Healing Our Democracy

I have been invited to attend political receptions for two men who are running for Congress.   One is a neighbor campaigning in the Maryland district in which I live, the other in an adjacent district.   One is a Republican and the other a Democrat.   One is a physician and the other a retired commercial pilot.   Neither has held elective office before.   I know them to be men of good character and reputation.

Without more information about their positions on a variety of issues I care about I’ve been wondering – should I get involved? —should I accept the invitations?

I grew up in a conservative Christian environment where in my youth it was assumed that no one could become a politician or get involved with politics without compromising core values.   That of course has changed as religion is increasingly intertwined with electoral politics, used by some for partisan advantage.

Turned off as I have been with political gridlock in Washington and the embarrassing, if not insulting level of some political campaigning, I’ve been tempted to retreat into my private world and avoid the media where opinions are often presented as transcendental truths.

That is until revisiting a 2011 book by Parker Palmer, “Healing the Heart of Democracy: the courage to create a politics worthy of the human spirit.”

Palmer, a Quaker, author and founder of the Center for Courage and Renewal says that we have three lives: private, public and political.

Private – includes family, friends and the extended network of people to whom we are drawn to including neighbors, congregations, book clubs, etc.

Public – is a wider network including those Palmer describes as, “the company of strangers” — the unknown people we rub shoulders with in stores, on the street, on a bus, plane, ball game or concert.

Political – is a life of citizenship in service of democracy upon which ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’ depends.

Like most people I’ve been engaged with the first two – private and public – but other than voting, I’ve been mostly a bystander, disengaged from the responsible citizenship needed to preserve and advance the democracy.

Palmer believes our democracy needs healing.   He believes that our life together in the public square has gone wrong because so many of us aren’t involved.   However differently we may view the world of politics we must somehow “transcend our differences and work together for the common good.” That, he writes, is the heart of democracy.

I’ve decided to attend both receptions.

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7 Responses to Healing Our Democracy

  1. verne ward says:

    Tom I resonate deeply with your reflection. At the risk of the appearances of promoting an individual, I too have been encouraged recently to be more proactive, even beyond this current campaign cycle by the sensable admonitions in the book “A more perfect union.” The admonitions in this writing would apply to any citizen, at all times, and offers engagement that is respectful and helpful, realizing a greater objective and community good that includes us all.

  2. Jim Diehl says:

    You made the right decision, Tom. We need many, many more people like you to be involved in the political process. If I wasn’t so “everlasting busy”, I would get involved at some level. As it is now for me, it boils down to conversations with those with whom I’m with and voting. Just voted last week! Keep it up Tom!

  3. Jerry Moen says:

    I’m proud of you Tom for attending both. God will use you because you are making yourself available.

  4. Wesley Campbell says:

    To have been invited Tom indicates, I think, a degree of respect for you, your values and opinions. Further more it is well nigh impossible to make a difference without being there! You will without a doubt, make a valuable impact ….good on you!

  5. Rob McKinnon says:

    Tom – I always make time to read your thoughtful posts. This is another good one. Thank you.

  6. Oliver says:

    Tom, of course you made the right decision. Good for you. The absence of “good” Christian men and women in the political arena has resulted in a political climate wrought with cynicism and fear. My only advise to you would be to refuse to allow your faith to be hijacked by partisan politics and secondly, promise us that your politics would be characterized by grace, love, and truth. Great job!

  7. Dave Ralph says:

    Enjoy your profound thinking Tom. Historically it seems like “industrious and good citizens” have sat on the side lines while activists have engaged. They are working & Producing and don’t have time to carry banners and sandwich boards and picket D.C. Good citizens are leading good and productive lives and engage in “thought exercises” & “thought experiments” while activists engage in profoundly powerful public exhibitions. In the words of Martin Buber; “They came for the Jews and I said nothing; they came for the Catholics and I said nothing; they came for the communists, … They came for me, and there was no one left to speak.”
    It seems historically that societies have to go through significant upheaval before “Good citizens” engage. So Tom since your in D.C. perhaps you could do the picketing for the rest of us in the public square!!!

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