Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Respecting the Office

When I was in school, it would not have been uncommon to see an assignment that asked students to write an essay about how they could help the President meet his goals for America. Then came Watergate. We learned that presidents were fallible and even criminal, and we started deconstructing them. Entire books were written about JFK's parade of girlfriends, when previously, that subject had been taboo. The derision that began with making fun of Jimmy Carter's accent and sweaters now has culminated with fury over Obama's speech to schoolchildren, which was as mild and conservative a speech as you'll ever hear.

Oddly, I'm pretty sure that the people who kept their children home are the same ones we saw come out in Dryden to rail against our town supervisor, who does not say the pledge of allegiance. This brings up an interesting question: Can you divorce the position of president from love of country? Are the two intertwined, or has the culture of celebrity separated them?

I probably never would have said this back when LBJ was running the place, but I think we'd better get back to a position of respecting the office even when we revile the person in the office. Otherwise, we look pretty stupid trying to impose our system of government on others. I would never have kept O home if GWBush had come to her school to read a book about goats. I would have recognized the historicity of the moment and encouraged her to pay attention.

This in no way contradicts the fact that if our current president fails to lead on health care, I will feel free to vilify him any way I can. There's a difference between disagreement with the person and disrespect for the office. To my enormous surprise, given their previous "my country right or wrong" philosophy, that's a nicety the far right seems to have rejected.


Anonymous said...

You can't degrade the office for 8 years and now expect people to turn it around overnight. When G.H.W. Bush gave a similar speech, democrats held hearings, investigations. For 8 years of G.W. Bush, idiot, monkey, etc. were thrown around to giggles by democrats. Were those policy differences?

KAZ said...

Sorry. Calling Bush Jr. an idiot in print is different from calling the president a liar at a joint session of Congress. Complaining in 1991 about the undeniable political quality of a speech to schoolchildren AFTER THE SPEECH WAS GIVEN is very different from condemning a speech that no one has yet heard or read. It is possible to condemn the man but respect the office. Barack Obama faces four times more death threats daily than GW Bush did. If you don't think that's a problem--for our nation and for our democracy--there's something really wrong.

Anonymous said...

There was whole movie made about the assassination of G.W. Books were written about it. In Oregon, his motorcade was attacked. I think it is a problem, but not a new one. In 2005 Bush was booed during the STOU speech, was regularly called a liar and still is. It doesn't make it right now, but it's a little off putting to now try and claim the high ground when the democrats have been wallowing in the mud for so long.

Anonymous said...

Hi Anonymous,
While I'm not sure KZ has argued this succinctly, I do think that she's right that there's a difference. Write all you want about what an evil toad Bush or Obama was/is (although it is useful to occasionally fact check the accusations, which apparently the Representative from SC did not bother to do), but when any President addresses both Houses of Congress, let that person speak. THEN villify him if you must, in print, on your soapbox, wherever.

KAZ said...

Not argued it succinctly? That irks me.