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Monday, Sep. 15, 2014

A little R-E-S-P-E-C-T goes a long way

Friday, October 14, 2011

The flag commands it. Aretha Franklin sang about it. And Rodney Dangerfield sure didn't get much of it.

Yes, we're talking about respect. R-E-S-P-E-C-T ... find out what it means to me.

Respect should be both earned and appreciated. Though lately I worry that some of the things we love and honor aren't getting their due. After all, respect is one of the fundamental moral values we share as a society.

My wife made a great point the other day as we watched the start of a sporting event (a televised Colts game, I think). In the background you could clearly hear the public address announcer say, "Ladies and gentlemen, please stand and remove your hats for the playing of our National Anthem."

"Remove your hats?" Ruth asked. "You shouldn't have to be told that you need to remove your hat."

Very true, but sadly some people still need to be beaten over the head -- with the verbal suggestion, that is -- although using the hat might make a more lasting impression.

We shouldn't have to be told to rise as the flag passes in a parade, but look around you next summer when the 4-H color guard passes down Washington Street. Many will stand, but some are too lazy to leave their lawnchairs.

We shouldn't have to be told not to talk in church or in class or anywhere else where respect has been historically demanded by society.

Yet every day you see and hear people talking aloud or yakking on their cell phone in places they shouldn't be talking at all.

Maybe such things shouldn't bother me. But I grew up on a quiet suburban Chicago street around the corner from the local funeral home. Every time there was a funeral, cars would circle the block to get into proper formation and pass right by our house.

That meant every time we were playing football in the street we stopped and stood quietly along the curb. That meant we quit pitching every time we were interrupted playing Whiffleball in the driveway (by the way, in the street on the fly was a double, off the curb a triple and over the street a home run). And even though our basketball hoop was on the garage in back, we still stopped and held the ball, waiting for the procession to pass.

Maybe that respect was instilled in us back then by our teachers. Or by a grandfather who joined the Marines at 16 to fight in World War I and spent half a lifetime as commander of the local VFW post. Or maybe it was just absorbed by mom's way of shaming us for not conforming with alacrity to such socially accepted decorum.

Regardless, it has stuck with me for half a century or more.

Earlier this week I was heading up Shadowlawn, nearing the four-way stop by the city garage when I spied a funeral procession coming from the opposite direction. I pulled to the curb and stopped, as did the older fellow in the pickup truck behind me as the procession approached from the east with headlights on.

Suddenly there was a roar from behind me, and an older dark red pickup whipped around us, rudely rolled through the stopsign and continued on east, completely oblivious to what was going on or the etiquette involved.

I sat there, flashers pulsing, frustrated by what I had just witnessed.

But it's not the first time I've been alarmed by such disrespect.

A few years back we were in a funeral procession headed to Crawfordsville. Traveling up U.S. 231, I was pleasantly surprised at how many people pulled off the road as we drove past. People walking down the sidewalk even stopped and stood motionless out of respect.

One fellow even quit mowing, got off his lawn tractor, took his cap off and stood silently as we passed. I felt good. I felt proud. I felt respected.

Then, from a side street somewhere near the Crawfordsville Ace Hardware, a carload of young people whipped out in front of us, smack into the midst of the funeral procession.

I wanted to lay on my horn. But couldn't.

I wanted to accelerate and pull my car within an inch of their bumper. But didn't.

I wanted to shake my fist and present them with one socially unacceptable finger. But dared not.

Why? Because I have too much respect for the woman we were burying. Too much respect for you. Too much respect for society.

And besides that, my mother would have killed me if she ever found out.