Respect is something we all want, but what exactly is it? It is the need to be treated like a human being; to be given consideration; to be validated for who we are. If this is something we want, why do we persist in denying it to others?
We may disagree with the opinions of others, but we do not have to denigrate them or call them names. Starting down the path to viewing others as not human beings leads to at best, prejudice; at worst, genocide. Saying that a group is less than human is what led to the Holocaust, Jim Crow laws, denying citizenship to Native Americans, ‘ethnic cleansing’. Think about it.
When we dehumanize any group of people, it is so much easier to believe they don’t count so we don’t have to listen to them, don’t have to grant them human rights, don’t have to call them by their given names; we can lump them altogether in one group and give them a name that is hurtful. We do the same when we discount someone else’s opinion because it doesn’t match ours. Isn’t it easier to blow someone off if we can say they are less than we are? That we are more important than they are? That they don’t agree with us so they must be stupid? Anti-American? Communist? Socialist? Fascist?
We can respect a person without agreeing with his/her opinions. Respect is something that all human beings deserve. Remember growing up when you were taught not to disrespect your elders, teachers, anyone in authority? Where did that go? How did it become okay to belittle those who are different than we are?
If we are not respecting others, I can only assume that we don’t respect ourselves, either. If we can be so easily swayed by the people we choose to associate with, perhaps we need to bolster our own self-respect; and perhaps start associating with a different group of people. We are human beings; we are worthy of respect; we owe respect to other human beings.
I’m sure there are people who may not deserve respect as human beings, but I have never met one. All life is sacred; it isn’t up to us to decide who lives and who dies.
“Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement. For even the very wise cannot see all ends.” – J.R.R. Tolkien