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John McFerrin: Love may be too much, but what about respect? (Opinion)

A big cheer for Marianne Williamson!

Who? You know, Marianne Williamson, the candidate for president, the woman over on the end in the debate. The one who qualified for the debates so they had to let her come. The one the moderators didn’t take seriously so they let her talk for five minutes. After the debate if they mentioned her at all they wrote her off as a flake.

So why does she merit a cheer? She deserves a cheer because she actually added something to the debate. Unlike Bernie Sanders, who used the 11 minutes the moderators allowed him to bellow the same things he has been saying for the past four years, she actually said something that added to the discussion.

She recognized, and said right out loud, that what we need is love.

Of course, the reference to “love” reinforced the stereotype of her as a hippie-dippy, new-age flake, the kind of candidate that serious people, wise commentators and talking heads should ignore.

The truth is that she is onto something. I don’t know if I would go so far to say we have to love one another. Love means believing that the well-being of someone else is just as important to you as your own well-being. It’s a bit of a stretch to ask that people in Texas, for example, actually love people in New York that they have never even met. If we could tone it down to respect, however, she is right on the money.

We live in a republic that operates as a democracy. The idea of a democracy is that everybody matters. Even if some policy benefits some people more than others, everybody still matters. Those who are not favored are still human beings with an inherent right to dignity and respect. If this policy does not favor them, another one should. They should be listened to and their ideas respected.

The senator and demagogue Huey Long’s slogan was “Every Man a King.” This was in the old days, before it had sunk in that women should be taken seriously, but he was still onto something. Every person deserves to be respected, his or her concerns taken seriously. That’s how a democracy works.

With President Trump, we have lost this. He divides the world into three categories: A) people who support him; B) losers; and C) total losers. He does not show any respect for anyone who does not support him. He sees himself as the president of only those who agree with him. Anybody else is either a fair target for ridicule or someone to be ignored.

This is the problem that is inherent in his Make America Great Again slogan. While he never says when he thinks America was great the first time, I assume that he refers to some time such as the 1950s or 1960s when the United States economy was stronger and people were happier, at least viewed through the hazy lens of nostalgia.

The problem with this is that things were not great for everybody. Women and the contributions they made to society were routinely devalued. For black people there was discrimination, lynching and Jim Crow. Being gay was no picnic either. Every system works for somebody. If a system is not working for everybody, however, it is not great. The time was only great if we ignore the interests of huge groups of people. To think of this bygone time as great, we have to pretend that these people don’t matter.

President Trump’s cheerleaders add to this lack of consideration and respect for anyone who is not a fervent supporter. One radio commentator has written a book called “Liberalism Is a Mental Disorder.” Others routinely refer to Trump Derangement Syndrome, a mental and emotional deficiency that arises from opposition to President Trump. Internet trolls have given us “libtard.”

This is not helpful. People who disagree with you are not stupid or mentally ill. They have different educations, upbringings and life experiences. They see the world differently. You can reject their ideas but as human beings they deserve respect.

Hillary Clinton contributed to this problem with her comment about President Trump’s “basket of deplorables.” Given his views, it is safe to assume that President Trump has supporters who hold opinions that are racist, bigoted, sexist and homophobic. These opinions are truly deplorable. I would hope that those who hold them would reconsider them and abandon them.

The people who hold them, however, are not deplorable. They are human beings who have the right to be treated with respect. Even if some of their views are repulsive and should be rejected, the people are still a part of our democracy. They deserve our respect.

This is what Marianne Williamson understands, even if nobody else on the debate stage or among the talking heads does. We may need all of Elizabeth Warren’s plans, all of Kamala Harris’ vigor, all of Joe Biden’s experience, all of Andrew Yang’s creative ideas. What we need first, however, is Marianne Williamson’s love. She calls it love; I would settle for respect but either way we cannot move forward without it.

John McFerrin, a Beckley lawyer, is a

contributing Gazette-Mail columnist.

Funerals For Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Balser, Katheryn - Noon, Gatens-Harding Funeral Home, Poca.

Craig, Lorene - 11 a.m., Levi First Missionary Baptist Church, Rand.

Dr. Crane, Vivian Frances - 1 p.m. Rainelle United Methodist Church, Rainelle.

Hall, Jesse - 2 p.m., Perrow Presbyterian Church, Cross Lanes.

Harrah, Sylvia - 5 p.m., Good Shepherd Mortuary, South Charleston.

Krepps, Edna - Noon, Allen Funeral Home, Hurricane.

Musick, Joann - Noon, O’Dell Funeral Home, Montgomery.

Popp, Elizabeth - 11 a.m., St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church, St. Albans.

Rogers, Pansy - 1 p.m., Wilson-Smith Funeral Home, Clay.

Sanders, Matthew - 2 p.m., Waters Funeral Chapel, Summersville.

Willet, Linda Lou - 2 p.m., Willet Family Cemetery, Gallipolis Ferry.