Michael Kruse's Reviews > Healing the Heart of Democracy: The Courage to Create a Politics Worthy of the Human Spirit

Healing the Heart of Democracy by Parker J. Palmer
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Feb 13, 12

bookshelves: christian-life, politics
Read in February, 2012

I have really appreciated Parker Palmer's books over the years but this book is a profound disappointment. I quit reading at the halfway point. If you are a liberal/progressive, then I suspect you may enjoy the book. It plays very well into the meme that at core of the discord in our country are conservatives. I can't help but feel that Palmer missed an opportunity.

I know he is a Quaker pacifist. I've suspected his political views were to the left based on other writing I've seen. I have no problem with that. But his topic is "Politics Worthy of the Human Spirit." Every few pages he trots out examples of the values and misbehavior that are contrary to his aims and they are invariably those of conservative citizens (without him ever explicitly saying this.) The outrageous values and misbehavior of the left are not on his radar. And that is the problem.

We each see our opponents actions as threatening and crazy but we feel justified in our threatening and crazy behavior because we know our opponents wrong. That is how Tea Party rallies (where some park service people report that participants left venues as clean or better than when they came) can be dubbed terrible hate-filled racist mob, while the Occupy Movement with its illegal occupation of property, vandalism, defecating and urinating on police vehicles and passersby, is heralded as a wonderful expression in Democracy. (I actually think both movements are hopeful signs of our democracy, that both have their excesses.) That is how there can be obsessive anger at activists talking about death panels, while be oblivious to the President calling Congress terrorists and hostage takers, as well as the VP and leading Democrats talking about Republican desires to kill people.

The first step in restoring democracy is to resolve not to use other people's bad behavior as excuse for your own. I don't think Palmer is there. I will continue to give his "Let Your Life Speak" book to others as gifts. I still think his "The Active Life" book is one of the best books I've read. But this book simply isn't worth my time.
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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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Steve Hirby This review would have been more helpful if the reviewer had discussed the premises and the proposed remedies found in the book. What about the Founders creation of governing structures tha create tension. What about the linkage between a consumerist society and our disengagement from helpful political discourse? What about the 5 habits of the heart and Parker's concern/fear that without them, democracy is doomed?


message 2: by Kathryn (new)

Kathryn Byer I found an interview with Palmer recently in The Sun that pulled me right in. I was not familiar with his work till then. I suspect any reviewer who's is quick to label a book as "liberal" as in the above review is suspect. I will say that I ordered the latest Palmer book and found it boring, finally, because it was a re-hash, most likely, of what had gone before. Restoring the Heart of Democracy is one I do want to read. "That is how there can be obsessive anger at activists talking about death panels, while be oblivious to the President calling Congress terrorists and hostage takers, as well as the VP and leading Democrats talking about Republican desires to kill people. " This is a pretty amazing statement. This reviewer isn't living on the same planet as I am. It's so blatantly untrue it's laughable.


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