A Forgotten American Value
There was a time when respect meant something in
. Fact is it really wasn't all that long ago. I have a pretty good memory you see, and good memories have a way of sticking around. America
When I think back it seems the beginning of the end of respect in American culture and life started as a backlash to the forced retirement of Richard Nixon from the White House during the post-Watergate era.
When Nixon ran for reelection in 1972 McGovern was never ever a serious threat and Nixon won every single state except
in one of the greatest landslides in electoral history. Massachusetts and the District of Columbia,
The Watergate made no sense as there was no chance Nixon could lose. In the previous four years he ended the Viet Nam war, lowered the threat of nuclear annihilation by his Soviet inroads, he was the first world leader to open the doors to China, and life was pretty darn good.
Yet there were people on his staff, the
California mafia in particular, who were so paranoid they thought Howard Hughes was working with Larry O'Brien (head of the Democrat National Committee DNC and former knight in John Kennedy's Camelot), the mob, the news media and to bring down the president. China
So they ordered the Watergate break in to find evidence in the DNC headquarters. For the first time the Cubans breaking in got caught after long careers with the CIA. The trail then conveniently led to the West Wing of the White House and the top staff members of the president.
Thanks to the terribly botched break in, capture and pointing fingers, everything moved fast, perhaps too fast, for a thorough government investigation. Before long there was 18 minutes missing from a White House tape and tens of thousands of dollars in cash being passed between a series of dark and shadowy secret agencies, organizations and groups.
In terms of people being out to get them no matter what happened in the election, there were some pretty good reasons for paranoia. Attempts by the White House palace guards to gain political influence over the intelligence agencies was intense and only J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI had the power to resist the White House staff.
And then there was the Kennedy assassination. Just 12 years earlier JFK was killed. Bobby Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. were killed about five years later. Nixon had been defeated by JFK and Nixon people always felt the truth about the Kennedy assassination never came out.
Were the Kennedy's killed because they upset the military industrial complex by wanting to end involvement in the rapidly escalating
war? Or was it the mob and CIA who were upset because of the Viet Nam Bay of Pigs fiasco? Maybe it went back to Jimmy Hoffa, mortal enemy of the Kennedys from the days he was President of the powerful Teamsters Union and was driven from office into jail by a relentless Bobby Kennedy?
As far as the Nixon cronies were concerned someone was out there powerful enough to kill presidents and anyone else involved if these mysterious forces felt threatened. I think the Nixon political people were determined to find them first.
Anyway, you get the drift, there were a lot of reasons to be paranoid. The mafia, Jimmy Hoffa, Castro, Communists, Cuban Freedom Fighters, Howard Hughes, the military, FBI, CIA, Soviets, KGB, Kennedy family and so on.
Someone clearly set them up as a warning or in retaliation for something and people that break the law deserve to get broken.
So Nixon wins by a landslide in 1972 and the Watergate investigation is underway. His aides forgot to tell him some things that took place? He covers up for their bungled break in though he most likely didn't know it took place.
Check out this time line.
The Watergate break in is June 17, 1972.
Nixon wins reelection on November 7, 1972.
Watergate trial begins in January, 1973.
Nixon fires top aides in April, 1973.
Butterfield tells Senate of Nixon's tapes on July 16, 1973.
Nixon resigns from Office August 9, 1974.
Just before he wins one of the most resounding landslide victories in American political history a break in took place that would bring down a presidency.
The aftermath brought Ford to the presidency, the pardon of Nixon by Ford, and finally Ford's defeat by Carter. Historically speaking, it was one of the most remarkable periods ever as the strength of the Constitution, the fairness of the judiciary, the ability for the nation to function for two years without a president who was buried in the legal battle for survival, and the media.
Oh yes the media. They hated the White House palace guard more than anyone. Not only did Nixon almost beat the beloved leader of the liberal cause, Kennedy and his Camelot in 1960, but here he was back in the White House elected 8 years after JFK.
In the eyes of the media Nixon was back to dismantle the Kennedy legacy, and the rise of the liberal media legacy, and Watergate gave the liberals and media the perfect reason to go after Nixon and his people. Little did they know they were pawns like everyone else involved.
The aftermath was a terrible polarization between liberals and conservatives, democrats and republicans, academia and the military, and on and on. Unlike previous times, this time it was a fight for survival of their cause.
By the late 1970's there were many seeds of hatred, intolerance, judgment, bias and fear planted throughout the land fueled by a conviction that the other guy was out to destroy me so my only hope was to destroy him first.
Reagan brought a brief respite from the bitterness, perhaps because he had been both a democrat and a republican, but it didn't last long after.
Ever since it has been clear that the core of our malaise was our failure to respect the right of others to disagree. Yes, loss of R-E-S-P-E-C-T. The powerful feminist anthem by soul singer Aretha Franklin in 1967. Aretha wailed it:
Find out what it means to me
Take care ... TCB
"TCB" is an abbreviation that was commonly used in the 1960s and 1970s, meaning Taking Care (of) Business.
We all need to remind each other to respect our right to disagree, and respect the opinions of others as you would want them to respect your opinions.
In the past people could disagree without hating. My best friends worked against me in political campaigns yet we still shared a beer every week and laughed about our campaigns. All of the competitions of life should make us understand the need to respect and listen to each other but we don't.
Maybe the feminists will allow us to borrow Aretha's anthem for another cause, the need for renewing respect in our lives, politics and religions.
Just for fun I checked the definition of respect from my current dictionary and from my collection of old dictionaries, this one from 1906. Words are my playground and the more I study them the more I understand their secrets.
Over 100 years ago respect had a lot more significance than it has today. The following are the current and 1906 dictionary definitions of respect. Use this as a good refresher of what we need to work to achieve.
Internet Free Dictionary - 2012
-sp kt )
tr.v. re·spect·ed, re·spect·ing, re·spects1. To feel or show deferential regard for; esteem.
2. To avoid violation of or interference with: respect the speed limit.
3. To relate or refer to; concern.
1. A feeling of appreciative, often deferential regard; esteem. See Synonyms at regard.
2. The state of being regarded with honor or esteem.
3. Willingness to show consideration or appreciation.
4. respects Polite expressions of consideration or deference: pay one's respects.
5. A particular aspect, feature, or detail: In many respects this is an important decision.
6. Usage Problem Relation; reference. See Usage Note at regard.
The New American Encyclopedic Dictionary - 1906
v.t. [Fr. respecter, from Lat. respectus,
1. To look back upon.
2. To look toward; to face or look in direction of.
"Palladius adviseth, the front of his house should so respect the south, that in the first angle it receive the rising rays of the winter sun." - Browne.
3. To take special notice of; to regard attentively; to regard as worthy of motice.
"What should it be that he respects in her?"
Shakespeare: Two Gentlemen of
4. To heed. to consider, to regard.
"Do you persuade yourself that I respect you?"
Shakespeare: Measure for Measure, iv.1.
5. To view or regard with some degree of reverence; to esteem; to look up to with reverence or respect.
6. To have reference or regard to; to relate to.
[Respecting, 3.]To respect a person or persons, to respect the person: To show undue favor or bias toward; to suffer the opinion or judgment to be influenced or biased by a regard to the outward circumstances of a person, to the prejudice of right and equity.
1. The act of looking at with attention; the act of noticing; a looking toward; attention, regard, care.
"I will have respect unto the statutes continually." - Psalm cxix. 117
2. Relation, regard, reference [¶].
3. The act of holding in high esteem or regard; regard; reverence; the deportment or course of action toward another which proceeds from a feeling of esteem, regard, or reverence toward such person.
4. (Pl.): An expression of esteem and regard; as, Give him my respects.
5. Respected character or position; respectability, repute.
"Many of the best respect in
Shakespeare: Julius Caesar, i. 2.
6. Goodwill, favor. (Genesis iv. 4.)
7. Partial regard; undue bias to the prejudice or right and equity.
"It is not good to have respect of persons in judgment."
Proverbs xxiv. 23.
8. Consideration; motive in reference to something.
"Whatsoever secret respects were likely to move them."
Hooker: Eccles. Polity.
9. Point or particular; point of view; matter, feature.
"She will be ruled in all respects by me."
Shakespeare: Romeo and Juliet, iii. 4.
10. Modest and becoming behavior; decency.
"Talk with respect, and swear but now and then."
Shakespeare: Merchant of
11. Deliberation, reflection.
"The icy precepts of respect."
Shakespeare: Timon of
"He it well did ward with wise respect."
Spenser: F. Q., V. xii. 21.
[¶] 1. In respect: Comparatively speaking; relativity.
"He was a man; this, in respect, a child."
Shakespeare: Henry VI., Pt. III., v. 5.
2. In respect of, or to:
(1) In comparison with; relatively to.
"In respect of a fine workman I am but a cobbler."
Shakespeare: Julius Caesar. i. 1.
(2) On account of; by reason of; in consideration of; as regards.
Do you see how much we are losing from the true meaning of respect?