Williams: Politics, Geneseo are both rife with disrespect

The game was health care; President Barack Obama played the referee and the issue of insurance for illegal immigrants was the hotly contested play.

Sorry, Congressman Joe Wilson, but the NFL didn't kick off until Sunday. Gruff exclamations barely have a place in the football stadium, and are totally unacceptable during a presidential address in the national political arena.

Unfortunately, Wilson's highly publicized outburst is paralleled by countless acts of disrespect that occur on a smaller scale, but are of similar severity, here at Geneseo.

Last Wednesday night, Obama addressed Congress and the nation as a whole about health care reform. Normally, the president only speaks to the entire Congress during the State of the Union address, so saying this was a "kind of a big deal" is an understatement.

When Obama claimed that illegal aliens would not benefit from his public health insurance plan, Joe Wilson, a Republican from South Carolina, felt the need to call Obama's supposed bluff.

Wilson screamed, "You lie!" from his seat so that not only the president, but also everyone in the room and the millions watching could hear his dissenting opinion.

Obama talked through the disruption, but it is fairly clear from video footage of the incident that California Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi almost died from shock in the background.

Whether you consider yourself a Democrat or Republican, "ProbamaCare" or "NobamaCare," illegal immigrant or Texas Ranger, Wilson's actions were disrespectful and embarrassing. Of course, this intense drama in American politics is nothing new. The epic cane battle in the Senate right before the Civil War between Charles Sumner and Preston Brooks takes the cake for legislative volatility.

The massive scale on which this incident was viewed and analyzed, however, gives this incident some gravity.

If the average person examines their environment and the individuals residing within it, they may well realize that this particular event is a depressingly accurate example of everyday life. The vast majority of students here at Geneseo are respectful and responsible people, just like almost all of the members of Congress were respectful of Obama's speech, even if they did not agree with his message.

There is always one person, however, who ruins it for everyone with a disgustingly blatant display of disrespect. Wilson was obviously that one special person in Congress.

Here, those people are the individuals who come back to their residence hall after a night of partying and vomit all over the hallway, leaving their irresponsibility for maintenance and their unfortunate neighbors to deal with.

Or, it might be the person who felt the need to draw swastikas, write sexually degrading terms and graffiti phalluses all over their dorm building and on the doors of their peers.

It might even be that one student who loudly packs up all of their books five minutes before lecture ends, depriving everyone around them of the five last, and possibly important, minutes of instruction.

Some of these issues stem from immaturity, some of them stem from a much darker place of racism, sexism, intolerance and hate, and some of them are just a display of rudeness. Sometimes disrespect in our society plays out on a national scale, while other times it strikes a college campus or single residence hall.

No matter the severity, scale or source, disrespect is embarrassing for everyone involved. Nancy Pfotenhauer, the Republican strategist for CNN and a former advisor to Sen. John McCain, clearly admitted to Larry King that Wilson was an embarrassment to the Republican Party. He disrespected the president and embarrassed Congress as a formal institution by treating the health care speech like a crude sporting event.

When students choose to be disrespectful here they embarrass and hurt themselves, their friends, their class and the university as a whole. It is in everyone's best interest at Geneseo to build a strong, positive reputation for our school.

Be the one person out of the majority that goes out of their way to be courteous, never the lone individual who ruins a good experience for everyone.