Kenneth L. Hardin: What Happened to loyalty and respect?

Published 12:00 am Sunday, April 17, 2022

Loyalty and respect, oh how I miss you. Both are in short supply these days. People treat them like the old school NFL tear away jerseys. If one got ripped off, you ran to the sideline, put another flimsy one on and immediately got back in the game. We need to put loyalty and respect’s pictures on the back of wine bottles and energy drink cans to see if anyone can locate them.

What I’ve found in this city dealing with some elected officials and public servants is they want you to do all the heavy lifting when it comes to loyalty and respect. Instead of ensuring accountability, they dig in their heels in a reactionary defensive posture and feign shock and surprise that you give them the same low energy support they’ve forgotten they were elected or hired not to give you. They quickly forget their duty is to the people and not to the city or their title. What I’ve encountered is varying loyalties, actions motivated by insecurity, and a thirst for acknowledgment for irrelevant uniqueness. The late novelist James Baldwin wrote, “I can’t believe what you say, because I see what you do.” Yeah James, I feel you.

I’m sadly familiar with disrespect and loyalty having endured it for many years during my 30 year post military professional career. Toward the end of my ignominious and shameful tenure at one job, where I was tasked with helping rehabilitate the lives of men who made unfortunate poor decisions that resulted in having their freedom and movements curtailed and monitored, I was confronted with every kind of disrespect from the KKK members masquerading as my co-workers. I was told by one of the many Grand Wizards I worked alongside that I had crossed the blue line in treating the men with dignity and respect.

Paradoxically, because I found humanity in those who were imprisoned and tried to give them dignity, I was deemed disloyal by my co-workers and treated with indignity and disrespect.

I don’t follow anybody’s religion. Nope, don’t believe in it. I find it too divisive and judgmental for my palate. A pastor once told me I spend too much time worrying about what’s going on in this life and should be worrying about getting into heaven. Yeah, okuuur.

It’s interesting to me that Black people were given a religion in slavery and continue to follow it to this day. Why is it we only receive heaven upon death so long as we’re submissive to our oppressors, yet racists can do everything contradictory to the words in their Bible, and still enjoy a heaven like existence now? To me, heaven and hell exist here.

I spoke, by invitation, to the local group of the National Humanists Organization. Their belief is to affirm human worth and dignity, reason, compassion, morality, ethics, democracy, scientific inquiry, naturalism, and critical thinking with no adherence or affirmation of a divine creator or other supernatural force. I disagree. I believe in my God, and she has shown me grace and mercy over the past three years. Regardless, I respected their beliefs and genuinely enjoyed the one-hour discussion followed by a short Q&A. They showed me the utmost courtesy and respect, and I responded likewise. Afterwards, they extended an invitation for me to join their group.

In September 2012, the French magazine, Charlie Hebdo, published a series of satirical cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. One cartoon showed the Prophet as a nude man down on all fours with a star covering his anus. Another showed the Prophet bending over naked and begging to be admired. Why? In January 2015, two Islamic gunmen forced their way into the magazine’s headquarters, opened fire, and killed 12 people including the staff cartoonists. In 2007, Swedish artist, Lars Vilks, sketched the Prophet Muhammad’s head on a dog. He survived several assassination attempts afterwards but later died in a fiery unexplained car crash along with his two police bodyguards. I’m not Muslim, but I have respect for their faith and all others alike. I feel they’re easy targets simply because of their loyalty to Allah and their faith is unwavering. Like Christian extremists, a few radical voices have soiled the image of the peaceful religion, and uninformed and scared folks have painted all Muslims with the same broken brush with no bristles. Why would anyone be so arrogant and overtly provocative to disrespect the faith of another and then feign fear when people stand up for their faith and beliefs?

I miss the days when loyalty and respect stood for something. I don’t drink alcohol, nor have I ever enjoyed five hours of energy either. But, I might have to push both industries to look into this marketing strategy to bring loyalty and respect back from their MIA status.

Kenneth L. (Kenny) Hardin, a former City Council member, is not employed by any newspaper or news media outlet.