Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Value of a Life

Recently there has been a lot of talk about the value of people. Some people would have us think that there are folks who are more valuable than others, it seems.

Poor people, for instance, have little value in our society. (If you don't know any poor people, you might want to look in the mirror because the middle class is rapidly deteriorating.) People on welfare or food stamps, people who don't work at "real" jobs - folks like teachers and policemen, for instance - apparently are part of what is wrong with today's society. At least that's the story from one side of the aisle.

It's a question of equality, really. Does each person have value? Is just being human, just living, important? It seems to me that in this day and age, being human isn't enough. You have to be a human doing, not a human being, in order to be considered important enough to be thought of as equal.

In my local paper, a recent opinion writer made this statement: "Never mind that God did not make us equal and only naïve (or unscrupulous) politicians think they can override that natural law.

I assume he (it's almost always a he, isn't it?) is speaking about the Christian god, since that's the deity most popular here. Perhaps he needs a refresher course in his biblical readings.

From Galatians 3:28: There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave[a] nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

From John 13:16: Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.

From Acts 10:34: So Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality.

That's just three verses; there are more, of course. I can pick and choose as well as anyone.

But then we also have a certain document that Americans hold sacred. The Declaration of Independence says this: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Of course, it doesn't mention women, and here's where things get tricky. I define "people" as all of humanity, everyone who looks like a human, regardless of gender, color, sexual preference, hair style, types of jeans they wear, jewelry - anything. All human. All equal. All valuable.

I think, though, that people like the op ed writer see classes of people. They are thinking white males, mostly. Those are the people of value, the people who are equal. The rest of us, not so much.

They are rather like the pigs in Animal Farm. Remember that allegorical novel? The animals take over the farm. Initially their most important rule is "All animals are created equal."

But as time goes on, the pigs move into the farmhouse. They begin to feel power. In the end, the rule changes to say "All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others."

That seems to be where we are now, with the mouths yelling at one another in our halls of power and places of worship. We're all equal - but we're not. From the media we hear these whispers: poor people bad, rich people good. White people good, everybody else bad. Women bad regardless and so should always earn less, but some women are worse than others. People who need public assistance are bad, people who inherit wealth are good. Where does it end? Why must we draw these lines?

It's enough to make your pants fall off.

I am, I suppose, judging people who judge. How dare you, anyway? How dare you think that you know better than anyone else who has value and who does not?

The amount of money in my pocket is not what makes up my value. My value as a person is limitless and infinite. So is yours.

The mantras of today are not the moral values I want to live under. I want to live in a world where worth is not judged, where acceptance of all is key. Yes, I judge. We all judge. It is human nature to judge. But I try not to act upon my judgments except in lawful, acceptable ways (such as voting). I don't pelt people with eggs, I don't go on talk shows and make vile remarks about things of which I know nothing, and I don't condemn that which I do not understand.

When the sun rises, it rises for all. Think about that.


  1. a great post...for some reason i was sent a copy of "roanoke home" magazine in the mail recently and was a bit turned off by their ad for advertising "to reach the most desirable audience"...i hate pretentiousness.

  2. Brings to mind this quote by Thoreau: A man is rich in proportion to the number of things which he can afford to let alone. Sadly the rich corporations have so much more weight than the average person.

  3. Great article! It's noticeable that equality is no longer part of the political landscape. Even parties which were founded on a passionate belief in the fundamental equality of all (where would democracy be without that belief?) don't have it as an aim. The most they will talk about now is "equality of opportunity." And that leaves people free to judge those who take the opportunity as deserving and those who don't as undeserving, so we are back in the same narrow, intolerant, self righteous trap.


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