by Miki Kashtan
The term moral dissonance has a variety of meanings. I learned the meaning I will discuss here in a conversation with a woman who owned a grocery store in a low-income neighborhood in a mid-size town in the US. Her grocery store brought fresh, local, mostly organic food to what had previously been a food desert. It was teeming with life, and served more functions than just being a place where people could get food. Our conversation was about her anguish when she found no other solution than to call the immigration officers as a way to deal with the violence and disruption caused by a group of young men that started showing up in the neighborhood. It wasn’t so much that she was afraid of losing her livelihood if they stayed, she told me in visible distress. She trusted that she would be able to relocate to another district and do well financially. It was her concern that if she relocated there would be no services left for the majority of the local people.
Her moral dissonance was about inviting in an agency representing aspects of the federal government she actively opposed (restricting immigration) in order to protect something that was precious to her (community empowerment and service). There was no way she saw to align all her values together in making that choice, hence the experience of dissonance.