Honor Thy Father 2

Nowadays, unfortunately, respect is becoming a relative term. In America, a conversation topic that can start a fight or a spur a rally is the respect we do or do not give certain groups of people: discrimination, hate crimes, sexism. As observers we can openly condemn these acts of disrespect; they are degrading other humans, spurning societal norms, and disrespecting personal liberties. In essence, society chafes at the idea of disrespecting someone, defending their point of view with the idea that disrespecting someone strips them of some form of personal liberty.

But how about when that someone is a parent?

Speaking for my generation, we LOVE the idea of independence. We want to be free of responsibility and be rid of restriction. On the whole, we are trying the change the world around us to be a more accepting, progressing world. But when it comes to submission to our parents, we spit venom. When did growing up start to mean veering away from your parents? America loves the runaway, the romantic. But the honorable learner and humble son receives no praise.

At the heart of the issue lies a simple truth: Americans love the underdog who overcomes adversity. People in America love the rise from the ashes, not the gleam of tested steel. In The Pursuit of Happyness, a hymn is sung to the the protagonist who has fallen on hard times and is wallowing in rotten luck. While not saying much else, the repetition in the chorus send a clear message truly embodying the American spirit:

Lord don’t move that mountain.
Please don’t move that mountain.
Lord please don’t move that mountain.
Help me to overcome.

A star contrast with the United States, Central Asia culture dictates that respecting ones parents ranks among the most important things in life. In most villages and towns on the east side of Turkey and all throughout Kazakstan, Uzbekistan, and countries of that sort, the youngest child is always left with the duty of taking care of his parents’ and their property. This means no adventure, little freedom, and no breaking off from the parents. Still, they accept it, because if what must be done contradicts what they want to do, they know what to choose.

I’m not saying that America should model its morality or functionality on those central Asian countries, but we could learn a thing or two about learning to respect the parents who raised us. In any case, we will understand their pain when our generation starts to have children of their own, but for now all we have to fall back on are the thousands of years of harmonious households that have kept society civilized. I will not condemn the spirit that supports the weak and the unlikely, but in our haste to praise such feats of heroic victory, we do not reward the steadfastness of a hard fought, uncompromised moral conviction.

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4 comments

  1. I find your topic to be bold and essential. What is intriguing to me as that you have the luxury of bearing witness to the way multiple communities understand respect. Your persuasion is really strongest for me in your humble suggestion that we “learn a thing or two” from other countries. There are great things about rooting for the underdog, but it comes with risks.

    1. To be completely honest, it’s hard to write a persuasive speech that persuades without directly offending the audience by pointing out the problem. What kind of risks are you talking about in cheering for the unlikely?

  2. It’s true, persuasion sticks its nose where the audience may think it doesn’t belong. I guess the trick is getting the offensive message out in such a way that doesn’t offend immediately (maybe?).
    I was thinking about the risk of demonizing the “overdog,” or overlooking the “likely.” In the process of cheering for the unique individuality of the underdog, we may sacrifice some things like tradition and respect for elders. In a meritocracy, there is nowhere to go but down– people get old and become less capable. In a culture of tradition and honor, my parents don’t have to EARN my respect, but rather I owe it to them no matter what. At least that was the connection I was making while reading your text.

    1. True, and I guess my primary idea in the post is to contrast “earned” respect and “owed” respect. In that sense, perspective plays a big role in who we do or do not respect; an alcoholic bum of a banker may be the heroic father “in shining armor”, like in Saving Mr. Banks. In my opening sentence, I lament the fact that respect has become a relative term, and rightly so, because today, respect has to be deserved to individuals. Hence, meritocracy?

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