My friend Jon and I were walking across the University of Tennessee campus when he stopped dead in his tracks. He pointed a finger towards the money wall, a row of ATM machines outside the university center. There was the vice president of the United States walking with guards towards a black sedan.
“Let’s go shake his hand,” Jon said eagerly, and took off toward him.
I hesitated. If one of those pollsters had called me, they probably wouldn’t have gotten a good report on the president. I mean how many scandals can one man be involved in? And the vice president hadn’t exactly been distancing himself from any of it, either.
So, I didn’t move. To be clear, I wasn’t close enough to reach out from where I stood and shake his hand. This wasn’t like a little kid soccer game where everyone lines up.
Don’t shake hands
I would have to walk a bit to meet him. So, I made my stand, as much as it was, to not shake hands, while my friend experienced a possibly once in a lifetime event.
I’ve reflected several times on this choice with recent events. We can vote, call or write, and protest, if need be, to affect the laws of the land. At what point should we deny respect to office holders that represent us? It’s very clear that civility has left the conversation of most television news pundits on both sides. Whether it is for ratings or not, every day one of them seems to say something more extreme, or tactless, womp womp, than before.
If it is okay to harass a person you philosophically disagree with until you force them out of a restaurant, then what isn’t okay? Where did the line move to that we should not cross? At what point do we make the distinction of making a stand or becoming a bully?
My friend Jon will now have always shook the vice president’s hand; the second in command of the free world. The Veep didn’t care about Jon’s political affiliation. He only brought the mutual respect that an office holder should have when meeting a constituent. This is Jon’s story, and not mine.
Here is my olive branch to civility. Here is my apology. To the former Veep, Al Gore, I’m sorry I snubbed you, and didn’t make the effort when you were ready to reciprocate.