I should probably strive to not let this bother me so much…but I’m having a really hard time with the tremendous (and tremendously public) lack of basic human respect these days. Three of the top news stories of the past several days are about low-class/no-class arrogant exhibitions of disrespect. Serena Williams is not a third grader on the playground, she is a seasoned professional who has played a ton of tennis and undoubtedly disagreed with more calls than most of us will ever hear…but her outburst at the US Open was childish, graceless, and appropriately smacked down.

Kanye West somehow decided his own arrogance superseded the right of Taylor Swift (a teenager, I might add!) to enjoy her moment in the sun. Kanye’s idiocy sank to a new, no-class low and his stealing of the moment not only was theft from the rightful winner of the reward, he also stole the evening from Beyonce, who he thought he was championing–as she, in a graceful and sophisticated move, forfeited her own acceptance speech to allow Taylor to have her moment (if this is all sounding like code–google the Video Music Awards to see spoiled brat behavior taken to the extreme).

And where does Representative Joe Wilson get off shouting out during the President’s speech? Did you notice your job title? Representative?! Nobody wants to be represented by that crap. You can disagree with anything you want, but you cannot dismiss civility. He was clearly wanting to get the sniggering approval of his buddies nearby and a few playful punches in the arm as he forgot he wasn’t an eleven year old at a school assembly. His spotless professional judgment continues as he has begun signing autographs on photos of the moment of his outburst. Wow–sure–I trust you to make decisions.

Where is the penalty box in life? These folks need to spend some time there. Who has the dunce cap? These three heads are lined up to wear it and be put in the corner to be jeered at and laughed at. Sadly it’s a long, long line. Surely they didn’t have any foresight to see themselves on the other side of their in-the-moment actions, and how they would come out the other side looking like such spectacular asses.

Luckily, as an antidote to this epidemic of disrespect, there are beautiful, graceful examples of people reaching out in a way that is immensely respectful. The Care Through Touch Institute, led by Mary Ann Finch, provides massage, bodywork, healing, and empowerment for the poorest, often homeless people of San Francisco. Additionally there are life coaching, leadership skills building, meditation, art therapy–all provided in a safe, non-judgmental way in the Tenderloin.

Finch, who spent time working with Mother Teresa, said in a recent interview, “I want them to know that they’re valued, that they’re seen, because this is a population of people that are for the most part, unseen and untouched.” There are also international outreach programs for CTI–as well as plenty of volunteer opportunities…

Support programs and people who see respect as a basic human right, and need, and that not one person among us is undeserving of it. It makes us better, bigger people to reach out. Do you see an arena in your world where someone is being marginalized? How can you fill that hole and be a force for healing—an individual, a community, our society…?


2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Big Daddy Cool on September 14, 2009 at 2:35 PM

    Sorry, but i’m going to have to complicate the Serena example. The game of Tennis has historically been much more tolerant of white male outbursts–often celebrating the antics of Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe. Was her behavior inapropriate? Probably, but the reaction on the court and in the press would have been quite different had she been a white boy…


    • Posted by Andrew on September 14, 2009 at 2:54 PM

      I don’t disagree that part of many tennis spectators’ enjoyment has historically come from “Nasty” Nastase earning his nickname or McEnroe having a hissy fit…but I think the line gets crossed when direct threats are made at a line judge. Does anyone really think she is going to forcibly introduce a Penn tennis ball to the line judge’s throat–probably not–but need we tolerate threats in sport? Isn’t it the same as the overbearing little league parents threatening to kill the ump? There’s a distinct difference–to my mind, at least, between McEnroe falling to his knees and screaming “You’re blind” and Serena wagging a racket in the face of an individual and growling “If I could, I would take this **** ball and shove it down your **** throat and kill you,” then stalking toward her–the woman RAN from her. That’s got nothing to do with race and everything to do with class and appropriateness in PLAY (it’s a game people).


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