Sunday, June 12, 2005

Avoid Political Polarization

Following his lecture The Soul of the University at Lewiston-Auburn College, University of Southern Maine last month, Thomas Moore answered questions from the audience. Someone asked if it were possible to incorporate Moore’s discussion of soulful living in the political sphere and how it could happen. Thomas Moore responded that Americans need to participate fully in the country’s political life without taking a polarized position. Though difficult, he recommended that people acknowledge and voice their complexity, and avoid slipping into extreme positions based on Right vs. Left, Conservative vs. Liberal, or Republican vs. Democrat. He encouraged the audience to let national representatives know that issues aren’t simplistically divided into opposite viewpoints, rather complexity suggests the need for fuller and deeper discussions. If political leaders themselves advocate a rigid political stance, Moore wasn’t convinced that they would listen to their constituents. He suggested that people get together in small local groups to discuss meaningful responses to political issues. He said that during last year’s presidential election he was particularly disheartened by the extent to which spiritual concerns were co-opted by Republicans, seemingly with Democratic acquiescence. Moore said that his use of the word “spiritual” didn't refer to a particular belief system or dogmatic stance but rather to an approach that feeds the soul. He emphasized that “spiritual” nourishment is vital for all, and not to be taken over by one side for political advantage. He urged the audience to consider national politics with imagination, passion and a real openness to alternative viewpoints and positions — an openness which lets one shift perspective, even if only slightly, after talking with others.

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