When You Flip Off An American President, You Flip Off America
An invitation to the White House is not something to be taken lightly or under-appreciated, unless you part of a group celebrating Gay Pride month 2012 or a journalist wanting to make some sort of a political statement. At least two visitors to the home of America's First Family were photographed as they flipped off a painting of Ronald Reagan. A journalist attending a recent presidential news conference interrupted the President while he was still speaking. What is going on?
Before I get to the meat of how I feel about this whole thing, it is fair to say that other visitors to the White House have had photos taken of themselves giving the thumbs-up or thumbs-down sign to various presidential paintings. So what's the difference? Well, I am not sure there is one in terms of etiquette. I do not believe that the White House is the place for those kinds of antics. The White House belongs to America and its people. Whether you agree with, disagree with, love, or hate a particular president who lived or currently lives there, you need to respect the property and what it stands for. Although it is just a building, that place represents the very heart of what our democracy is all about.
Our society appears to have thrown out the need to respect just about anyone or anything these days. This was evidenced by the recent berating of a bus monitor who had to endure profanity and personal insults directed at her by students who thought the whole thing was hilarious. They even took phone videos of the incident and placed them online. Another recent example brings us right back to the White House. This involved the complete lack of common courtesy and decorum shown by a journalist who hurled questions at the president before he even finished speaking. Is it any wonder that people would feel comfortable flipping off a painting?
Countless numbers of Americans have shed their blood for our right to elect those who govern us. Each and every inch of the White House was built on the blood, sweat and tears of Americans from all walks of life. No one has the right to disrespect that place by making any sort of a cheap political statement by flipping off or giving any type of a hand sign towards a painting hanging there, or interrupting a presidential appearance. That makes the White House about them and it is not. That building belongs to all Americans and no one person or group has the right to disrespect it in any way.
Part of the blame for all this goes to the political pundits who endlessly trash politicians on a personal level instead of sticking to the issues. They do it for the same reason that tactless fools post videos of their latest act of stupidity online: to bring attention to themselves and get noticed by everyone. It is not about the issue or issues they claim to represent, it's really just all about them. Isn't it time that Americans give thought to going back to the time-honored tradition of making verbal and written arguments through honest criticism instead of personal attacks or public grandstanding?
People will not respect an ideology that does not respect their most treasured institutions and public places. If you want to bring attention to any issue or political point of view, make sure that attention is positive by representing it in a manner that is acceptable to all and insulting to none. All Americans share a common heritage of fighting for what we believe in. Martin Luther King set the standard for that kind of fight through peaceful protests and his famous 'I Have A Dream' speech given at the Lincoln Memorial in 1963. He could have done just about anything he wanted to in front of the huge crowd gathered there, but he chose to represent himself and his cause in a positive manner that instantly gained the respect of millions of his fellow Americans. That is an example we should all follow today.
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