I have been part of a campaign to brand Schoharie County as “the home of respect for all” (Gazette, Feb. 20). Here is what we hope to accomplish.
Importantly, we don’t use “respect” in the sense of admiration or esteem. We aren’t claiming to admire everyone and everything, nor are we hoping that people will start doing that. Rather, we are using “respect” in its classical sense of due regard, as distinct from high regard. This is its meaning in the phrases “respect for the law” and “respect for ones enemies.”
The value of this type of respect is best illustrated by the opposite approach, namely disrespect. In cases of prejudice, bullying and related examples, behavior is marked by misunderstanding or inappropriate responses, and the object of attention is deemed insignificant.
Disrespectful behavior forsakes benefits to be gained from a welcoming, inclusive and positively engaging attitude. Research shows these benefits to be substantial. Disrespectful behavior also incurs needless costs of conflict, resentment and retaliation.
So when we urge respect for all — including Donald Trump, Barack Obama, assault rifles, and climate change — we realize that these are not necessarily, or even possibly, the objects of any particular reader’s admiration.
Yet, all are worthy of clear understanding and appropriate response. If they instead receive prejudging, contemptuous dismissal or other lack of due regard, it will be at the perpetrator’s expense and at the expense of us all.
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Categories: Letters to the Editor, Opinion