by Shannon Williams

I always say that there’s a basic level of respect that everyone deserves.

This doesn’t mean that we have to be overly friendly or fake to someone, but it does mean that the most simplistic form of courtesy should be extended to an individual.

President Barack Obama has not received the basic level of respect he deserves from some Americans, nor have members of Congress. It seems that the individuals who publicly berate our president and other elected officials are members of the “Tea Party” movement.

Take conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh’s comments for instance. After the health care reform bill passed, Limbaugh said, “They (Democrats) won because they held Congress and the presidency, and therein lies the lesson: We need to defeat these bastards. We need to wipe them out.”

Wipe them out?

While some people may dismiss Limbaugh’s heinous comments as him simply ranting off or voicing his opinion, I disagree, As a matter of fact, I think his comments were meant to be a call to action. The scary thing is that any mentally unstable person, or even someone who is angry at the government, might take his comments literally.

That’s a major problem.

Any time someone threatens the president or any other elected official in such a blatant manner, authorities need to intervene and the proper actions should be taken. Why hasn’t this been done? Has our society become so accustomed to insulting comments and threats on people’s lives that we’re now desensitized?

Apparently so.

Let’s not forget what happened a couple of weeks ago during a Tea Party rally. Congressional members Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., and Rep. Andre Carson, D-Ind., were repeatedly called the “N-word” from rally participants. I’m sure that Lewis, who marched with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and is considered a civil rights icon in his own right, was reminded of the stewing hatred that people still possess.

Lewis and Carson weren’t the only members of Congress who were disrespected March 30, so, too, were Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo., and Barney Frank, D-Mass.

Cleaver was spat on and Frank, one of three openly gay members of Congress, was showered with homophobic slurs.

This all happened on the steps of the United States Capitol.

Where was their basic level of respect?

As a journalist, I strongly believe in one’s right to freedom of speech, but I also believe that anything can be said, any point made—in a respectable manner.

I respect one’s opinion, and I think disagreements can foster great conversations among opposing views. As a matter of fact, various opinions and viewpoints are healthy because they force us to examine things from a broader perspective, but when conversing about a difference of opinion, things should always be done in the appropriate fashion. Nothing gets resolved when one person or party is always put on the defensive.

So, Tea Party loyalists, continue to stand up for what you believe in, keep the intense passion you have for your causes, and be steadfast in your pursuit to effectively educate your audience; but don’t berate the man who holds the highest office in this nation or the congressional members who the public elected into office. Doing so promotes a level of ignorance and intolerance that I’m sure you’d rather not align yourselves with. Or would you because it distracts from your agenda, or the lack thereof?

So, Tea Party loyalists do whatever you want to advocate your platforms, I really don’t care. What I do care about, however, is that you extend my president, this country’s president and members of Congress with the basic level of respect they deserve. I’m sure you’ve heard the old adage: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

(Reprinted from the Indianapolis Recorder.)

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