To the editor:
"We are a representative democracy set in the context of a constitutional republic," writes Park J. Palmer, author of "Healing the Heart of Democracy."
As we come to the end of the Fourth of July weekend, each of us will, hopefully, reflect upon how we, as individuals, use freedom and ponder what it really means to be a citizen.
Palmer writes, "Citizenship is a way of being in the world rooted in the knowledge that I am a member of a vast community of human and nonhuman beings that I depend on for essentials I could never provide for myself."
I see now that I have no honorable choice - except to vote in November. To use my voice to "affirm, celebrate and express my gratitude for that community in every aspect of my life, trying to be responsive to its needs whether or not my immediate self-interests are met. Whatever is in the common good is, in the long run, good for me and mine." Citizen-lite doesn't cut it anymore, we must engage in our living democracy.
No matter how jaw-dropping or morally offensive I find some people's convictions, I must learn how to speak up in the civic community without denying my opponents their humanity and further poisoning the political ecosystem on which democracy depends.
We may not be able to agree on the details, but if we believe in our form of government, "we must agree on an alternative definition that makes preserving democracy itself the focus of our concern. We must be able to say, in unison: It is in the common good to hold our political differences and the conflicts they create in a way that does not unravel the civic community on which democracy depends."
Democracy is not something we have, but something we must do. We are the government and must work together to fulfill democracy's promise. Don't forget to listen respectfully.
If you hold your knowledge of self, democracy and world wholeheartedly, your heart will at times be "broken by loss, failure, defeat, betrayal or death. What happens next in you and the world around you depends on how your heart breaks. If it breaks apart into a thousand pieces, the result may be anger, depression and disengagement. If it breaks open into greater capacity to hold the complexities and contradictions of human experience, the result may be new life. The heart is what makes us human - and politics, which is the use of power to order our life together, is a profoundly human enterprise. Politics in the hands of those whose hearts have been broken open, not apart, helps us hold our differences creatively and use our power courageously for the sake of a more equitable, just, and compassionate world."
As citizens, once we free ourselves from the illusion that we are at the mercy of forces beyond our control we can make a difference. Make sure you are registered or re-registered to vote by Oct. 7.