“Recovering a Robust Public Life”
A Review of
Healing the Heart of Democracy:
The Courage to Create a Politics
Worthy of the Human Spirit.
Parker J. Palmer.
Reviewed by Bob Cornwall.
[ This Review originally appeared in the ERB Print Edition, Vol. 1, #4.
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[ The reviewer recently named this book the 2011 book of the year on his blog. ]
Most Americans are proud of their democratic institutions, despite the many imperfections and stains on the nation’s record as a democracy. The freedoms enshrined in the Constitution of the United States have given hope to men and women of every race, ethnicity, religion, or social class, of a better future. Over time, we have developed a national mythology to give voice to these aspirations, including the declaration of the first of our two founding documents that “all [men] are created equal.” We have not always lived up to this premise, indeed, rarely have we done so, but it is there to remind us of who we might become, should we choose. Although Americans have an individualistic side to them, the Preamble to the Constitution begins with the words “We the People,” words that remind us of our interdependence as well as our independence.
In recent years the emphasis on independence has overwhelmed the concern for our interdependence. We have placed our own individual “pursuit of happiness” above the corporate good described in the words “we the people.” As we have pursued the private good over the public good, we have also lost confidence in the structures and institutions that embody America’s democratic principles and ideals. Faith in the competence and wisdom of America’s leaders, from local to federal, is at an all time low, which leads many to call for the ousting of everyone in power, but surely healing this national crisis of confidence will take more than simply changing out those in power. Instead, it will come only as “we the people” take responsibility for the common good.
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