Column: We could all learn ‘just a little bit’ from Aretha Franklin

By Dan Kontos

I have listened, all my life, to the age-old adage that respect is earned, not given.

In a professional sense, that’s pretty much true. I have worked for a lot of people in my time, and certainly had to build a certain professional respect for my bosses. I have also tried to remember that when I had the opportunity to lead as well. Not that respect was my goal. Respect was a byproduct of doing my best in my career that I possibly could do. Mission first, people always. I’m not sure if I was successful, but that’s the way I approached my job.

What I’m talking about is the innate personal respect that I believe we should have for each other. That basic kindness and decency for any other human being, with a certain deference for their individualized life, that I think we owe that to others simply because we strive to be decent members of a free society. Live and let live. That is the respect that I have for you, right now, even though we have probably never even met.

It is the respect that holds the door open for you at the store, that smile, and wave as I approach a crosswalk where you are waiting for traffic and I invite you to go ahead, or even when I use my turn signal when driving. It’s more than just a courtesy you see, more than just a kindness to a stranger. It’s the Golden Rule.

My parents raised me to be respectful of others, and I am trying to raise my children in the same fashion. Respect allows me to tolerate other opinions, other lifestyles, and choices that I would never make for myself.

Your bright purple hair? Good for you. What do I care? Tattoos, nose rings, or Pokémon t-shirts? More power to you. Just as long as your choices show respect for others. I respect your decision to take up the drums, just not your choice to practice in your back yard at 3 AM. That is disrespectful to your neighbors, you see.

I hope I’m not telling you anything that you don’t already know. My perspective is that, if you stop and think about it, most of the troubles we see today in our nation are derived from a lack of respect for each other.

That equally goes for a generalized respect for our society, represented by our laws and rules that govern a civilized culture. We may not agree with all of the regulations that we face, but a basic respect for the law allows us to live together more harmoniously, don’t you think? In turn, our self-created government should be based on the principle that the citizens of this great nation must also be respected to live their own lives. This is manifested through the concepts of freedom, liberty, and individuality, while enshrined in our foundational documents such as the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.

In the 1967 Grammy award-winning remake by the Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin, the song “Respect” embodies that inherent desire to just be appreciated and valued, and in return, she promised not to do you wrong. Treat yourself, click on the hyperlink, and enjoy one of the best R&B songs ever made. It’ll put you in a good mood. It’s because we all, at a certain level, enjoy the reciprocal exchange of regard that people can have for each other.

So where’s the rub? Well, when you fail to show respect, nothing good can come from that. Not only do we naturally dislike being disrespected, we often become angered and lash out. However, a disproportionate reaction is itself a form of disrespect. This can in turn create an exaggerated retort. The cycle can continue until eventually there is nothing left to respond with except unrestrained violence. Sound familiar?

I have little-to-no use for people that don’t show even a modicum of respect to others. What respect I would have had for them is melted away faster than, well I was going to say the ice cubes in my bourbon—but that at least serves a legitimate purpose. You get the idea. Do you feel the same way? Does this make me a bad person? I think not. After all, I came into this proposition with my default setting dialed into an automatic granting of basic respect for the other person. They choose not to reciprocate.

So how does this erosion of respect for each other manifest itself? Simple; you see it all around you. We are routinely lied to by career politicians and entrenched bureaucrats, we watch the biased legacy media smear good people and enflame irrational fears, social media has become a dumpster fire of anonymous insults and hate, our nation and good public servants are disparaged by self-aggrandized actors and athletes, our liberties and freedom are constantly under assault, and we suffer rioting, crime, looting, intimidation, and violence—enabled by the same aforementioned feckless and self-serving career politicians whose only claim to fame is the number of decades they have accumulated at the government trough.

It may seem that the forces of counter-civilization have the upper hand, but they don’t. People don’t like to be disrespected, and coupled with the threat of violence and anarchy, they will strike back. We are starting to see that, and the end game if played out will be very ugly indeed.

Allow me to pay forward a little respect of my own and warn these people to stop, and soon, before it’s too late. You will not be able to un-ring that bell once it happens. We are a forgiving people, because of the realization that we too make mistakes, but will only be pushed so far. At that point, I fear, all bets are off. I pray it doesn’t come to that.

So relax with me as I replay a little Aretha, pour some Henry Mckenna over a large cube, and slide that drum set back into the garage. By the way, purple looks good on you—just please use your turn signal next time.

Join me on Parler @DanKontos for some bare-knuckles political opinions, a bit of overly dry humor, and shades of columns to come. All opinions are truly welcome there. God bless.