Respecting the Establishment and Government Institutions
Tonight’s post is about respect. How did you learn the meaning of the word? How did you learn what you were supposed to respect?
I can tell you exactly how I learned the definition. My mother made it very clear. And every once in a while, my Dad would throw out one of the Ten Commandments or something that Jesus said and we just knew what was acceptable and respectable behavior. Over time, I guess respect for authority and institutions becomes ingrained such that, even when someone or something fell short of expectations I maintained respect. Certainly there were exceptions, but on the whole I have yet to participate in riots or criminal behavior against others.
We now live in a time of increasing distrust of institutions, characterized by an intense lack of respect for specific professions and individuals. This is not entirely new. I studied political science in college and one of the many things I learned was how politicians campaigned against their own profession in order to get votes. Think about that for a minute. Imagine how that would play out in your own life. A parallel in my life would be interviewing for a job and telling my potential new manager that a) the company sucked, b) the team that he or she had built were sub par and corrupt and c) that I was the person that could pull together the ranks to get profits up.
I would never get a job and if I did, no one would want to work with me.
And yet a variation of that interview has happened in congressional and presidential races for decades.
But in the last few years, I do believe something has changed. I am not sure when it happened or whether there was a trigger – but it did change. Polls consistently indicate that people do not trust national institutions. Congress – or government in general – continue to receive incredibly low marks from the public. The media also receives low levels of trust. The Catholic Church in the wake of the sexual abuse scandals has taken a huge hit in public confidence. Universities and state governments are also under attack. Global institutions like NATO, the World Trade Organization and World Bank are also distrusted – and I suspect that half of the respondents that distrust these global institutions, have no idea what they do.
I have heard that local and municipal governments are trusted more so than their state and federal counterparts. Law enforcement also generate high levels of trust among certain segments of the population (read “white”) but not among minority groups. And frighteningly, the military enjoys very high marks from across the population. Why is this a concern? Because in other countries in which civilian governments lose the trust of the population, military juntas tend to rise to power. Moreover, I find it odd that the military engenders such high approval ratings at a time in which we continue to bleed trillions of dollars in America’s longest war (Afghanistan). This will be the subject of a future post – but for now, I would argue that after 16 years, we cannot solely blame the civilian leaders (aka – the government) for the inability to seize long term victory in Afghanistan.
To summarize, polls illustrate that Americans continue to lose faith in a majority of our foundational institutions. And my argument is – that that loss of faith has led to an overall acceptance of disrespectful actions and behaviors towards individuals within those institutions that has ultimately led to polarization of our political discourse so volatile that people like me are just disgusted by “the other side.”
Let’s start with the media, or the MSM (mainstream media). First – I can only guess at what the “MSM” is. I think it’s ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX (although FOX would argue they are not mainstream), MSNBC, and several others that you find on your cable box. I think it’s also stuff you find on the internet. A better definition of “mainstream media” is “Media outlets dedicated to reporting the news, as defined by facts. Opinions and analysts are part of the MSM, but the foundation for those opinions and analysis are facts.”
This would imply that if the underlying data of the “news outlet” whether it be a talk show or news reader or online article is fabricated, then the medium is not mainstream. And if it’s not mainstream, then it’s something else. I would call it “fringe.” You might call it fiction.
Let’s try an example. Right now, I am watching Chris Hayes’ “All In” on MSNBC. Hayes has devoted his entire hour to a discussion about the Mueller investigation and specifically the convening of a grand jury in the Russia probe. The convening of the Russia probe has been verified by multiple sources so from a journalistic perspective, we can call it a FACT. Chris just ran a segment in which he spoke to Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal. Senator Blumenthal was asked for comment and specifically, what the Senate would do if the President fired the Special Counsel, as it has been speculated that he is want to do. The discussion would be considered an analysis based on an underlying FACT that there is a special prosecutor investigating the Russia – Trump potential collusion.
If you watched FOX news, you would likely not see anything associated with Russia, nor the special counsel. As was reported this past week, it is likely that you would hear about concocted stories about DNC aides that colluded with Wikileaks and were then murdered in a cover up. Oh wait – maybe FOX is fringe and not mainstream. I guess we save that for a later post.
My point is this: humans are smart, or they have the capability to be smart. There is no excuse for not trusting the media. None. They get it right more often than they get it wrong and the good ones tell you when they get it wrong. They retract and sometimes they fire people.
But somewhere along the way, not only did we decide that we mistrusted the media, but a segment of society chose to disrespect journalists and the entire profession.
I have not attended a Trump rally nor will I ever attend a Trump rally. But I am not sure that the degradation of journalists is limited to Trump supporters and the President. During the campaign, Donald Trump fed a narrative that debased and insulted an ENTIRE group of people; fellow Americans whose job it was to follow his campaign and to report on it. He repeatedly insulted them from the podium calling reporters the “worst form of humanity” and “horrible liars.” Journalists were placed in very specific areas – walled off from supporters – placed in “pens” and were booed and hissed at by fellow Americans that were all “riled up” by a presidential candidate. These were truly dangerous situations; security was required to protect journalists as they exited buildings. In America. As they covered a presidential campaign.
This has continued into the Trump presidency but now it is a calculated attempt to discredit the entire institution. Why? Because autocrats, in order to survive must brainwash and convince supporters that what they see is not really what they see. For example, the journalists might tell you that your water is polluted and you may see brown water coming out of your faucet. But if Trump has discredited journalists, he is more apt to convince you that the water is not brown nor polluted. This is how autocrats maintain power.
But the problem is not isolated to journalists and the media. The lack of trust in our governmental institutions whether it be the presidency or Congress has led to a profound disrespect for politicians and officials. As I mentioned, this is not entirely “new.” But the intensity is.
If you are a Trump supporter, then I am speaking directly to you. If you are not a Trump supporter but know someone who is – then I am speaking to you too! Why is it acceptable to chant “Lock her up” at a campaign rally, presidential speech or convention? The “her” is a former First Lady of the United States of America. She is also a Former Secretary of State and was the first viable female presidential candidate from a major political party in this country. And these accomplishments barely scratch the surface of her resume. So let me answer for you. It is NOT acceptable. And it is NOT acceptable for this chant to happen now that Trump is president. NOR is it acceptable for the President to continue to call her names like “Crooked Hillary.”
It is not acceptable and it is offensive.
Washington DC is a swamp. A literal one. The city was built on a swamp. I would encourage everyone reading this post, to study up on the history of our nation’s capital. The heat and humidity of the “swamp” is so intense in the summer that Congress shuts down in August. That is why there is an August recess. People leave town because it is so hot. You would too. Last year, I forgot about the heat and humidity and flew down on a Saturday in late July to visit the home of Woodrow Wilson and Frederick Douglas. It would not have been too bad if I had not also decided that I could walk from NW DC to SE DC. I posted on it. I’m lucky I did not have a sunstroke. Anyway……
But this is our nation’s capital. If you have not visited D.C., I highly encourage you to do so. It is a spectacular city. It is clean and beautiful. The buildings are magnificent and the monuments and memorials to our history and government are testament to all the ideals we want to be. Just do not go in July and August. (I would suggest going off season – take the kids out of school and go when no one else will be there). I will never forget the first time I saw the monuments. They are awe inspiring. Over the last 30 years, I have walked the National Mall maybe a dozen times and every time I see something new. I cannot wait to take Bryant and Nikki to show them the memorials to America. (If I had to guess, Bryant will love it and Nikki – well she might be a toss up).
Most of the men and women who serve this country in the halls of Congress and throughout the government do it for love of country and public service. Had I made this or that decision along the way, I may have been one of them. So the lack of respect from not just Trump voters – but Americans in general – is simply unacceptable. Trump has made it much worse but you know, he is just “saying” what people have been thinking for a long time. That does not make it okay.
Our public officials work hard. And you know what? That’s really all I have to say. Because until you have done their job – whatever that job may be – then the disrespect has very little basis and says more about the one doing the disrespecting than the public official.
Again, the disrespect is not all on Trump supporters but his base is very stark. The thousands of people who attend his rallies and continue to support his presidency cheer at the “lock her up” and “crooked Hillary” rallying cries. But I wonder how they would feel if their children or grandchildren took their lead and disrespected some other institution, like the church or their schools? Of the thousands of people in the West Virginia arena tonight chanting vicious and horrible things about the Clintons and the Democrats, I suspect many have kids and grandkids. If Mom or Grandma can be disrespectful of a Former First Lady, then why can’t Jr. flip off his teacher?
It might feel as if this post has just gone off the rails. Well that’s kind of what I feel about America’s political discourse. So let me be succinct:
• It is UNACCEPTABLE to deface and defame our nation’s leaders and institutions. Disagree and choose not to support based on facts and information – not on supposition and lies you read online.
• Be critical of news sources. If you are a strict conservative or radical liberal, double check the story before you forward it on Facebook. Because trust me – if you share a story with me I am going to fact check it and if it’s “fake news” you will know about it. Publically.
• Stop supporting politicians who defame the other side.
• Understand how the government works and if you do not know – ask. If something does not work, find out why – do not just “blame the other side.” It is never that easy.
There are a lot of problems with our government and right now, the biggest issue can be traced to one Supreme Court case – 2010 Citizens United. Neither party is really discussing solutions to the issue of dark money in politics, although the Democrats tried to address it briefly in last year’s election. Read up on it. It’s important.
Finally, I’ll leave you with this parallel. I imagine what would happen if my seven-year-old nephew, as he walked down the aisle to light candles at the beginning of the church service decided to “flip off” the minister. Pretty disrespectful right? I can tell you exactly what my sister would do. The small congregation would be aghast, Carrie would drag him out of the sanctuary and my poor father – Grandpa – would try to slip under the pew to hide in embarrassment.
The thing is – this would never happen. Because Bryant, like most kids, has been raised to respect the minister and the church. So should he not be raised to respect our political leaders? What would he think if Carrie were chanting “Lock her up” and “Crooked Hillary?” How would he know which politician to respect and which one not to?
I have theories about how this all came about and who bears most of the blame. But really – it does not matter who caused the problem. It matters that it’s fixed. You can disagree on policy. But not on humanity and not when it comes to our institutions of government.
Amy, from the Facebook Archives