Dignity is Not For Sale

Dignity is Not For Sale June 29, 2019
Photo by Michael Prewett on Unsplash

After spending hours watching the Democratic debates, I suddenly feel as though my whole way of life, and all that I experience, is a lie.
Apparently, the economy is not providing for me. I was informed that unless I am a big corporation, that I won’t succeed. I won’t make anything for myself. I cannot rise above my own standard of living if I attempt to.

Stuck

I am stuck, in the middle of chaos, and so long as Trump or anyone from the GOP has power of any kind, I will forever be stuck. Unless, of course, millions of Americans cast their votes for whomever receives the Democratic nomination. If we put a Democrat in office, all of our problems will be solved.

Shouldn’t I feel “stuck”? Shouldn’t I be able to look at my current condition and think, “Hey, my life really sucks right now.”? Shouldn’t I be feeling the animosity and outrage that the candidates allege we are all feeling? Shouldn’t my outlook appear bleak, miserable, and oppressed?

But I don’t feel that way. I don’t foresee doom and gloom. I don’t think the odds are against me. I don’t see any cosmic corrupt force opposing my every choice or aspiration in life. Yet each election cycle, candidates demonstrate indignation on behalf of “the American People”.  Whether it’s righteous indignation is of no consequence.

Democracy is Losing Dignity

Last I checked, I am a part of “the American People.” I listened to many candidates claim that “the American People” want the policies they are advocating for. But the truth of the matter is, I do not consent to the policies they are claiming I need. I never once have asked for what they are alleging I have asked for.

If I am “the American People”, then my choice and consent ought to be a part of the policies they are presenting. In fact, we should all be obliged the opportunity to speak up and speak loudly about what we do and do not want. After all, the government is to be servant to the people.

Democracy has lost all dignity, and, from what I have interpreted from the 20 candidates that engaged in the debates last week; the only way to gain that dignity back is through dollars.

We must buy our dignity back. We must buy it back through programs that will create a nation of dependency. The only path to democracy is a path where the government hands us entitlement program after entitlement program, because we “deserve” to live the life the government believes we should. We deserve a life of dignity and the government can give us that.

Ask Not What Your Country Can Do For You

When I was a little girl, I had a fondness for John Fitzgerald Kennedy. Mainly because I was gifted a book called Meet John F. Kennedy. As I grew older, I related all of my political interest to that book. There was something hopeful about the little biography that I read over and over. In particular, there was a reference to his 1961 Inaugural address that stuck with me.

“And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.”

Kennedy gave Americans hope that they could contribute back to society in such a way that it would benefit the whole. The intention was to motivate and encourage Americans during a divisive time; one in which unity was more necessary than ever. Kennedy realized that the dignity of each individual could be actualized more effectively if the government did not take an active role in developing it.

Dignity is Inherent 

Dignity comes from within. It cannot be given to you by an entity or institution. The idea that a person can take dignity away from an individual only to have it replenished by an entity is beyond preposterous—it’s a metaphysical impossibility.

Dignity comes from the Latin word dignita, which means worthiness. Dignity implies that each human is worthy of honor and respect for who they are, not just what they do.

The question we should first ask: Is human dignity about being or doing?

If it is about doing, then we must ask: Is dignity rooted in capacity?

If dignity is rooted in the capacity, then human beings can effectively be reduced to performance. This means that dignity can be gained or lost according to capacity or ability.

But Whitney Houston steps in to remind us, that actually, dignity is not about ability:

“I decided long ago, never to walk in anyone’s shadows. If I fail, if I succeed, at least I’ll live as I believe. No matter what they take from me, they can’t take away my dignity.” 

Dignity Defies Devaluation

This is because you cannot measure dignity. You cannot measure the value of a human life. Doing so leaps over the understanding that followers of Christ hold in high regard; that because we are made in the image and likeness of God, we are worthy already. Our dignity is constituted by the image we bear. All humans possess an innate and irreducible dignity.

I implore you to dismiss any person or representative organization or institution that tells you they can provide you with dignity. I applaud anyone that works toward restoring the importance of dignity. I think we would all do well to acknowledge that encouraging one another to treat each other with honor and respect is a virtuous practice. A practice that we should intentionally and habitually repeat.

But no one can give you dignity.

Dignity and Independence

Dignity also does not create a co-dependent relationship. Dignity and independence goes hand in hand.
Cue Whitney Houston:

“Everybody’s searching for a hero. People need someone to look up to. I never found anyone who fulfilled my needs. A lonely place, to be, and I so I learned to depend on me.”

The candidates are honestly promising to fulfill all of your needs. Allowing someone else to work hard to ensure your stability in life, without consent, and by force, is the very opposite of dignity. It’s debasement, it’s degradation; it’s essentially a promotion of slavery.

Senator Kamala Harris recently tweeted this out:

“When I think about what our country needs, I promise you I will be a President who leads with a sense of dignity, with honesty, speaking the truth, and giving American families all that they need to get through the end of the month in a way that allows them to prosper.” (twitter link)

We all know how this goes. Candidates make promises of grandiosity, and the voters are ecstatic. Free everything. Soon, no one will have to struggle through the end of the month, because Senator Harris, as President, will provide for every home in America. But how? No one ever asks how.

Are we simply wooed by the idea of a utopia dream, one in which we can fantasize about not having to ever depend on ourselves to provide for our own selves and families? Or is it that we really have been convinced that we are not supposed to endure suffering in order to find meaning and actualize our dignity?

I mean, I love the idea of not having to work or worry about my bills. But I live in the real world. No one ever promised me that I would not struggle for my successes. Also, no one ever promised me that my successes would need to be measured against the success of others in order to be defined as success. We are all born of circumstance. We are to make the most of it, are we not? Or do we separate our theological beliefs from our political beliefs?

Democracy cannot award dignity to any of the citizenry. It’s not possible. One can certainly lose sight of their own dignity. I believe that as a society, we are responsible to utilize our gifts to encourage and edify others to actualize their own dignity, but that cannot come as a result of legislative action.

 

 

 

 

 

 

About Danielle Kingstrom
Danielle Kingstrom is a writer, podcaster, and leg-warmer aficionado. Current work includes an upcoming book, "Enfleshed: Making Monogamous Relationships Real" and an upcoming podcast, "Recorded Conversations". You can read more about the author here.
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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Maine_Skeptic

    “We are all born of circumstance. We are to make the most of it, are we not?”

    I haven’t heard anyone say anything that disagrees with you on that point.

    I also suspect you’ve bought into a false dichotomy. There are choices between “every man for himself” and “everyone gets everything free.” Yes, there are lazy, corrupt people out there who think they’re entitled to get everything they want, but those people are just as likely to be rich as they are to be poor, but these days, many people seem to think that poverty is always the result of laziness or some spiritual principle at work.

    You acknowledge that everyone is born of circumstance, but don’t those of us who’ve been fortunate have a responsibility to give a leg up to those who have not? It’s not just a matter of helping others “actualize their own dignity.” If we acknowledge that bad things happen to good and bad people, doesn’t it make sense to work together and “have each others’ backs?”

  • I think the general consensus rests on the notion that those of us who were born without prestige, privilege, and prosperity are somehow in more need of dignity restoration than others, and that only the government can provide that. I mean, that’s the conclusion I have made based on what I have heard from the candidates.

    I don’t think most people think that poverty is the result of laziness. I actually think most people know that poverty is more likely to be a result of circumstance; more likely to be a result of errors and mistakes and misinformation.

    I wholly agree with you that we should be giving a leg up to those who don’t have. Isn’t that how we help others actualize their own dignity? By demonstrating for others, on a human level, something that looks less like buying dignity through tax dispersed dollars and instead, looks like developing the dignity from within because someone else is willing to help you pull it out?

  • Maine_Skeptic

    I think we’re a lot closer to agreeing than it might seem. I believe nothing is more important to a person’s recovery than his or her own attitude and sense of personal responsibility.

    “I don’t think most people think that poverty is the result of laziness. I actually think most people know that poverty is more likely to be a result of circumstance; more likely to be a result of errors and mistakes and misinformation.”

    I’m uncomfortable with the number of people who don’t seem to realize that, and I think it’s higher than you realize. People hear anecdotes about someone using food stamps for beer or someone milking welfare so they don’t have to work, and they generalize. There’s a lot of poverty in my community, and it’s disturbing to hear comments and generalizations that are made. I sometimes have to walk people through the actual statistics to point out to them that the percentage of deadbeats is very low. Most people prefer to work, prefer to do a good job, like feeling a sense of accomplishment, and want to be responsible members of the community. That’s at least as true of poor people as it is of rich people.