It's a word that gets thrown around a lot. I'm not sure the meaning is fully comprehended. It's a concept I've tried very hard to understand over the past 10 years, and I'm certain I will spend the rest of my life trying to grasp it fully and to teach what I know to my children.
Given all that I am, I want to be known for the cornerstones from which I've tried to build my life. I consider it important that I am thought of as trustworthy, as truthful, as fair (whatever THAT may mean) and as respectful. Respectful was the last cornerstone I put in place, it should have come much, much sooner in my life.
I think a lot about respect and what it truly means. I try to judge how I treat others against some impossible, internal standard of respect. It is a term I honestly think about on a daily basis and comprises a large part of my moral compass.
It pains me to see the word respect thrown around.
Respect is an economy, but it's a strange economy. You cannot collect respect, you can only pay respect to others. You can build respect, you can grow respect, you can use respect and thereby destroy respect. You can earn respect, but you cannot demand respect - not if you want true respect.
Today, my concept of respect was both horribly maligned and brilliantly upheld.
The first I want to spend as little time as possible discussing. This morning, Barb Higgins most certainly was in a hostile interview. Hostile does not necessarily mean disrespectful - although I feel that in this case it actually was both. Ms. Higgins must be able to cope with both blunt and pointed questions and must be able to ask them on her own accord. She needs to master both the grace to answer an unreasonable question and the ability to show indignity without becoming defensive or aggressive. Contemptible questions are not worthy of a response and responding in such a way would be fine in my view.
Instead her response was polarizing and divisive. Many people supportive of Ms. Higgins only saw the interview as unacceptable. Those unfavourable to Ms. Higgins picked up on the off-camera "melt down." I would like to think that I was not a supporter of Ms. Higgins, but considered her a viable choice for mayor.
If she perceived contempt in the crowd, I have no issue if she ignores it all and walks out. Taking out her anger was inappropriate, undignified and as un-mayoral as I can imagine.
You cannot demand that politics be respectful. Respect must be earned - in part by answering the tough questions and doing so in an appropriate manner. I am saddened that I have lost a great deal of respect towards Ms. Higgins today. At this moment, I no longer feel she is an appropriate choice for mayor.
Let me jump to the good parts, because I feel there are a whole lot more people who have built my respect. This is not an endorsement of any of the people listed below - some of which you can not vote for. These are people for whom my opinion has been enhanced to a significantly higher level and some of the reasons why. These are but the smallest fraction of what is good about people in Calgary.
I had no idea Wayne Stewart was going to endorse Naheed Nenshi today. It changes nothing in my mind. I am completely forthright to say I feel that Mr. Stewart exemplifies what I value most from my personal cornerstones. The offer is sincere, Mr. Stewart, I wish to rally to your banner and support you in whatever projects you take on. On a complete tangent, one of the people I highly respect in Calgary worked with Mr. Stewart's campaign. I would have reconsidered my support on that knowledge alone.
I have said before that I have grown to appreciate Paul Hughes, both as a candidate and as a person. He is more than welcome to challenge me on my thinking and faulty reasoning. He has built my trust and I willingly look to his opinion when I am lacking insight.
For a guy I kept trying to write off, I was impressed after speaking with Craig Burrows. He earned my respect by speaking with me, by listening with what I said, by disagreeing with some issues I mentioned which were truly out of focus, and by speaking to the heart of how to work with a fractured council. We do not agree entirely, but by amiably disagreeing with each other I feel I can respect and work with him because I haven't been written off as wrong.
Gary Johnson certainly earned my respect by being approachable and interested and representing an entirely different face of what a mayoral candidate could be. It is that approachability that leads me to believe he could, in fact, be a great mayor who could reach average Calgarians.
For his tireless efforts to reply and engage on twitter, Jon Lord earned a lot of respect from me. Again, he's willing to argue a position without making me feel written off. And Jon will come at you with hard data, so I better be ready if I expect to hold my own. I'm a nobody out here with a nobody opinion, but Mr. Lord thinks I'm worth engaging. That builds respect with me. I'm still going to crack a #jonlord1st joke any chance I get, but I certainly hope none of them come off as disrespectful.
Nargis Dossa earned both my respect and my vote by being responsive and willing to grow and learn while campaigning. Again, we don't completely agree. Agree and respect are completely different issues.
There are candidates outside my ward who have genuinely earned my respect. Agree or disagree, it's not that you'll get my vote, it's more that they have helped shape my thoughts and opinion. The standout example is Trina Hurdman for helping me choose my trustee candidate.
Each and every person I met on Team Nenshi were awesome people. Every last one, not a single exception. How awesome is that? Every candidate deserves an amazing team like that. I hope they have them.
My mind flits to twitter and some exceptional people I've met through #yycvote. Sure, there are trolls unworthy of mention, but there are people with well considered opinions different from my own. I value them all, particularly as it gives me opportunity to hone my own thoughts. I'm wrong about half the time, it is wonderful to match wits and forge ideas against people with genuine big brains and actual informed opinion.
Lots of respect to the people of CalgaryPolitics.com who informed me of what was happening, what was upcoming, and helped keep me aware of who was out there. Massive respect to the media guys I've followed. They've helped me immeasurably along the way.
I simply cannot talk about earned respect without specific mention to DJ Kelly. You're the one that challenged me to be more involved that just mere voting. I feel that I've accomplished some good and I thank you for the push.
And of course I wish to end by talking about Naheed Nenshi. Mr. Nenshi earned my trust long ago from his coverage of city hall. He grew that respect by having clear policy and listing a plan to achieve his goals. He has gained my respect by differentiating between asking tough questions and respecting the individual candidate. He has never twisted or maligned another candidate's position, but has most certainly asked clarifying questions.
Virtually the only conversation we have had since the campaign started was very brief after the Vibrant Calgary forum. He spoke of some of his ideas that might not be popular but are probably the right answers for Calgary. He turned to me and asked something to the effect of, "So, do you regret coming on board now?"
Nope, not in the least. I hope Naheed is reading this a few days after the election when he has had time to breathe and think to himself, "I'm glad Mark was on board to help."
I may not be the world's smartest guy, but I think. I may not be the world's most observant guy, but I have my eyes open. I may not be the world's most tactful guy, but occasionally I put forward a half-hearted effort. I may not be the world's funniest guy, but I better drop that thought right away. And I may not have the definitive answer on what constitutes respect, but I know I think a whole lot more of a whole bunch of people than I did before the start of this election, and I'm damned proud of them all.
That is respect in politics. Even rough and tumble politics where we attack each other's positions pretty hard, but retain respect for the individuals.
Probably won't be saying much here until after the election. Best of luck to all the candidates still in the race.