I have joined several different groups on Facebook, and I enjoy participating in the discussions on many of them. Sometimes, however, I find myself biting my tongue (or sitting on my hands in this case) because someone says something or does something that completely throws me for a loop.

In one of those groups, a conversation revolved around the death of Rodney King, and whether or not we, as a society, should celebrate the death of criminals among us. As some argued that his death should be celebrated because he was a criminal, others argued that we should never celebrate the death of another human being.

I am pursuing my degree in Psychology, so I found the entire debate about human dignity (or the lack thereof) quite interesting. I have known some of those participating in the conversation for most of my life, and I have nothing but the utmost respect for them and the others participating in the discussion. I found their positions to be quite insightful, especially given the topic at hand and the fact they are all present and former law enforcement personnel.

20120620-154614.jpgThe conversation quickly devolved into a series of personal disagreements and derogatory statements. The focus of the conversation was no longer about Rodney King or his death, but rather a series of petty attacks and disagreements against each other. I am amazed that a conversation which was revolving around the human dignity for a criminal who died could transform and become an example of the lack of respect and human dignity we have for each other, here in the land of the living. I suppose I had higher expectations because I know most of these people, but it comes as no surprise that someone who cannot respect the human dignity of others around them (and living) would have none for a criminal who has died.

In the e-book, True Freedom: On Protecting Human Dignity and Religious Liberty, Cardinal Dolan wrote, “If we are divinized reflections of God, created in His image and likeness, then we ought to treat ourselves and others only with respect, love, honor, and care.” So the question remains, does Rodney King deserve respect and human dignity in death? At what point do we draw the line and determine that someone does not deserve the same basic respect and human dignity as all other human beings? Is it our place to draw that line, let alone cross it?

While some will see this post as sympathy for criminals among us, or imposing my religious beliefs on others, I hope many more will see it as a wake up call. If we do not respect the human dignity of others, why should we expect that respect ourselves? At the end of the day, when we sit back and watch the standards of our society swirl down the drain, maybe we should be looking at ourselves.

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