The suffering triggered by our country’s economic shock continues to ripple through Maine’s families. Loss of jobs and dwindling access to such basic necessities as food, housing and health care persist. State budgets are strained.
During these times of widespread hardship, it is easy for us to blame those most in need of help. Many media and government figures avoid dealing with the deeper roots of our economic crisis. Instead, they target casualties of our global and national economy, those who are not too big to fail, starting with the most vulnerable.
Subsistence farmers from other countries, forced to become economic refugees, are depicted as alien invaders. Extending benefits for the unemployed is disparaged as impairing the motivation of the jobless to seek work. Those needing help to stave off foreclosure are cast as irresponsible borrowers, cheating the rest of us. Temporary assistance for needy Maine families and other safety-net programs are profiled as budgetary culprits, as though those in need are leeching our resources.
Such misrepresentations distract from addressing the economic problems that afflict us. Moreover, demeaning the dignity of some frays the social fabric that binds us, and diminishes the community we all share. We are all equally deserving of life’s most basic resources.
To express our support for dignity for all, we will act to make the following principle a reality in our community:
We believe that all people in our community should have civil rights, equal rights on the job, equal treatment by police and the courts, access to essential medical, educational and social services, and the right to be treated with dignity.
We call on our elected officials to affirm this principle of “dignity for all” as a basic community value; ensure that all relevant laws, policies and procedures reflect the spirit of this principle; and create a formal mechanism to implement it where necessary and to respond to alleged violations.