Editorial: Booing soldier’s question at debate showed no class

Sometimes it appears that America is losing its capacity for respect. Among our own citizens, the lack of it is, at times, simply appalling.

We saw this last week when a gay solider was booed on national television. During a GOP debate on FOX News, the station aired a video clip of soldier Stephen Hill asking, “Under one of your presidencies, do you intend to circumvent the progress that’s been made for gay and lesbian soldiers in the military?”

As soon as the clip ended, some members of the audience bellowed forth their boos of disapproval.

While they have the right to disapprove of homosexuality, just as anyone can disapprove of heterosexuality, there is a line between expressing an opinion and being downright disrespectful.

And our military deserves our respect – the sacrifice those men and women make for us each day should automatically command it.

We may or may not approve of how or where our country deploys its troops, but their desire to serve civilians is admirable.

In our society there are divisions on every issue, so it is to be expected that America as a whole might never condone homosexuality. However, America has always been a melting pot – not only as far as race and ethnicity are concerned, but as far as religion and beliefs and sexuality is concerned as well. This means that there is an inherent need for acceptance within our society.

As a country, we clearly have not yet come to a point where we offer that acceptance to homosexuals as well as to heterosexuals.

But as more men and women allow themselves to be open about their preferences – or as they are allowed by their employers to be open, a scenario we have recently witnessed in the military – it is becoming that much more important that we afford our fellow Americans that acceptance.

Whether in GOP debates or in forums on college campuses, we are facing a growing need to create an environment in which we try to understand one another, an environment in which it is OK to have discussions and ask questions. And the first step in getting there is showing one another a little civility and respect.

We seem to forget that respect is in its own category; it indicates neither support nor opposition to a person when we show them respect. But it is essential in either case.

Rick Santorum, to whom the question was posed at the debate, could have taken a moment to stand up for Hill out of respect for him if nothing else.

This would not have meant he was advocating homosexuality, or that he was in support of the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” It would have simply shown that he had more character than those members of the audience who couldn’t hold in their boos.

Of course each of us has the right to voice his or her own views on any topic chosen topic, but there are tactful and respectful ways to express those opinions, and booing someone on national television simply isn’t included in that list.