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Commentary: Respect others in election year

The Rev. Gilbert H. Caldwell Jr.

A UMNS Commentary
By the Rev. Gilbert H. Caldwell Jr.*

Oct. 10, 2008


It's a word I learned from my wife, a public school teacher for many years, used often with young children to bring order out of classroom chaos.

In the political chaos of presidential election years in the United States, particularly this year, all of us who love this nation might do well to cry, "TIMEOUT."

Regardless of our presidential choice, we seem too often to set aside reason, respect, rationality and responsibility. I wish all of us could remember Aretha Franklin's classic song "R-E-S-P-E-C-T"—and then put that verb into practice as we speak and write and campaign for our presidential choice.

Unfortunately, we have mastered the "two Ds." We seem to have developed the need to deify our candidate of choice, and to demonize the opposition. We are equal-opportunity practitioners as we do this—Democrats and Republicans, conservatives and liberals and all those in between or beyond.

The demonizing of both liberals and conservatives has forced me to my dictionary. The first definition of liberal as an adjective is "not restricted, giving freely, generous." The first definition of conservative as an adjective is "conserving, tending to preserve established traditions or institutions." I would say of myself that, sometimes I am a conservative liberal and sometimes I am a liberal conservative. Yet, the same emotions at work when people denounced "the Communists" seem to exist today as some denounce liberals and conservatives. What happened to the "One America" that is a magnificent blend of the best of all traditions?”

Regardless of one's faith or no-faith tradition, there is wisdom in the sacred texts of religion. The New Testament book of James says: "Be quick to listen, slow to speak" (1:19) and "How great a forest is set ablaze by a small fire! And the tongue is a fire." (3:5).

We condemn others for their inability to manage their anger. Yet, many who deplore physical violence in our society seem to have no qualms about engaging in verbal violence. In my lifetime, I have witnessed how verbal violence is often the prelude to physical violence. We who know that must demonstrate the ability to listen and develop the capacity to be careful, thoughtful and respectful in how we speak and write.

Four years ago, I became a grandfather for the first time. Now, as I speak and write, I am disciplined by the possibility that one day my grown granddaughter will hear about something I have said or read something I have written. If I am gone by then, I do not want her to ask her parents, "Why was Papa Cane so mean in what he said and what he wrote?"

As we look forward to Election Day on Nov. 4, we are called to be better than we have been by respecting ourselves, others and this nation we love.

* Caldwell of Asbury Park, N.J., is a retired clergy member of the Rocky Mountain Annual Conference.

News media contact: Linda Green, (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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