Okay, as a fairly typical (if ex-) Nebraskan I have a passionate obsession with public buildings. Still, I suspect you don’t need to be me to find this story disturbing.
I’m also a teacher at a school which is somewhat old fashioned in its attitude toward private property (its roots are in a rural, farming area; it is supported in part by county real estate taxes as well as state grants). Each semester I stand in front of my students and read a committee-written statement that requires the close reading they will need to do in an English course. I point that out. But I’ve come to respect the committee that wrote it because they clearly understood how important and widely affecting respect is.
Members of the ____ College community, which includes faculty, staff and students, are expected to act honestly and responsibly in all aspects of campus life. _____ College holds all members accountable for their actions and words. Therefore, all members should commit themselves to behave in a manner that recognizes personal respect and demonstrates concern for the personal dignity, rights, and freedoms of every member of the College community, including respect for College property and the physical and intellectual property of others.
Sure stealing the projectors from our rooms, copying your answers from the guy next to you, insulting your teachers or ad hominem arguments in student discussions, writing graffiti in the restrooms or spitting your gum out on the steps – these expressions of disrespect for others are so different we seem to be crossing a lot of ground here. But, in the end, they all demonstrate a lack of appropriate deference, a lack of respect. They make not only for a less civil campus but one concerned with trivia.
So, I’m reminded of a blog entry to which Instapundit linked yesterday. It argues not for bipartisanship, but for respect:
The solution to such hostility and divisiveness is not an empty call for bipartisanship. The solution is a call for a cup of respect and perhaps a lump of deference or humility.
Personally, I’ve never had much trouble with seeing flag burning as an example of free speech, though it always seemed pretty stupid, myopic, indeed, disrespectful. The flags people burned were, I figured, theirs. The capitol is not. The building belongs to all of us – and I can’t imagine anyone arguing that because it belongs to the collective us, it is free to be defaced by any one of us. Respect for institutions, for buildings, for others – our committee was right, they are all a part of one whole. And, in a democracy, this is another respect as well, self-respect.
(What respect feels like.)