A Recommended Routine Exercise for Raging Recalcitrants

All Americans…no, in adherence to my personal practice of speaking always and only for myself, I, as an American citizen, am tearfully weary of our ongoing (now, by my counting, for at least a generation) and worsening domestic pattern of what I call “governance by combat.”

Looking, forlornly, on our immediate political temporality, we are bare days past a federal shutdown and spare days, potentially, away from another. And it seems to me that the national leaders of our legislative and executive branches of government have mislaid the grace of civil conversation aimed at achieving consensus or, if not that, compromise.

A part of what underlies and perhaps drives this inability and unwillingness to enter and engage in open communication of the sort in which participants bring both clearly articulated agendas and equally evolved capacities to listen is a shared lack of respect and trust.

I believe in the power of dialogue (literally, “dia”, through + “logos”, word) to open doors and to build bridges or whatever the operable metaphor to connote making meaningful connections between and among competing and conflicting interests. (I write this mindful of the importance, indeed, the necessity that individual legislators and the president both listen and respond to their constituencies and concede their own preferences, and, I dare add, confess their own prejudices.)

I also am a highly-opinionated person who values his own thought processes and patterns. As such (and I can’t recall when I first heard and began to practice this “stretching” exercise), when confronted by another point of view, I purposefully listen in an effort to learn the ins-and-outs of that “other” outlook until I can articulate (argue) that alternate position with as much energy and integrity as my own. Seeing life through another’s worldview deepens my compassion and broadens my comprehension, reminding me of the greater humanity of which we, each and all, always share.

Democrats and Republicans, members of Congress and Mr. President, I harbor you, each and all, in the heart of my prayers that God’s Spirit illumines your eyes and minds to behold the common good and grants you, again, each and all, the grace of strength and courage to pursue its fulfillment. Amen.

3 thoughts on “A Recommended Routine Exercise for Raging Recalcitrants

  1. My heart echoes the disappointment, frustration, and sorrow of yours, Paul, over the shameful state of affairs in our national government. Whether the rancor, hatefulness, and stasis that are its obvious characteristics actively created, encouraged, or arose from corresponding divisions among the American people is very difficult to discern. At one time, American adults, witnessing on any playground the kind of behavior and speech that have become ubiquitous in Congress and the White House, would have intervened to teach children how to get along, to share, to listen to each other, to respect each other’s ideas and voices, to cooperate toward the common good of all of them. It seems we now prefer to simply watch and cheer on quarreling, fighting, name-calling, and lack of progress toward solutions to problems. We seem to enjoy the spectacle of the humiliation of those with whom we have differences, apparently forgetting that most of us will still have to figure out how we are to live together tomorrow. Where is wisdom? Where is maturity? Where is any concern for the common good of our country?

    I offer a heartfelt “Amen” to your prayer.



    Liked by 1 person

    1. Karen, I wrestle, nearly daily, with what you eloquently describe. I, too, do not know whether our public political rancor reflects our America-deep divisions (although I suspect it does, given that I believe our elected officials, that is, who we, as a people, elect and when mirror our collective national psyche; though much of it is unconscious, I think).

      An additional thought…

      My position of standing in the gap – seeking to bridge the radical outer boundaries of support on the left and on the right – is purposeful. For I truly do not believe that ignorance of the point of view of “the other” is helpful or healthy. Hence, I am aware that my voice may not (perhaps does not and cannot) appeal to one who is strongly pro- or strongly anti- President Trump. That said and acknowledged, I find a kind of tense comfort in my soul with where I dwell.


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