A Plea For President Trump: Restore Respect

Jan 21, 2017
Originally published on January 21, 2017 2:27 pm

The one best wish I think I have for the country as a new administration comes to office is that there is a revival of respect.

It can be depressing, especially on these days that celebrate a peaceful and democratic transfer of power, to recount the many times this year political rhetoric got coarse, boorish, and even cruel.

I want to be fair about this. But in the news business, we can't pretend that one candidate didn't utter more of those kinds of remarks than any other; and he won.

When he ran for office, President Trump questioned the courage of John McCain and John Lewis, who have been honored for their bravery. He mocked a reporter who happens to be disabled, ridiculed opponents for their physical traits, boasted of the size of his manhood, insisted the father of one of his opponents helped assassinate President Kennedy, suggested a judge couldn't be fair because of his Mexican ancestry, and insulted the grieving parents of a heroic soldier, who happened to be Muslim. Most of us could recall a few more examples.

Yet anyone who spends time on a social media platform will tell you that the language of ordinary citizens over this past year has also often seemed abusive, dismissive, and snide; and these comments can be from all sides of the political divide.

A lot of people seem to be more interested in trying to verbally bludgeon people who have a different opinion, rather than to see if they can understand and learn from one another.

Boy, I know that must sound naive.

Words like empathy and understanding have taken a beating over this last campaign season. There's been a lot of snarling. Many Americans of all political opinions have said they feel they've been overlooked, dismissed, and forgotten.

President Trump said yesterday, "The forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer. Everyone is listening to you now."

But I wonder how many of those who feel forgotten are willing to hear people from other backgrounds, who may have different opinions, who say they feel overlooked or discounted, too.

Part of the work we see as being important here, and maybe more important than ever, is the chance to let different and dissonant voices be heard with respect. They will all be challenged, too, about their facts and opinions because that's journalism. But if debates on social media platforms and public platforms aren't conducted with respect, I fear we might begin to look more like a bunch of kids engaged in a snowball fight that has lethal stakes than a democracy.

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

The one best wish I think I have for the country as a new administration comes to office is that there is a revival of respect. It can be depressing, especially on these days which celebrate a peaceful and democratic transfer of power, to recount the many times this year political rhetoric got coarse, borish and even cruel. I want to be fair about this, but in the news business, we can't pretend that one candidate didn't utter more of those kinds of remarks than any other - and he won. When he ran for office, President Trump questioned the courage of Senator John McCain and Congressman John Lewis, who have been honored for their bravery. He mocked a reporter who happens to have a disability, ridiculed opponents for their physical traits, boasted of the size of his manhood, insisted the father of one of his opponents helped assassinate President Kennedy, suggested a judge couldn't be fair because of his Mexican ancestry and insulted the grieving parents of a heroic soldier who happened to be Muslim. Most of us could recall a few more examples.

Yet anyone who spends time on a social media platform will tell you that the language of ordinary citizens over this past year has also often seemed abusive, dismissive and snide. And these comments can be from all sides of the political divide. A lot of people seem to be more interested in trying to verbally bludgeon people who have a different opinion rather than to see if they can understand and learn from one another. Boy, I know that must sound naive. Words like empathy and understanding have taken a beating over this last campaign season. There's been a lot of snarling. Many Americans of all political opinions have said they feel overlooked, dismissed and forgotten. President Trump said yesterday the forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer.

Everyone is listening to you now, but I wonder how many of those who feel forgotten are willing to hear people from other backgrounds who may have different opinions who say they feel overlooked or discounted too.

Part of the work we see as being important here, and maybe more important than ever, is the chance to let different and dissonant voices be heard with respect. They will all be challenged too about their facts and opinions because that's journalism. But if debates on social media platforms and public platforms aren't conducted with respect, I fear we might begin to look more like a bunch of kids engaged in a snowball fight that has lethal stakes than a democracy.

(SOUNDBITE OF RYAN TEAGUE'S "LIMINAL SPACE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.