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

Parker Palmer. Jossey-Bass, $24.95 (256p) ISBN 978-0-470-59080-5
Palmer’s (Let Your Life Speak) newest was six years in the making. He bravely takes on the current political climate, with its atrophy of citizen participation, the ascendance of an oligarchy that shapes politics, and the substitution of vituperation for thoughtful public discussion. It’s a tall order that became even taller because Palmer had to climb out of a pit of depression—a personal vulnerability proclivity—to do so. But wrestling with essential questions of public life became therapeutic, and this book provides therapy for the American body politic. Palmer’s use of acute 19th-century observers of American life and character—Tocqueville, Lincoln—as well as his use of anecdotes and lessons from his own long career provide context and tonic. 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. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 08/08/2011
Release date: 09/01/2011
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