or are not. People may differ about such issues as “slavery” and, say, responsibility for the killing of Christ, but the substance of any discussion should have little to do with the proper procedures. We are of course are striving for the best, for merit, and if that means that white people must stay on top economically and politically, that regrettably must be the outcome. Now that the United States has proven to the world that we can elect a Negro as President, there is nothing else we have to do, to convince the world we are its greatest nation. What this valuable lesson about the Emperor teaches me is that the old fool does not care whether his clothes are real and invisible, as long as everyone understands he still will be in charge when all of the passionate discussion is over, and the debate has been put to rest. I am sure my day would have been much better off if I had never read this blob, but since this is real life, I will adjust, I am sure. Thank you for this opportunity to participate.
    Gabriel Hillel

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    1. Gabriel, I’m not sure I see where you and I disagree. I hope my post didn’t suggest that I’m only interested in “nice talk”. I want debate. I want passionate debate. Ultimately, I want this debate to cause people to compromise and make pragmatic decisions about public policy. The problem, as I see it, is that people gets so caught up in their rhetoric and ideology that they seldom see the value in others arguments or positions. Thanks for participating in the conversation.

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