Healing the Heart of Democracy: The Courage to Create a Politics Worthy of the Human Spirit

Healing the Heart of Democracy: The Courage to Create a Politics Worthy of the Human Spirit , by Parker Palmer ($15.16)

The author speaks about the book.  (Parker Palmer is one of the interviewees on the DVD series “Faces of Faith” which we have used at APC occasionally.)

Amazon:  “We the People” called American democracy into being. We can call it back to its highest form only as we heal our own distrust, divisions and fear and become a true civic community. That’s a big task. But each of us can contribute to it by doing simple things in our everyday lives. Here are some examples. If none of them work for you, imagine something that would. Remember that most big problems are solved with a million small actions.

1. Go downtown, to Main Street, or to the mall, turn off your cell phone or your iPod, and don’t let the crowd become a blur. Instead, do some focused “people watching.” Notice the faces, body language and behavior of the people passing by. Try to imagine some of their life stories. Practice empathy. Enjoy diversity. Remember that we are all in this together.

2. If you use public transportation, or frequent a coffee shop or cafe, try starting a simple conversation with a stranger that might move from a comment on the weather to a question about something in the local or national news. But instead of saying “I agree” or “I disagree” with what the person tells you, say, “That’s interesting,” and ask questions that draw him or her out. Play the role of a “roving reporter” whose purpose is not to tell others what you think but to find out how they see the world. Most of us want a sense that someone sees and hears us. Be that someone.

3. If new people move into your neighborhood, knock on their door and introduce yourself. Tell them that you live nearby and want your neighborhood to be a place where people watch out for each other. Give them a card with your name and phone number, and tell them to give you a call if there is something you might be able help with, like keeping an eye on their house while they are gone. After you’ve done that a time or two, try doing it with a long-time neighbor whom you’ve never met. A caring neighborhood is next-door democracy. 4. If you know someone who holds political beliefs quite different from yours, ask if you could interview them about the life experience that led to their convictions. Ask questions that allow them to tell you real-life stories about the people and events that helped shape what they believe. Occasionally ask honest, open questions to help you understand their story, and allow them to reflect on it. Don’t comment, just listen and learn. The more you know about another person’s story, the harder it is to dislike or distrust them.

5. If you hear something hateful being said about people of certain backgrounds or beliefs, tell the speaker that you find what he or she said personally hurtful. If the speaker asks why, respond that you value everyone’s humanity and find it painful to live in a world where we tear each other down rather than build each other up. Let’s have a world where we can all say to each other, “Welcome to the human race!”

Review “He bravely takes on the current political climate, and this book provides therapy for the American body politic. His insights are heart-deep: America gains by living with tension and differences; we can help reclaim public life by actions as simple as walking down the street instead of driving. Hope’s hardly cheap, but history is made up of what Palmer calls ‘a million invisible acts of courage and the incremental gains that came with them.’ This beautifully written book deserves a wide audience that will benefit from discussing it.” (Publishers Weekly, 8 August 2011)

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