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Our country is divided and polarized along so many lines — gender, race, ethnicity, income, age, political ideology, religion.

Civility has disappeared from political discourse. Opponents no longer listen to the other side. We demonize those on the other side as evil. For some, if the other side is evil, any method of silencing them becomes acceptable. Tolerance and acceptance of diversity are fantasy.

No wonder a government built on the necessity of compromise has trouble functioning. Democracy is fragile and demands tolerance, listening, and civility. How long can our union survive and thrive with this division?

Is there a way out of this? Yes, if we but remember that there is in our diverse political culture one belief that holds us together — respect for human dignity.

The justification of our revolution was respect for human dignity. Human dignity has been a core value of our political culture. We reject all value systems that reduce human dignity. Human dignity is the one value that cannot be compromised. We espouse the German philosopher Kant’s idea that human beings must always be treated as ends rather than the means to some other end. Human beings are not commodities. Human dignity is the foundation of our nation.

We believe that it is self-evident that every person, regardless of race, income, creed, age, gender or ethnic background has value and is worthy of respect. Whether this dignity comes from being created in the image of God or inheres in human nature, promoting and preserving human dignity should be reinforced and recreated as the fundamental principle of our entire political culture. Our national narrative articulates a profound respect for human dignity. Our belief in freedom and equality is based upon respect for human dignity.

Surely, we can agree that respect for human dignity should be the bedrock foundation of government action and policy. Can anyone seriously reject that human beings have dignity that must be cherished, cultivated and respected?

The Pillars of Human Dignity:

Embracing Diversity

Our national motto is unity out of diversity. We do not just tolerate diversity; we should embrace and welcome it in all its forms. Butte is a testament to the strength of diversity.

Therefore, we should fully support the rights of:

A. LGTB citizens to fully and equally participate in our national life.

B. Immigrants to be treated fairly. While government has a right to control immigration, immigration policy must be welcoming and kind to all.

Health Care for All

Health care for all means more than just accessibility to health care. Health care must be made affordable and available to all regardless of income. Health is a basic component of human dignity and a basic human right. Health care is not a privilege. Health care should not be allocated on the basis of ability to pay.

A Just Economic System

The principle guiding our economic system must be equitable distribution of goods and services that meet basic needs.

We should fully support:

A. The abolition of poverty

B. Economic measures to end the disparity of wealth in this country.

C. The right of workers to organize and collectively bargain.

D. A living wage for all.

A Democratic Political System

We must end the destructive relationship of economic power controlling our politics. Political power must no longer be a function of economic power.

We should fully support:

A. Overturning Citizens United and revoking the legal concept of corporate citizenship

B. Public financing of campaigns

End to Militarism

Human dignity cannot exist in an atmosphere where war is seen as the first instrument of national policy. Not only does war directly destroy human dignity but the expenditure for weapons costs us the opportunity to develop an economically just society.

Respect for Our Natural Environment

The natural environment does not exist just to be used by human beings. Human dignity cannot flourish in a toxic, polluted and degraded environment. We should support the environmental justice communities in Butte — low-income citizens and Native Americans.

Protecting Individual Liberty and Privacy

John Dewey said that government only has a right to regulate private actions that have public consequences. Unless an individual activity affects others, government has no legitimate basis to restrict individual freedom and privacy.

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Dr. John W. Ray teaches classes at Montana Tech in political science and political theory. He is chairperson of Citizens for Labor and Environmental Justice in Butte. The views expressed are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of either Montana Tech or Citizens for Labor and Environmental Justice.


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