The Return of Dignity
In its simple yet profound stillness, dignity moves people to action. And it is the return of dignity that leaves me hopeful for the future of this country and the world.
With the war in Ukraine now in its fifth week, domestic inflation at a forty-year high, and a world struggling to regain its footing after a two-year global pandemic, people have a right to despair. After all, we have survived as a species, in part, by developing a strong ability to detect what is wrong. Often referred to as negativity bias, our tendency is to detect risk, even to the neglect of noticing what is often right. Yet, to be human also means to have the capacity to see and appreciate beauty. As much as we have an obligation to decry the injustices and abuses committed in our world, we have a duty to celebrate the acts of kindness and generosity all around us.
Such acts indeed abound, if we are just willing to look. We saw it recently in the German people greeting Ukrainian refugees with hand-drawn signs and in the strollers left at a Polish train station. We were awe struck by the photos of toys left on a small bridge connecting Ukraine with Romania. Beauty manifested itself in the countless people paying for Airbnb reservations in Ukraine that they didn’t plan to use. Closer to home, we are witness to countless small acts of kindness and generosity. And so too on the national stage. Republican Governor of Utah, Spencer Cox, vetoed a bill seeking to ban transgender children from participating in school sports, decrying the cruelty of the legislative effort and pleading with lawmakers and citizens to treat all children with love. After the bill had initially passed, Governor Cox addressed the transgender community, saying: “We care about you. We love you. It’s going to be OK.” This was from a man who has had the courage to apologize for not being as sensitive to LGBTQ issues in the past as he wishes he had. “My heart has changed,” he revealed. “It has changed because of you. It has changed because I have gotten to know many of you. You have been patient with me.”
When I reflect on these acts, I see dignity in the faces of those behind these acts of kindness. Indeed, effective power has always had, as its source, dignity. Think of Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks. Think of the dignity that has defined virtually every public appearance by President Zelensky over the past month. Dignity, more than anything else, was on display this week during the Senate confirmation hearings of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson. Her unflappable maturity and professionalism were in stark contrast to the undignified behavior of some of her inquisitors. So dignified was Judge Jackson, that Corey Booker was moved to perhaps his finest moment as a public figure. This is the power of dignity. In its simple yet profound stillness, it moves people to action. And it is the return of dignity that leaves me hopeful for the future of this country and the world.
I highly recommend this 18-minute documentary, “What a Grief Camp for Kids Can Show Us about Healing.” The filmmaking is exquisite and the dignity of the young boys and girls as they process their grief is profound.
Here is the abridged video of Senator Cory Booker’s powerful exchange with Judge Jackson.
This Wired article is a must-read, “Of Course We’re Living in a Simulation.”