Object, but Respect

Remember back in 2009 when then-unknown Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC) shouted “You Lie!” during President Barack Obama’s speech to a joint session of Congress?
He became an instant hero to the Tea Party and other low-information ‘Muricans… despite the fact that he threw the whole notion of civility and gentlemanly behavior out the window. Imagine the reaction if a Democrat had done this when President George W. Bush stood before Congress and lied about those WMDs in Iraq… or when President Ronald Reagan looked into the cameras on Nov. 13, 1986, and told this whopper: “We did not — repeat — did not trade weapons or anything else for hostages — nor will we.”
Yet, Fox News and other political organizations masquerading as media outlets paraded Wilson as some sort of champion, giving him plenty of coverage (and boosting his fundraising as a result of that outburst).
By the way… what was the “lie” that inspired Wilson to interrupt the president? It was the moment when President Obama made it clear that the Affordable Care Act would not mandate coverage for undocumented immigrants. Despite Rep. Wilson’s interruption caused by his ignorance… the president’s statement was, indeed, truthful. But, to an audience eager to have its own disgust justified, Wilson remains idealized.
Look, there’s nothing wrong with disagreeing with our elected officials. From 2001-2009, I tolerated the Bush/Cheney administration. I spoke out when they led us into war in Iraq by making Americans believe that Saddam Hussein had something to do with 9/11. I spoke out when they abused their Homeland Security credentials in order to win re-election. I spoke out when that administration’s economic policies led us to the brink of depression.
But… through it all… I maintained respect for President Bush because… whether I liked his politics or not… he was the president. Given the opportunity, I would have gladly shaken his hand… and I still would today… but I would also use that opportunity to express my feelings in a respectful manner.
Yes, you will see political writings from me that point out what I consider to be outrageous actions and comments… and, yes, most of them will probably be about people from the ‘Right’… or, at least, the ‘Far Right’. But everything I publish is based in fact, and I’ll gladly enter into a debate on the issues with you any day, any time.
Today… if you disagree with President Barack Obama… that’s your right. But if you wish to disrespect the office of President of the United States, you’re on shaky ground. Intelligent, mature discussions have no room for conspiracy theories, ‘funny’ pictures that are hate-fueled, or personal attacks on members of the president’s family.
And let’s dispense with the idea that American politics and religion have to be inseparable. The Constitution — specifically, Article VI, paragraph 3 — forbids the concept of any religious litmus test. The Founders made it clear that religious favoritism, which was a key factor in 18th Century England, would not be tolerated in the United States of America. The Framers’ intention was to prevent the government from involving itself in its citizens’ religious beliefs and practices.
Of course, a person’s character can come into play when he or she seeks office, but how they choose to worship… or if they choose not to… is not to be a means to prevent them from holding office.
Now, I do have questions for President Obama regarding Jeremiah Wright…why he remained seated in that church, not speaking out against Wright’s assorted tirades until the pressures of the 2008 campaign made it clear that such a break was necessary. But we can’t criticize one politician and one preacher while ignoring the harsh words of others.
Just this week, Pat Robertson continued his repeated attacks on President Obama’s personal faith, suggesting that the imposition of Sharia law in the United States is imminent and that because the president spent part of his childhood in Indonesia that he is in on the imagined plot. John Hagee, who infamously preached that Adolf Hitler personified the fulfillment of God’s will, had the audacity just last month to declare that our president is anti-Semitic.
And Franklin Graham has gone so far as to propose that Russian President Vladimir Putin, a one-time KGB agent of known ruthlessness, is leading his nation to a higher moral standard than the USA, a country that has made Rev. Graham very rich and very famous.
Who are we to condemn Wright… yet allow Robertson, Hagee, and Graham to make such pronouncements without objection?

Yes, they have the right to express their opinions, just as the rest of us have the obligation to challenge them to be honest.

(Originally published in the Morrisons Cove Herald on February 5, 2015.)

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