Posted by: emjb | January 11, 2007

Respect only when it’s due

My brother and I don’t agree on…much of anything. Maybe that our Mom makes a truly excellent potato salad (no mustard! no apples!) He’s the oldest, I’m the youngest, and a long 12 years is in-between.

So yes, I’m going to talk about one thing he said that I disagree with and why. (not just him; I’ve heard this from many people. Anyway). Despite his lack of enthusiasm for W. and his buddies, he still thinks we should be respectful towards the office of president and the person who holds it.

Well..ok, we were raised in the South. Politeness is a big deal down here, probably because it’s so nasty hot so much of the time you need a code of politeness to keep you from killing each other after 30 100-degree days in a row.

But. The people who founded our country came from places where respect for the office of those above you wasn’t just politeness, it was the law. Disrespecting your betters could land you in prison, or at the end of a rope. And you couldn’t do anything to rise above the station you were born to; once a peasant, always a peasant, most of the time, and in the law’s eyes, that meant you were less of a person, less deserving of basic rights to say what you wanted or live your life the way you wanted to, if the nobility were against it.

And much as I think politeness is a good thing, I don’t like people who want me to respect what they are instead of who they are. We don’t have kings, lords, dukes, or earls in this country. What you can do for a living isn’t supposed to be restricted by who your parents were or who owns the land you live on.

George W. Bush and his buddies don’t like that about America. They think people like them, people who start out with lots of money and privileges, are the only important people in the country, the only people the law should pay attention to. They want to read your mail, restrict your speech, and abuse their power over you if you’re not one of them, for any reason that they come up with. Which covers about 99% of Americans. They like the old way, where people with money and power made the rules and the rest of us were just sharecroppers on their lands, there to serve them, not full people at all. No rights, and no future.

They’re trying to change the laws our founders set up, to cover up what they’re doing. They’re eating away at our rights to a fair trial by going after the weak and unpopular people like Jose Padilla, people no one cares about. But don’t think they’ll stop there. Padilla is a petty criminal who got tangled up with some Islamic fundamentalists, but wasn’t the brightest bulb in the box, so never got into the inner circle or did anything dangerous. He’s also a U.S. citizen who has been held since 2002 without access to lawyers for the first two years, or a fair trial, or even the right to know what he’s charged with. None of the original charges against him are being pursued, and any lawyer will tell you, that’s a blatant violation of the law. The government has shuffled him around, changed its mind about how to try him, and finally, kept him in solitary confinement and harsh treatment so severe he may now be completely mentally incapacitated.

But hey, why should we care? He’s just some dumb criminal who tried to hook up with some shady Islamic terrorist types. Why does it matter if he’s denied his rights?

But that’s how it starts, with taking away rights from someone nobody likes or cares about. And once his rights are gone, and the law decides that’s ok, there’s nothing to stop them taking away yours or your loved ones’ or mine. Being a citizen is supposed to protect you from being wrongly imprisoned and denied a trial, even if you’re a dumb criminal with a brown skin. But if the government wins, it won’t anymore.

Think about that. What if Bush or his buddies decided you were a threat, say because you wrote an angry letter to the paper about his Iraq policy, and decided to treat you like Padilla and lock you away without a trial or a chance to defend yourself? Even torture you? If the Padilla case goes the wrong way, there’s nothing to stop them doing just that.

Is that the country you grew up believing in? Is that what Jefferson and Washington and the other founders fought to create? Can you really say a man who thinks the Constitution doesn’t apply to him, that he gets to use the office of President to do whatever he wants to do, even if it means sending thousands of young Americans to die in a pointless war, even if it means weakening America and keeping us dependent on the Saudis, even if it means selling off our ports to Middle Eastern countries with a history of terrorism, even if it means trying to start a war with Iran when we are getting sucked dry by Iraq–can you really say “I must respect that man because he’s the President”?

Let’s face it; George W. Bush is the worst president we’ve ever had. Worse than Nixon. He should be impeached for breaking the law and violating the Constitution, along with Cheney. He is up to his eyebrows in the blood of innocent Americans, he has bankrupted our budget, he has allowed an entire city to die, he has used his power to get rid of people in the government who spoke the truth and install people who will repeat whatever lies he wants them to say. He gets angry and prissy when people dare to ask him questions, because he doesn’t think he should have to answer to the little people who elected him. He doesn’t have a plan, and he never has, because he’s lazy and callous and doesn’t care that his lack of planning means lots of people die for stupid reasons–not enough body armor, not enough troops, not guarding ammunition dumps that can be used to make bombs.

He is a cowardly, mean, petty, narrow-minded, criminal, neurotic little man who has never worked an honest day in his life and has never grown up and assumed the responsibilities of a man, much less of a President.

I respect the ideal of the Presidency, and I respect any President who works hard to live up to that ideal. But i will never respect George W. Bush, because I know what he is. He is not my king, earl, lord, or duke. He does not own me. I am an American citizen, and I am certainly as good or better than he or any of his money-grubbing, lying, stealing, torture-loving cronies.

And so is any honest, decent, hard-working American. I can think of any number of people like that who would make better presidents than George W. Bush. And he and people like him know it–that’s why they work so hard to get you to bow down to them. Because then you can’t see them for what they really are.



  1. Interesting. I find nothing compelling about the argument to “respect the office” when the person in the office is less than respectable. In fact, I usually find it a parallel argument to respecting authoritative government figures because they are, in fact, our rulers. And that is what scares me about GWB. He doesn’t see himself as a servant–as the man to whom we little people have delegated some of our powers so that he can effectively execute the law; he sees himself as our supreme ruler; we, thus, are his subjects. That is enough for me to have no respect for the man.

  2. Hear, hear! To quote Mr. Jefferson:

    “[When] corruption.. has prevailed in those offices [of]… government and [has] so familiarized itself as that men otherwise honest could look on it without horror,… [then we must] be alive to the suppression of this odious practice and… bring to punishment and brand with eternal disgrace every man guilty of it, whatever be his station.”

    This is nice, too:

    “I have never dreamed that all opposition was to cease. The clergy, who have missed their union with the State, the Anglomen, who have missed their union with England, and the political adventurers, who have lost the chance of swindling and plunder in the waste of public money, will never cease to bawl on the breaking up of their sanctuary.”

    Well, one out of three ain’t bad…

  3. Attention Comrade!
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