If face-to-face with the president, you’d shake his hand
As some of you know, I wasn’t the biggest fan of President Bush. I didn’t like his wars, I felt that his tax cuts cost the country more than they stimulated in growth, and I thought he came across as a goof.
I wrote snarky FB updates, shared snarky FB posts, laughed at his expense, called him names, etc. I was younger and dumber.
I had the chance to see him when he visited Fort Hood in 2005. His visit sparked all sorts of security craziness on the base. Roads were closed, vehicular traffic around the speaking venue was prohibited, and we soldiers had to be thoroughly searched upon entering the cordoned off area.
It was quite a production, actually. We had to be around our headquarters building at 0300, so we could be in formation and counted ‘all present’ by 0400, so we could march the 3-4 miles to the venue by 0530, so the thousands of us could be searched and processed through the gates, so we could fill the outside venue (a military parade field) by 0800, so we could be ready to hear him when he arrived by 0930. That meant I was awake by 0130 to get on the congested roads by 0215 (most of Fort Hood was involved in the visit). He was late, not showing up until 1030-ish (hey, he’s the president…). We had to hear about an hour long speech, then wait for him to leave—like in the chopper and out, leave. Then we had to march back and were dismissed in the late afternoon. Long day.
It was kind of the crowning “uggh” toward a president I wasn’t the most enthusiastic about, anyway.
But you know what? When I saw him, I clapped. And I meant it. When I saw him relatively close up, I cheered. And I meant it. The anticipation, the influence and fame the man had as a result of his office…it’s intoxicating for someone first experiencing it. And there’s something else going on there, something that has been written about monarchs and the presidency for centuries—a general reverence of authority and a love of country.
All the grumbling and name calling and things said in quiet inbetweens go out the window when you are face-to-face with the subtle majesty that comes with physically meeting the elected leader of the free world. I realized that he is a supremely accomplished man of power and prestige.
I shut my mouth and showed some respect.
Later in 2010-ish, I was traveling through Houston, in the George W Bush Airport. I came upon a crowd of people as I was going from one terminal to another. The commotion was from the airport’s namesake and former first lady, who had come to welcome the day’s freedom bird, the chartered airliner carrying uniformed soldiers back from deployment.
Again, people all around were ecstatic to see Mr. and Mrs. Bush. I was too. Because when push comes to shove, you shut your mouth and show some respect.
Later I was working at USAA. One of my duties was to serve public relation functions. USAA sponsors the Army Navy football game every year. It’s this big thing where all the friendly rivalry between the two services (and all of the DoD, really), comes to a head. It’s a very easily likable game.
Anyway, President Obama was going to be there. Cue a few of my nay-sayer coworkers: “Oh if I see that guy, I’m gonna…” “Man, I really hate that guy, he’s so…” “That scum-sucking piece of sh*t!” “What a coward. If I ever got a chance to, I’d…” “That Muslim SOB. Not even an American…”
I rolled my eyes.
Sure enough, when the game was still building up, when the cadets and the midshipmen were filing the stands, the president and his entourage arrived on the field to shake hands and pose for pictures. I got close enough to snap the pic at the top of this post (link)
And you know what? When they saw him, the nay-sayers clapped, and they meant it. They cheered and they meant it. All the grumblings and name calling and things said went out the window.
Afterward, so many of them were showing the pictures they snapped. They were swapping stories about seeing him and the rushes they felt. You could see the excitement in their eyes.
Because he was the president. And you should respect the president.
Look, you can disagree with a man—strongly disagree with a man, but it’s pathetic how we feel we have to emphasize our points with vehement hyperbole.
We can’t just say we disagree, we have to say the current president is the worst. Worse than the Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge. Worse than Kony and the LRA. Worse than Ariel Castro. THE WORST EVARRRRR! We start talking about him being un-American, we call him a coward, we list the thousand talking points Fox News gave us as to why he’s about to usher us into a 1,000 years of darkness (link).
You know how some people wish for the ‘good old days’ even though they probably weren’t as good as people think they remember? How maybe they romanticize aspects of those days and long for those idealized notions?
Well I’ll do that too, for a minute. I wish for the ‘good old days’ when a man might get shot in the face if he called someone a coward. When breaking your word was seen as a major deal. Because all I see these days are champions of keyboard courage—people who will attack through emails and messages or, worse yet, through anonymous comments. (And yes, I realize the irony of pointing out the flaccidity of keyboard courage from behind a keyboard.)
Nevertheless, I wish we didn’t give so much credence to insults flung by talk show pundits and through Facebook comments.
Because just like in actual fistfights, it’s normal for people to talk a big game until they are actually facing someone who is about to rearrange their face. Then all that smack talk gets deflated. All that hate and consternation gets replaced with the realization that words and actions have actual consequences.
Actual consequences. Amazing.
So disagree away. VOTE. Write your Congressmen. Hell, record a video of your objections with whatever story is in the headlines for that day. Build support. RUN FOR OFFICE YOURSELF!
But mean what you say and say what you mean. Have facts to cite, not just emotions and hate-filled rants that veer toward the absurd.
Let’s freely disagree, but ultimately show some respect to our elected leadership. We might just discover the maturity and decency of yesteryear we often pine for.