Respecting the office but not who holds it in the Trump era


Kernel Opinion SIG

Kayla Woodson

How can we respect an office without respecting who holds that office? In light of the upcoming election, let’s talk about respect. 

We must first begin with the proper definition of respect. As a child, I was taught two very conflicting things about respect. On the one hand, you’re taught “Respect is earned, not given” meaning that respect is a mutual two-way street between people. Respect comes with hard work and a showcase of the type of person you are. When we are taught that saying early in life, it is usually followed up by later on in life with “You don’t have to like them, but you have to respect them,” which is a concept that often makes for good and dramatic TV and movie tropes, but fall short in today’s society. 

The second part of respect— which I was taught by my mother, who raised me with equal parts of a Naval drill sergeant and Southern chartered matriarch was that you always respect your elders. This part of respect is never any issue until you get older. As child, it’s more than easy to follow this rule. You always address people with the correct titles, shake your hand when you’re introducing yourself, maintain eye contact and always use your manners. It doesn’t begin to become an issue until you feel that the elder person doesn’t deserve it.

It was about a year ago when I found myself in hot water with this crossroads of respecting someone that I wouldn’t waste my last glass of water on if they were on fire. I was writing a piece that was political by nature and throughout the piece, I referred to the president as “Trump” or “Donald.” My teacher was not very pleased, to say the least. He asked me why I did that and I replied with something along the lines of “I’m not going to refer to him as a president because I do not respect him.” This led to a long and drawn out speech on how even though I don’t respect him as a person I must respect the office and title he holds.

You could choose to respect the office based on the fact that the presidency, aside from the person who currently holds it, is a position that has been held at high esteem since the founding of our country. It’s similar to how we respect our parents, even though they’ve probably both unknowingly and knowingly caused most of our childhood traumas, and have now ended up the topic of several therapy sessions.

But when you respect someone just because of the title they hold, it can make for a slippery slope.

On the one hand, it can show you are a mature person because you are able to separate the importance of the institution from the current figurehead. But it can also lead to feelings of being disrespected. Respecting someone who clearly doesn’t respect you as a person seems exhausting. If we’re going off the idea that respect is a two-way street, then why do we have to put our beliefs aside to respect a disrespectful person?

It’s hard to respect someone who obviously has very little respect for you as a person. It’s hard to look up to someone who doesn’t have your best interests in mind, and that’s where we get to the interesting part. The only way to find respect for people who hold offices is to elect people that actually care about you. 

Respect isn’t something that falls out the sky. You can’t order it through Amazon and have it express-shipped. Respect is also something that shouldn’t be freely distributed or given.

Respect should be a give-and-take relationship between the person that holds the office and the people. Something to keep in mind when you are voting: Make sure to vote for people you know will best serve you. Vote for candidates that will work hard for your interest. Elect someone who would show you the respect that we deserve as decent people.