Hooray for another political post!
When I tell people that I think Trump is an evil man, that I think he is an unintelligent boor who brags about sexual assault, that his election has been irrevocably tainted by the specter of Russian involvement, that his cabinet picks are a mixture between a horror show and pure comedy, that I cannot bring myself to view him with any level of respect, I frequently get this answer: “I respect the office. I respect the peaceful transition of power.”
No, I don’t think so.
Fundamentally, I don’t believe the title of President deserves any inherent personal respect. I’m not a member of the military, nor part of the Executive Branch. I don’t report to him in any way. I’m a citizen — the President reports to me. At least, that’s the American ideal. Titles, peerage, offices that demand inherent obeisance — these are vestiges of the old world, things long since abandoned. The President does not deserve any more deference, any more respect than any other citizen. That does not mean that it’s suddenly polite to heckle, to demean, to question the President’s country of origin, or engage in any of the other rude behaviors that President Obama has suffered during his eight years. Good citizenship and good government (my Canadian heritage) requires that when we engage in political discussion that we be frank, forthright and ultimately productive.
It’s particularly strange to hear “respect the office” from other Mormons, because we have grand traditions of disregarding titles (particularly with respect to the Presidency). Today, it’s not uncommon to refer to the 12th Article of Faith as some sort of bludgeon that demands compliance with our leaders regardless of their party or platform, but this is not its historical context, nor is it our history. Brigham Young set up an extraterritorial kingdom and openly defied the will of the U.S. government. Helmuth Hübener gave his life fighting against his Nazi government (and the will of his branch president). Captain Moroni, in Alma 60, threatens a coup d’etat against Pahoran. Mormons, I would argue, have a particular history in specifically not giving inherent respect to the office. We give enormous deference to our church leaders because we sustain them and feel the Spirit in their words, but there is nothing inherent to the office of Bishop, Stake President, Seventy, or Apostle. It is the power of God and the goodness of the person that we respect.
And so, no thanks. Trump is not worthy of our respect in any way. I don’t support him and won’t support him. A transition of power to someone like him is cause for mourning, because it appears that the electors of this nation have chosen evil over good. I support those exercising their rights to demonstrate against Trump. I view all those performing for Trump as having tainted themselves and their reputations. In the case of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and the Piano Guys, the pain is particularly acute. Mormonism is small. Our reputations are linked in the eyes of the public. Now, Mormons have vocally and disproportionately identified their brand with Donald Trump. But I won’t normalize him or respect him until he demonstrates himself as worthy of respect. I don’t respect offices. And neither should you.