On NCIS we often hear about the values of the Marines, such as how they never leave someone behind. They defend their own.

As I recall, the former Marines I've known over the years were always people of principles and some of the most admirable people I've known. However, I have to believe that some Marines come through the training better than others. And yet, they all protect each other no matter how they feel about each other. They are loyal to each other whether conservative or liberal, no matter the ethnic background, and I suppose no matter the sexual orientation.

Then it struck me that it would be wonderful if the whole country worked like that? What if I could respect others even if I found their opinions stupid, careless or harmful to others.

It might take some careful self control. It might mean I battle my fellow citizen's viewpoints vigorously but never attack him personally. I make sure I call Senator Inhofe's policies foolish, but respect him as a person and especially respect his office as an elected official.

Even when people with bad policy win elections I have to double my effort to expose their errors and defeat them in the next election, but remain respectful. We have different opinions. Sometimes it seems our opponents aren't even sincere but defend policies based on personal gain, but it is best to stay focused on the policy rather than trying to prove personal motivations.

Maybe the value of defending our fellow citizens' rights to their opinions should be taught as a basic skill throughout school. I recall some of that mixed in with history lessons, but maybe it should be highlighted as a basic responsibility in a democracy and included in many grades. I am not sure what to do with us old dogs to teach this skill. I guess it would help if those leading our public discussions and policy debates would lead by example.