Monday, April 30, 2012

Renewal of democracy: Parker Palmer

Public concert at Lake Harriet
Demonization and irrational discourse is wreaking havoc on the United State's political system.  Because of this many of us retreat into private life, rather than being actively engaged in the public realm.  Without active public participation corporate money is filling the void.  These observations were made by Parker Palmer, Founder of the Center for Courage and Renewal, who spoke at the Westminster Town Hall Forum on April 23rd. The presentation was aired on Minnesota Public Radio.

How can we reoccupy the public realm?  Some simple suggestions include sending money to candidates, voting, etc.  However to make a greater impact during this critical moment Mr. Palmer suggests more active engagement in the "politics of the heart."

He encouraged the following five habits of the heart.
  1. Understanding that we are all in this together. Therefore we "pay it forward" and support our public schools.
  2. Appreciation of the value of "otherness". Us and them, doesn't equate to us versus them.  Religious and wisdom traditions encourage hospitality to the stranger.
  3. Ability to hold tension in life giving ways. Our differences will generate tension.  This is at the center of our democracy.
  4. Sense of personal voice and agency. We need to create situations where people can be heard into deeper and deeper speech.
  5. Capacity to create community.  Democracy requires engagement of the villages across our nation.
The civility we need will come from valuing our differences. Some specific things we can do include take time to listen to a child. Teachers can help their students experience varied perspectives. We can ask honest questions of people with political beliefs that are different than our own.  People within faith communities might consider how they can be welcoming to others unlike themselves.  If someone is being demeaning of others speak up and let them know their words are demeaning to you.  

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