The Dignity Gap

It’s coming at us like baseballs and hail. People’s anger and vitriol. I am part of the crowd. I rail at home and with my friends. It goes like this, “Can you believe…” followed by a long commentary on whomever I am targeting that day. My children asked me to stop talking about the man in the White House.

It’s so easy to complain, and it feels good. I spend far more time blaming people than considering solutions and acting. Lucky for me, there is so much blame to go around. I’ll start with me. Like most of my cohorts, I dismissed candidate Trump because he is crude, uninformed, inexperienced, and dishonest. And surely, we wouldn’t elect a candidate who is so reckless and cruel.

I didn’t really consider people’s motivations. After I shovel aside the informed and educated people who voted by party (I haven’t forgiven them yet) who are the millions of people who said yes, enthusiastically? I’ve read bits by journalists who imagine they know them, but it feels like fluff. I believe Arthur Brooks, president of the American Enterprise Institute, has come closest to the truth. He recently commented in the Wall Street Journal,

“There is indeed a gap in this country, and it has now led to a political revolution, a significant realignment in American politics. But the relevant gap wasn’t income. It was dignity.”

This makes sense to me. If we start with dignity, everything falls into place. Merriam-Webster’s definition of dignity is the quality or state of being worthy, honored, or esteemed. The word worthy hits you in the gut. Feeling unworthy is one of the deepest pains. Considering dignity does not settle our political differences, but it reminds us that behind every lost job or lost home, every dismissal of an opinion because someone thinks you don’t measure up, is a heart. Someone who needs a place at the table.