Look, I’m all for good manners.
Last week I met this lady who reckoned Jesus cured her sore kneecaps. That was just after my chat with a guy who said people have got a lot less healthy recently…after all, in Biblical times they used to live till 700? Oh yes, I said. Well, you never know.
I DO know. I just didn’t say so. The truth is, the world is full of people who believe things that would strain the credulity of Tweedledum. I’m happy to smile and nod, Mr I’ll Swallow Anything if God Wrote It, but I’m sorry, I don’t have the slightest respect for the proposition you just advanced. What, you think I just hand out respect willy nilly, like cream puffs at a garden party?
Well, I don’t. Although you can have a few white lies if it makes you feel better.
Some people think white people are better than black people, and others think yellow people are the best. Some revere The Flag and others won’t eat fish on Fridays. Personally, I’d like The Flag better if it was bright pink with daisies on it, I’m a Green Supremacist, and I don’t like fish at all.
But these are all just opinions. Why should anyone have any particular respect for opinions, whether someone cherishes them or not? We only make progress when opinions are challenged, tested, even laughed at. In the world of opinions, bullies are essential: an opinion that can’t stand up for itself shouldn’t be out in the playground.
Manners, that’s different. A polite person may think you’re a crackpot, but they save the outright cackles till they’re in the car driving home with their significant other. They don’t sit there bellowing “You’re wrong, dammit!” and bulldozing your beliefs into a quivering mess. That’s just boorish.
Here’s what I’ll do. I will listen with an open mind. I will give your views the consideration they deserve. And if I think they don’t deserve much, I will say so. Politely.
Because that is real respect.