NaBloPoMo 2021: Do Good, Kid
I can just see every writing teacher cringing to see ‘Be’ as my verb in this action mantra.
I just cannot think of a better way to express this fundamental admonition. It’s like the cheer we all know from high school—instead of ‘aggressive’, it’s, “R. E-S. P-E-C-T-F-U-L. Be. Respectful. B-E Respectful!” Ha, the two words even have the same number of letters so the rhythm transposes perfectly. Hmmm, maybe we can start a movement from the sidelines here.
In the grocery check-out line. At the Target returns desk. On the phone with customer service. Driving. With your in-laws, your coworkers, your spouse, your children, your direct reports, the building custodian. With your kids’ teachers. With elected officials. With people who disagree with you on issues that matter deeply to you. With the person aggressively disrespecting you to your face. With the authoritarian police officer using excessive force, the boss acting out of sheer prejudice, even malice. With the militant supremacist throwing rocks and spitting at you.
Why be respectful? Because it’s the best way to show that you see the other person as also human, equal in worth to yourself, even if they don’t feel or think the same about you. They may say they do—don’t we all say it? It’s not socially acceptable to say out loud that we think someone is beneath us—at least not in public, or ‘polite society.’ Is there actually even such a thing anymore, polite society? Every year it seems easier for people to demean one another out loud, viciously, violently, in public, with no politeness whatsoever, and no consequences. I think every one of us needs to query ourselves truthfully about how much we really value and believe in equality, and get honest about where we don’t: Own it. Stand up and accountable for it.
But if we are sincerely convinced that we see all humans as equally valuable, that we harbor no occult supremacist ideals, then the least we can do is be respectful toward one another in all of our interactions. It may even serve as a prophylactic, keeping us from speaking or acting on our latent negative biases, if we simply commit to practicing respectfulness.
Disrespect is the first arrogant step down the slippery slope of dehumanization, and that descent leads straight to relationship hell.