I suppose it's natural to think about what we are not getting from our government; after all, the scientists tell us that the brain has a negativity bias. Taking in the news, we become aware of all the ways our leaders have failed us: in fighting injustice (as the recent Black Lives Matter protests have emphasized), in providing too little too late (as in the federal government's response to the coronavirus pandemic), and in allocating resources badly (see Reallocating Resources in a Democracy.)
Posted by Keziah Grindeland on June 26, 2020
A democracy is supposed to reflect the will of the people. When people vote, speak out at community meetings, or protest, they are responding not only to particular politicians and parties but to the policies they represent and the ones people want instituted. Life in a democracy is about more than love of country and appreciation of the services we receive from the government. It's about deciding how to allocate resources — where the money and other support goes and who benefits from it.
Posted by Keziah Grindeland on June 4, 2020
"People have the right to protest — that’s what democracy is all about."
— Condoleezza Rice, former U.S. Secretary of State
Protests have always been part of movements for justice in the United States. The First Amendment to the Constitution guarantees citizens' rights to make their opinions known: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."
Posted by Patricia Campbell Carlson on May 25, 2020
To be clear from the outset, I am not advocating sneezing in the vicinity of others during the current pandemic or at any other time. But did you know that a recent study suggests that hyenas use sneezing to decide when their pack is ready to hunt?
Posted by Mary Ann Brussat on May 16, 2020
In rural America during the 18th and 19th century, it was common for a community to come together to build a barn. Every farmer needed a barn, but it was impossible for one family to put one up themselves. So their neighbors joined in, knowing full well that should they ever need to build or replace a barn, they would get help in return.
Barns are not the only acute need that have been addressed by community efforts throughout history, both in the United States and elsewhere. We see the barn raising lineage alive and well during the coronavirus pandemic.
Posted by Aizaiah Yong on April 27, 2020
Patrick Ianni founded Ianni Training after a playing career that spanned nine years in Major League Soccer, participating in the 2008 Olympics, and being an All-American at UCLA. These experiences taught him that what is needed in the world of sports is a commitment to training the whole athlete: mind, body, and spirit. He now brings this wisdom to his work, which aims to revolutionize the sports landscape by showing athletes, parents, and coaches how to take greater responsibility for the development of healthy individual and cultural identities.
Posted by Keziah Grindeland on April 20, 2020
When I started gardening, I wasn't expecting to learn about resilience, hope, and how to fight for democracy. As a graduate student I spent the majority of my time behind a computer screen or with a book in my lap, so when I stumbled upon an abandoned community garden on my campus last spring I jumped at the chance to get outside and dig in the dirt.
Posted by Habib Todd Boerger on April 13, 2020
When I think about what practicing democracy in the United States means to me, I remember the framed replicas of the U.S. Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, and the Gettysburg address I had in my room through most of my childhood. I was one patriotic kid. Now I consider what values those documents espoused and whether the United States has lived up to them. Many U.S. citizens report valuing the ideals that appear in those documents, such as freedom, independence, liberty, equality, common good, and popular sovereignty.
Posted by Guest Contributor on April 6, 2020
This post has been contributed by Donna Schaper, senior minister at Judson Memorial Church in New York City. She is the author of numerous books, including Sabbath Keeping.
I sometimes call my how-to guide to saving democracy a "Dolly Mama Guide to Spirituality."
"Dolly Mama" is a blend of the Dalai Lama, likely the world’s most trusted religious leader, and Dolly Parton, likely country music’s most respected singer. He is always laughing. He says that death is just a change of clothes, in keeping with Wordsworth's idea that death is just moving into another room. He doesn’t seem to be afraid of anything, including the end. Dolly Parton is always saying things she’s not supposed to say. You feel better after being near her or hearing her sing. You want to blend your voice with those of others.
Posted by Guest Contributor on March 29, 2020
Lindsay McLaughlin lives at Rolling Ridge Study Retreat, an intergenerational community living on and with 1400 acres of forest and streams on a small mountain foothill of the Blue Ridge in West Virginia. She offers and coordinates retreats there — when social distancing allows — and is beloved by many for her soulful writing, especially about our kinship with nature. In the following piece, she brings new depth to the democratic value of the common good by showing how even in the isolation of the COVID-19 pandemic we can cultivate virtues of appreciation, caring, and empathy through different kinds of activities — including walks.
On the Schoolhouse Trail I passed an old tree with a craggy opening near the forest floor, an intriguing portal to the Underworld. Meanwhile, the serviceberries are out, their delicate creamy blossoms like fallen stars in the woods. Serviceberries are so named because they bloom at the time when the ground softens after the winter freeze thus readying the earth for burials and making services of parting and remembrance possible. Gray fog is wrapping itself around the high, still bare branches, shrouding the tree tops. So much is about fog and loss and descent. Collectively we have fallen out of a world we thought — even worried — was immutable. Mystery cloaks what comes next, what the eyes of the future see.
About This Blog
Democracy is more than a system of government; it is a way of life. We can assess the vitality of a democracy by how well it is serving the people's needs and hopes. But a democracy's health is best reflected in examples of how people practice it through their commitments to shared values and virtues. In this blog, we will present stories of democracy-in-practice. More.