This article originally appeared in Times-Republican here.


By Joa Laville

This has been a very difficult and confusing week for so many in our community, with people feeling everything from sad, angry, and confused to scared, betrayed, or accused. In the midst of the pain, there is an overwhelming sense of “Where do we go from here?”

I think the beginning of the answer was recommended by speaker Rosalind Wiseman at the MHS assembly last Tuesday: we need to agree that “dignity is non-negotiable.”

This means that dignity is a basic human right. That we commit to a baseline of respecting the dignity of one another. That every person — no matter what — deserves to feel safe and OK being who they are.

Respecting dignity does not mean we agree with or even respect opinions or life choices. It does not mean we have to like someone or share their values or want to spend time with them. It does not prevent conflicts or hurt feelings or serious divisions in what we believe. It means that in spite of all that — we commit to treating each other with dignity and protecting one another’s dignity.

This is true for every human being no matter what they look like, who they love, where they come from, what their immigration status is, what religion they practice, how their bodies or minds operate, how much or little money they have, what gender they are, how old they are, who they voted for, or even how they are treating us.

Dignity means you can disagree with someone or protect your own dignity while not engaging in degrading, humiliating or intimidating language or actions. Dignity means it is not okay to ridicule or demean someone else’s feelings, even if you don’t understand them. Dignity does not rule out consequences when people do hurtful things or break rules. Even the most serious consequences can be imparted in an atmosphere of dignity.

Agreeing that “dignity is non-negotiable” is not the stuff of sunshine and rainbows and smiley faces. It takes courage. It is hard work. It is often the most uncomfortable when it is the most crucial.

Making a conscious commitment as a community to a baseline of “Dignity as a Basic Right” is only a starting point to repairing our country and working out many conflicts and problems. It may be our only chance to move forward together.