In his comment to my post about schmoozing with the prez, or not, Paul took me to task for contemplating such disrespect for the President of the United States. I was going to respond in the comments there, but I rather think it rates a top-level post.
First: I wasn’t clear at all about one thing, and I think Paul’s absolutely right to call me shameful for it. I never meant to say that I would actually seek out an opportunity to shake George Bush’s hand, only to spit on it. No, I’d never do that. I was thinking of the sort of situation where I might happen on it, running into him on the street or the like. And even then, as I said, I think I’d just stare at him and not extend my hand.
If I were in a position to plan it, I simply wouldn’t attend the meeting. If the situation were suitable for it — say, with a major award — I’d make a public statement about my absence. I’d consider it my responsibility to my integrity and principles to do that. In some circumstances — perhaps with an award conferred by the president himself — I would refuse the award, and again make my refusal and my reasons public.
Second, and where I disagree with Paul, I don’t believe — and didn’t, even before GWB arrived — that the “office” merits respect, regardless of the officeholder. It’s my opinion that people rate respect — or don’t — and that respect is earned. I’m willing to accept that the president of a country, or some similar officeholder, may start with respect by default, but that person can go on to earn disrespect. And our current president has, to me, earned great disrespect. I feel no obligation to act (or write) respectfully toward him.
James, who comments here as “Dr Momentum”, took the question to his blog, and I’m interested in the answers to my “What would you do?” question there and here: it surprises me how many people who find his actions and his presidency reprehensible, nevertheless think it’s the right thing to do to keep quiet, not make a scene, not show disrespect.
I guess I’m more of an activist than I’d thought.
Update, 25 Feb: See this amusing follow-up item.