Photo Credit: ABC News
It’s a popular theory of each successive older generation that the previous one was somehow more civil, more kind. But now it seems there’s hard evidence to suggest the erosion of respect for authority these days—and it’s not just your kid texting during dinner or making demands of the teacher. It’s grownups, who ought to know better, showing blatant disrespect for the President of the United States.
While Barack Obama was making his immigration speech on Friday, a member of the conservative news media repeatedly interrupted the president, who civilly but sharply rebuked the behavior. “Excuse me, sir. It’s not time for questions, sir. Not while I’m speaking… And the next time, I prefer you let me finish my statements before you ask that question,” he said with restrained anger.
And earlier this year, Republican Governor Jan Brewer of Arizona pointed her finger in the president’s face on the tarmac just after Air Force One touched down in Phoenix. Brewer said the tense exchange was over her characterization in her new book of a White House meeting on immigration between the two.
Are these overt gestures of disrespect for the highest office in the land just part of a general cultural erosion away from civility? Is it that the immigration topic is such a fraught one? Are we more divisively partisan than ever before? Or, as some suggest, is something even more sinister at play?
Bill Maher, the controversial host of HBO’s Real Time With Bill Maher, chalks it up to racism. “I think this is unprecedented. I don’t know of any other instance where someone has been this disrespectful of the president,” he said on his show following the Brewer incident. He continued, “I think when you’re the president, you get a little extra respect. I do. That’s why we call him ‘Mister President.’”
Whatever the reasons for the behavior toward the president—no matter who holds the office—it has to stop. It’s a national embarrassment. And how can we expect our kids to put down their phones during dinner if these are the examples the grownups set?
Alesandra Dubin is a Los Angeles-based writer. Follow her on Twitter: @alicedubin.