street smarts - NEW LEAD

I was reading a Facebook post the other day about having respect for elders. One commenter said respect for elders was stupid. Another said it was an inane concept.

Someone else said Donald Trump and David Duke were someone’s elders. Does a divisive show-biz politician and former KKK Grand Wizard deserve elder respect?

Respect your elders was one of the 10 commandments in my household as a kid. It was right there along with saying “yes ma’am” and “no sir” and “thank you,” to not speaking when grown-ups were talking, to cleaning your plate and hitting your knees at night in prayer.

The commandments weren’t carved in stone but ingrained in a leather belt that reached the areas the Bible couldn’t reach. A learning by the seat of your pants, so to speak.

We gave up our seats to the elders and stood even when they entered the room. They were Miss and Mister and we were to never, ever call them by their first names.

We were even required to give those elders who were drunks or people down on their luck our respect.

There used to be a lady who drank too much and always tried to kiss all the kids on the cheek. We would see her coming and try to hide. But the grown-ups thought it would be impolite to not let her kiss us on the cheek. She was an elder, and it would be disrespectful.

I never knew what age I would become an elder or at least when someone should start calling me mister. At 21 years old, I still felt like a kid and guys in their 50s were mister. Guys in their 30s were my elders, but I felt no need to respect them as such.

Elders were easier to identify back then. Old men and women dressed old and acted old. The men wore hats, suspenders and walked with canes. The women wore print dresses, thick hose and sensible black shoes.

Today, I see 70-year-old women trying to wear yoga pants and geriatric men wearing Timberlands and other teen swag outfits.

They’re not interested in elder respect. They just want to fit in.

Respect for elders is one of the cornerstones of many cultures.

In Native America families and tribal communities, the elders are respected for their wisdom and life experiences. They are expected to pass their learning and wisdom on to the younger generations.

In Korean culture, younger family members have a duty to care for the elderly. They are also to show respect to older individuals outside the family. Respect for elders is the highest virtue.

A Huffington Post article quoted the Chinese philosopher Confucius on the matter of elder respect.

“Few of those who are filial sons and respectful brothers will show disrespect to superiors, and there has never been a man who is respectful to superiors and yet creates disorder. A superior man is devoted to the fundamental. When the root is firmly established, the moral law will grow. Filial piety and brotherly respect are the root of humanity.”

That’s not saying we respect the actions of the elderly when it teaches hate or some sort of criminality. But respect the wisdom of the ages.

We all want our children to listen to our guidance based on the wisdom of our experience. To say not to respect elders is saying you don’t have to respect us as parents or grandparents.

I see the lack of respect for elders as well as others as a big part of the problems we have today.

Alonzo Weston can be reached at Follow him on Twitter: @SJNPWeston.