Wednesday, March 14, 2012
I was raised to respect other people unless I witnessed them personally demonstrating, by word or deed, that they did not deserve my respect.
Respect is a word that sometimes gets misused. However, at its most basic, it simply means to treat others politely. Listen to other people instead of talking over them. Get out of the way of a person if they are walking and you are blocking their path. Hold the door open for others, regardless of their gender.
I often get the sense that, for many people, respect is something reserved for close friends or allies. Disrespectful behavior is the default, and I seem to be considered naïve when I treat other people with what I consider the barest level of respect.
This inability to respect others was demonstrated clearly in a recent Sunnyside City Council meeting when council member Jason Raines claimed that free speech provides him the right to display disrespectful behavior and a lack of courtesy to his fellow council members.
I'm sorry Mr. Raines, that's not what free speech is about. You don't get a pass on acting like an adult because of the Constitution. Indeed, the Constitution is about what you are legally allowed to say, while the council's code of conduct is about how you ought to act.
Raines' comments are preserved on the city's website, available to all for listening. Other council sessions are also available, during which you can hear Raines reprimand his fellow council members for objecting to his language. Raines seems to believe that other members of the council have no right to voice objections, while at the same time he can be heard speaking over them on those audio recordings.
It's clear to me that while Raines claims he believes in free speech, he reserves that right for himself. He seems to think that no one else is allowed to oppose anything he says. The disrespect he shows is appalling in a civic leader.
The Sunnyside School District's character word of the month is "respect." I wonder how we can possibly expect our children to learn how to respect others when a supposed leader of this city not only lacks it utterly, but flaunts his shortcoming in an open public meeting.
My respect for Mr. Raines has certainly diminished to nearly nothing, but I assure you that if he wants to respond and explain his actions, we will print it. I do not believe Mr. Raines would offer me that same courtesy.