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.