When Dan and Libby Anne first challenged me (along with other progressive bloggers) to talk about civil responsibility, I thought it would be easy to come up with something interesting on the topic. After all, look at the news and try to find a hot discussion that’s not somehow related to the question of what we owe our neighbor. That’s the central question ion civil responsibility, at least how I define it.
Apparently it’s easier said than done. Partly, this is because my relationship to politics lately has been complicated. (I wrote about this a little earlier this month, here.) And partly it’s because civil responsibility is so central to pretty much every discussion going on in America, it’s almost too much a part of the bedrock to discuss in a short blog post. But I’d like to try, because this question matters. First I’m going to talk a bit about why I think politics alone won’t cut it on this issue. Then I’m going to take a cue from MLK and look at how civil responsibility is really related to human dignity. What do we owe our fellow citizens? That’s a hard question, but I think it starts with a simple truth: that whenever we find value and worth in things like race and gender and wealth, rather than in the fact that we’re all humans trying to live together, we’ve somehow missed the mark.