John McCain and respect

Everyone is always careful to precede any criticism of McCain by saying they respect him. This has always bothered me, and I just recently figured out why.

John McCainLiberals and conservatives alike have generally given John McCain a special courtesy, no matter how much they might disagree with him or dislike him as a person. Any time someone on television or in media is about to talk about him being an out-of-touch war-mongering whack-job with an anger-management problem, they first make a point of saying, “Of course I respect his service to our country.”

Sometimes these statements seem almost comical, especially when what follows the declaration of respect is vitriolic and insulting. But even so, it sets a tone for any discourse concerning McCain: he may be a cranky old coot now, but we respect this thing that he went through. We respect the fact that he is the type of person who served our country.

I think people are right to do this. John McCain went through a lot as a soldier and as a prisoner of war. He deserves our utmost respect.

Nonetheless, hearing this all of the time bothered me.  I never understood why, until now.

I’ve been listening to the current news, and McCain’s Grumpy Old Man commentary on issues surrounding Benghazi and Petraeus and all of the military mess that is going on right now. I’ve been hearing every liberal commentator who severely disagrees with McCain on almost every issue talk about how much they disagree with him.  And, of course, I’ve been hearing every one of them precede their criticism with a declaration of respect for McCain.

“Of course I have deep respect for John McCain, but….”

That is when it hit me, the realization of why this bothers me:

Of course McCain deserves this… but so does everyone else.

Every single human being that you participate in a debate with, every single interlocutor you engage, deserves some respect from you. For being a human being. For daring to have a conversation. For engaging at all.

In a world where debates so easily degenerate into personal attacks and dismissals, wouldn’t it be wonderful if every time you disagreed with someone, you began your statement with, “Of course I have a deep respect for you, but…”

I know some of you reading this are having the snarky thought: “Oh, sure, but what if I don’t have deep respect for the person?”

Stop being a child! Everyone deserves some respect, and if you don’t think so then you have no place having a debate at all. If you really don’t respect a person, then you shouldn’t be engaging them. Every human being deserves respect–even if you don’t respect some (or even most) of the things that they think and say.

This is why it bothers me when I hear people declare their “deep respect” for John McCain.

Not because I think they shouldn’t do it; but rather, because I don’t see why they don’t do it for everyone they disagree with.