Respect. Our English word derives from the Latin respicio, meaning to look back, to look again. That has always suggested to me that an essential part of respect is giving time, pausing, weighing, deliberating a little. First thoughts are not always wise ones, nor are they always just. Yesterday we saw how quickly Twitter was awash with comments on the death of Margaret Thatcher. They ranged from instant canonisation to condemnation to the pit of hell. Personally, I found the gibes harder to take than the adulation, mainly because I regard death as important and am very conscious of the grief many must feel. In those first few hours after death we need to register what has happened and allow time for prayer and reflection. There is a kind of decency about allowing a little space before jumping in with our own summing up of another’s life and work.
I shall not be writing any assessment of Lady Thatcher. Others are much better qualified than I for such a task, but I do hope I shall give her respect. It does not mean that one waters down the truth or avoids unpleasantness, but it does mean that one tries to act with compassion. It is part of being civilized. Indeed, I dare to say it is part of being human.