What if the U.S. Disappeared?

By Dr. Saqib Qureshi

Of course that’s not happening, unless somebody knows how to use the Force in ways which George Lucas hasn’t envisioned, but let’s just imagine a world in which the US government completely withdraws from the rest of the world. Let us just imagine. This is not a bizarre idea. After all, hundreds of millions of people world over accuse the US of failing to mind its own business, of interfering and poking its nose where it’s not wanted. And there is also the non-interventionist tradition within American foreign policy, a position that ironically enough emanates from Robert Walpole, Britain’s prime minister from 1721 to 1742, and was later shaped by presidents Jefferson and Monroe.

So what will happen? What will a disengaged world look like? Well, for a start, there’d be a big economic problem…. and I am not referring to the elimination of the US$50bn in foreign aid which DC doles out every year through the State and Defense Departments, as well as via multi-lateral organizations. Mind you, some countries would be the up the wall … Afghanistan and Israel each receive from the US about hundred times the aid per capita which Bangladesh and South Africa receive. It’s fair to say that Afghanistan would be ‘game over’, that is assuming it wasn’t already, while Israel would need to reduce its military spending and seek a fair peace with the Palestinians.

The real big economic problem is that US federal government needs loans (largely from China via bonds) for funding. An America that cuts itself off from the rest of the world will rapidly realize that it can’t function. It won’t be able to pay civil service salaries, infrastructure development and all the other things that the government currently covers. To cut to the chase, the US would go through a massive recession… since not only would the government have to rapidly reduce its spending, but exports would take a hit too. After all, with the US in recession, there’s a good chance that the world will enter a recession. Where is everything ‘Made in China’ going to go? For that matter, where is everything ‘Made in America’ or ‘Designed in California’ going to go?

World politics would also be affected, maybe not … but maybe as badly as world economics. NATO countries, Japan, Israel, the Gulf countries, South Korea and Taiwan would feel the loss of America’s shield. Since they and their neighbours will struggle to raise military spending in a recession, resolving regional tensions would take on a greater sense of urgency. NATO and Russia would listen more carefully to each other, as would America’s Asian allies to China, the GCC to Iran and Israel to the Palestinians and Arabs. There is though a real risk that economic frustrations are politically channeled through war, even if most of these countries have nuclear deterrents. This credible counter-scenario to my proposed scenario is nuclear war… and that partly comes down to domestic politics and society.

With a sharp economic recession and the collapse of various UN agencies which get their funding from the (withdrawn) US and other countries which can’t afford the to keep up their dues, countries will have tougher societal issues to deal with than in a world with an engaged US. Poverty rates would explode. Law and order, as well as political stability could be up for grabs. Full term parliaments would become rarer than they already are. Institutions of civil society would be starved … fewer people would donate to charities and non-profits, or even to pay for the news. Hospitals and other societal infrastructure would be severely strained. And the nastier end of the human spectrum, the xenophobes and racists, would get a wonderful kick in the arm much like Hitler got in the early 1930s. That would have an interesting impact on inter-state politics.

So, what do I conclude as we ponder the meaning of 4th of July? I’m fasting – it’s Ramadan but I can still somewhat think. Yes, there’s a fair chunk that the US does which it should be ashamed of and needs to fix (do I need to mention Guantanamo, black church-burnings, poverty levels, Islamophobia etc?) …. but we are probably ALL better off with an engaged US than an isolated one.

About Dr. Saqib Qureshi:
Dr. Saqib Qureshi is a divergent strategist who looks at things a little differently. He writes intellectual and thought provoking articles on Reconstructing Strategy and received his PhD from the London School of Economics. Dr. Q has lived in Europe, Asia and North America and has worked for McKinsey & Co., HSBC Investment Bank and several governments. He was the first person to appear on British television to raise concerns about Muslim extremists in the West and the failure of western culture to properly understand the Muslim community. His new book, “Reconstructing Strategy: Dancing with the God of Objectivity” is available now.

Hillary: The Coloring Book

Yep, Hillary Clinton is running for the Democratic nomination to be candidate for President of the United States. I’m in New York so I had her as a first lady, then a senator, then primary candidate, then Secretary of State, and now this. For as polarizing as a public figure as Clinton may be on the national and international stage, you can turn that dial up to 11 in New York State. Maybe it’s different down in the city, but upstate where I am, she’s loved, she’s hated, she’s put up, even people that love her have hang ups with her, and oddly, even people that hate her, no, they pretty much just hate her. Yet all of those people can unite behind one thing, “Hillary: The Coloring Book” by Valentin Ramon and Kelly Glover.

This is a fun activity/coloring book that profiles Hillary Clinton’s life and career. It starts with her birth and childhood. Yes, you can color a little Hillary Clinton in her Girl Scout uniform. The book was published before everyone 100% knew she was going to make a go of running for President again so it ends with you helping to design her potential 2016 campaign poster. An example of what you’ll do is this:

A Run at the White House

I have a limited supply of colors to draw from so my choices for skin tone were alabaster vampire or a weird orange/George Hamilton hybrid. I opted for vampire. Insert vampire politician joke here. Also, in looking at the choices I made for the jacket and blouse for what we all know is a pant suit, I realized I’m not sure I’ve ever seen Clinton in that soft of tones. We’ll call this my idealized Hillary. To be honest, my idealized Hillary is Bernie Sanders. And my idealized Bernie Sanders is Dennis Kucinich. I’m going to be one sad young lady on November 5, 2016. Where the hell was I?

Ah ha! The text that goes with my idealized Clinton coloring is:

As early as 2002, Hillary had hinted that she might soon run for president. Speculation grew over the years and came to a head on January 20, 2007, when Hillary formed an “exploratory committee.” She made the announcement in no uncertain terms on her official website with the simple statement, “I’m in. And I’m in to win.” Her story was irresistible; Hillary was the 25th woman to run for president and the first former First Lady make a run at returning to the White House as the president herself.

She received more media attention than any other candidate in the 2008 Democratic primaries, which included a host of male candidates, including Barack Obama, John Edwards, Joe Biden, Chris Dodd, Mike Gravel, Dennis Kucinich, and Bill Richardson. As the primary election went on, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, a young senator from Illinois, quickly became the clear front-runners, with many of the other candidates withdrawing within the first few weeks.

“Hillary” is a fun, kitschy, and informative and perfectly priced at a suggested retail of $10.00. Give it to a big Hillary fan for them to have fun with. Give it to children, especially girls, as an educational gift. Give it to your favorite Hillary hater for them to deface! I told you at the beginning, “Hillary: The Coloring Book” is perfect for everyone!

24 Hour Joe Show

I suspect it comes as no surprise that my political inclinations are progressive, and thusly I found myself curious when given the opportunity to watch an advance screener of “The Joe Show”, a documentary about Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Would it celebrate him? With publicized appearances from known Arpaio supporters Ted Nugent and Steven Seagal it would seem like it. Yet even if it celebrated someone whose politics I felt certain no documentary could give me a warm fuzzy about, I couldn’t resist. I watched the Sarah Palin documentary “Undefeated”. I could handle whatever “The Joe Show” had in store.

Joe Arpaio is the sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona. You may know him as “America’s Toughest Sheriff”. Sheriff Arpaio is nationally known, and in many cases internationally known, for having prisoners wear pink underwear, erecting Tent City (an outdoor tent prison), feeding prisoners food salvage, being overly enthusiastic about cracking down on illegal immigration, investigating the origins of President Obama’s birth, and more. Fortunately for the press, he loves media attention.

However “The Joe Show” was eight years in the making, and that means eight years of access to the Sheriff and Lisa Allen (the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office Media Person), as well assorted constituents, activists, and supporters. It’s not surprising to think Arpaio would allow a documentary film to be made about him, and as the film starts it’s a very neutral experience. Basic background, friends and supporters.

Then things begin to turn. As I said, I already know my politics don’t mesh with Arpaio’s. I’m not down with Tent City, meals of food salvage, or the birthers. Yet with not living in Maricopa County I never went out of my way to follow what had been going on over there. I don’t want to do a big info dump on you here, because you should really just watch the documentary, but we’re talking about abuse of power, devastating failures to investigate sex crimes, and racial profiling. While it’s going on he just keeps getting re-elected. Apparently “The Joe Show” is just too entertaining for the voters of Maricopa County to let go.

Love him or hate him you’re not going to want to pass up on watching “The Joe Show”. It is a well-paced, entertaining, and eye-opening documentary.

The Joe Show – Official Trailer from FilmBuff on Vimeo.

“The Joe Show” will be released December 16 on iTunes, Amazon Instant Video, GooglePlay, Xbox, Playstation, and Vudu.

Remote Area Medical

Like many Americans, I hope most Americans, I follow the national debate about the Affordable Care Act (better known as Obamacare). Readers with a longish memory may recall I took the time to read the original, infamous 1,018 page health care bill when it seemed like no one was going to bother. This is why when I got word of a new documentary being released I wanted to make sure to share it with you.

During the U.S. debate about healthcare reform, the media—reporters and news crews and filmmakers— failed to put a human face on what it means to not have access to healthcare. “Remote Area Medical” fills that gap—it is a film about people, not policy. Focusing on a single three-day clinic held in the Bristol Motor Speedway in Tennessee, “Remote Area Medical” affords us an insider’s perspective on the ebb and flow of the event—from the tense 3:30 a.m. ticket distribution that determines who gets seen to the routine check-ups that take dramatic turns for the worse, to the risky means to which some patients resort for pain relief. We meet a doctor who also drives an 18-wheeler, a denture maker who moonlights as a jeweler, and the organization’s founder, Stan Brock, who first imagined Remote Area Medical while living as a cowboy in the Amazon rainforest, hundreds of miles from the nearest doctor. But it is the extraordinary stories of the patients, desperate for medical attention, that create a lasting impression about the state of modern health care in America.

Born in Lancashire, England, Stan Brock is perhaps best known for his years as the co-host of NBC’s “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom” from 1963-1971.

In 1985 Stan Brock founded Remote Area Medical (RAM). Since then RAM has mobilized over 80,000 volunteers and healthcare professionals to deliver over $75,000,000 worth of free quality medical procedures and services. He has addressed The United States Congress on the needs of providing free quality healthcare to those who cannot afford it nor have direct access to it. Stan has received numerous accolades for his work with Remote Area Medical, including the prestigious Inamori Ethics Prize for humanitarian leaders in 2010 and CNN’s Hero Award in 2012.

I can tell just from the trailer I’m going to need a tissue or two to get through this one, but I’m so totally going to watch it.

“Remote Area Medical” opens in New York on November 28, 2014 and nationwide on December 5, 2014.

UPDATE: A bit of news broke shortly after I wrote this up. It looks like NYC was going to have a visit from Remote Area Medical on November 28, 2014 to provide free health care to those who were willing to make the trip and lucky enough to get picked in the lottery. However New York Governor Andrew Cuomo decided to cancel the event. You can read the details here. (It’s written by the directors/producers of the documentary.)

The Politics of the Brokenhearted

By Parker J. Palmer

In a dark time, the eye begins to see. — Theodore Roethke, ‘‘In a Dark Time’’

I began this book (“Healing the Heart of Democracy”) in a season of heartbreak — personal and political heartbreak — that soon descended into a dark night of the soul. It took months to find my way back to the light and six years to complete the book. But as I fumbled in the dark, the poet Roethke’s words proved true time and again: my eyes were opened to new insights, and my heart was opened to new life. The evidence will, I hope, come clear as this book unfolds.

In 2004, I turned sixty-five. As I entered my ‘‘golden years’’ and saw how much of that gold was rust, I found myself disheartened by the diminishments that come with age. Family members and friends were failing and dying. Visions I once held for my life were slipping beyond my reach. My body kept reminding me that I am just a tad more mortal than I had imagined I would be. And I was no longer able to ‘‘read’’ American culture as easily as I could when my generation was helping to author it. It was as if I had lost the secret decoder ring I owned when I was a kid, and with it my ability to make sense of twenty-first-century life.

As the shape of my personal life became less familiar and sometimes more frightening, the same thing was happening in American politics as viewed from my vantage point. Dismayed by the state of the nation, I began to feel like a displaced person in my own land. The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, had deepened America’s appreciation of democracy and activated demons that threaten it, demons still at large today. Wounded and overwhelmed by fear, we soon went to war against a country that had no direct connection to the attacks. Many Americans seemed willing to abandon their constitutional rights along with our international treaty obligations.2 Some Americans, including elected officials, were quick to accuse protesters and dissenters of being unpatriotic or worse, fragmenting the civic community on which democracy depends.

I am no stranger to this democracy’s moments of peril, which have been precipitated by Democrats and Republicans alike. I lived through McCarthy’s communist witch hunts; the pushback to the civil rights movement; the political assassinations of the 1960s; the burning of our cities; Vietnam, the Pentagon Papers, Watergate; and the electoral debacle of 2000. I have witnessed the rapid erosion of the middle class and the growing power of big money, an oligarchy of wealth, to trump the will of the people. But with fear and fragmentation becoming staples of our national life, and with the haunting sense that our ‘‘booming economy’’ was likely to implode, democracy felt even more imperiled to me in the America of 2004.

As our distrust of ‘‘the other’’ beyond our borders hardened and we began making aliens of each other (a ‘‘we’’ that included me), I fell into a spiral of outrage and despair. How did we forget that our differences are among our most valuable assets? What happened to ‘‘we have nothing to fear but fear itself’’? When will we learn that violence in the long run creates at least as many problems as it solves? Why do we not value life, every life, no matter whose or where? Or understand that the measure of national greatness is not only how successful the strong can be but how well we support the weak?

And where have ‘‘We the People’’ gone — we who have the power to reclaim democracy for its highest purposes, unless we allow ourselves to be divided and conquered by the enemy within and among us?

When things we care about fall apart, heartbreak happens. In my sixty-fifth year, it was happening, again, to me. I soon began to realize that this episode was darker than most of those I had known before: I was descending into depression, my third time down as an adult. Clearly I am predisposed to this form of mental anguish, so I cannot claim that heartbreak was the sole source of my misery. But neither can I attribute the whole of this episode to brain chemistry or genetics. There are times when the heart, like the canary in the coal mine, breathes in the world’s toxicity and begins to die.

Much has been said about the ‘‘voice of depression.’’ It is a voice that speaks despairingly about the whole of one’s life no matter how good parts of it may be — a voice so loud and insistent that when it speaks, it is the only sound one can hear. I know that voice well. I have spent long days and nights listening to its deadly urgings.

Less has been said about the life-giving fact that, as poet Theodore Roethke writes, ‘‘In a dark time, the eye begins to see.’’ During my sojourn on the dark side, it was hard to believe that my vision was growing sharper or to make sense of what I was seeing. And yet as I slowly came back to life, I found that I had gained new clarity about myself, the community I depend on, and my call to reengage with its politics and relearn how to hold its tensions in a life-giving way.

During my recovery, I discovered a book that helped me understand how heartbreak and depression — two of the most isolating and disabling experiences I know — can expand one’s sense of connectedness and evoke the heart’s capacity to employ tension in the service of life. “Lincoln’s Melancholy”, by Joshua Shenk, is a probing examination of our sixteenth president’s journey with depression. What was then called ‘‘melancholy’’ first appeared in Lincoln’s twenties, when neighbors occasionally took him in for fear he might take his own life. Lincoln struggled with this affliction until the day he died, a dark thread laced through a life driven by the conviction that he was born to render some sort of public service.

Lincoln’s need to preserve his life by embracing and integrating his own darkness and light made him uniquely qualified to help America preserve the Union. Because he knew dark and light intimately — knew them as inseparable elements of everything human — he refused to split North and South into ‘‘good guys’’ and ‘‘bad guys,’’ a split that might have taken us closer to the national version of suicide.

Instead, in his second inaugural address, delivered on March 4,1865, a month before the end of the Civil War, Lincoln appealed for ‘‘malice toward none’’ and ‘‘charity for all,’’ animated by what one writer calls an ‘‘awe-inspiring sense of love for all ’’ who bore the brunt of the battle. In his appeal to a deeply divided America, Lincoln points to an essential fact of our life together: if we are to survive and thrive, we must hold its divisions and contradictions with compassion, lest we lose our democracy.

Lincoln has much to teach us about embracing political tension in a way that opens our hearts to each other, no matter how deep our differences. That way begins ‘‘in here’’ as we work on reconciling whatever divides us from ourselves — and then moves out with healing power into a world of many divides, drawing light out of darkness, community out of chaos, and life out of death.

In my experience, the best therapy for personal problems comes from reaching out as well as looking in. Reading about Lincoln as my healing continued, I began to wonder about my own ability to reach across the divides that threaten our Union today, not as an elected leader but as a citizen, a trust holder of democracy. To make this something other than a pious exercise in forced altruism — which always leads me to feel-good failures that end in a pathetic ‘‘God knows I tried!’’ — I needed to find a true point of identity with people whose basic beliefs are contrary to mine.

What do I have in common with people who, for example, regard their religious or political convictions as so authoritative that they feel no need to listen to anyone who sees things differently — especially that small subgroup of extremists who would use violence to advance their views? My own experience of political heartbreak gave me a clue. Perhaps we share an abiding grief over some of modernity’s worst features: its mindless relativism, corrosive cynicism, disdain for tradition and human dignity, indifference to suffering and death.

How shall we respond to these cultural trends that diminish all of us? On this question, I, too, have a nonnegotiable conviction: violence can never be the answer. Instead, we must protect people’s freedom to believe and behave as they will, within the rule of law; assent to majority rule while dedicating ourselves to protecting minority rights; embrace and act on our responsibility to care for one another; seek to educate ourselves about our critical differences; come together in dialogue toward mutual understanding; and speak without fear against all that diminishes us, including the use of violence.

With people who are irrevocably committed to violence, I may never find the smallest patch of common ground. Could I find one with others whose views differ sharply from mine — a small patch, perhaps, but one large enough that we could stand there and talk for a while? I had reason to believe that the answer might be yes. For example, I know of daylong dialogue programs for people who differ on difficult issues like abortion where participants are forbidden from proclaiming their positions on the issue until the last hour of the day. Instead, they are coached in the art of personal storytelling and then invited to share the experiences that gave rise to their beliefs while others simply listen.

Hearing each other’s stories, which are often stories of heartbreak, can create an unexpected bond between so-called pro-life and pro-choice people. When two people discover that parallel experiences led them to contrary conclusions, they are more likely to hold their differences respectfully, knowing that they have experienced similar forms of grief. The more you know about another person’s story, the less possible it is to see that person as your enemy.

Abortion is one of the many issues that generate what some people have called the ‘‘politics of rage.’’ And yet rage is simply one of the masks that heartbreak wears. When we share the sources of our pain with each other instead of hurling our convictions like rocks at ‘‘enemies,’’ we have a chance to open our hearts and connect across some of our great divides.

In this book, the word heart reclaims its original meaning. ‘‘Heart’’ comes from the Latin cor and points not merely to our emotions but to the core of the self, that center place where all of our ways of know- ing converge — intellectual, emotional, sensory, intuitive, imaginative, experiential, relational, and bodily, among others. The heart is where we integrate what we know in our minds with what we know in our bones, the place where our knowledge can become more fully human. Cor is also the Latin root from which we get the word courage. When all that we understand of self and world comes together in the center place called the heart, we are more likely to find the courage to act humanely on what we know.

The politics of our time is the ‘‘politics of the brokenhearted’’ — an expression that will not be found in the analytical vocabulary of political science or in the strategic rhetoric of political organizing. Instead, it is an expression from the language of human wholeness. There are some human experiences that only the heart can comprehend and only heart- talk can convey. Among them are certain aspects of politics, by which I mean the essential and eternal human effort to craft the common life on which we all depend. This is the politics that Lincoln practiced as he led from a heart broken open to the whole of what it means to be human — simultaneously meeting the harsh demands of political reality and nurturing the seeds of new life.

When all of our talk about politics is either technical or strategic, to say nothing of partisan and polarizing, we loosen or sever the human connections on which empathy, accountability, and democracy itself depend. If we cannot talk about politics in the language of the heart — if we cannot be publicly heartbroken, for example, that the wealthiest nation on earth is unable to summon the political will to end childhood hunger at home — how can we create a politics worthy of the human spirit, one that has a chance to serve the common good?

The link between language and empathy was explored by the comedian and social critic George Carlin in his classic minihistory of the various ways we have named the postwar condition of some soldiers:

There’s a condition in combat. Most people know about it. It’s when a fighting person’s nervous system has been stressed to its absolute peak and maximum. Can’t take anymore input. The nervous system has either … snapped or is about to snap.

In World War I, Carlin goes on, ‘‘that condition was called shell shock. Simple, honest, direct language. Two syllables, shell shock. Almost sounds like the guns themselves.’’ By World War II, the name had morphed into ‘‘battle fatigue. Four syllables now. Takes a little longer to say. Doesn’t seem to hurt as much.’’ Then came the Korean War, and the condition became operational exhaustion. ‘‘The humanity has been squeezed completely out of the phrase,’’ Carlin comments. ‘‘Sounds like something that might happen to your car.’’

Then came Vietnam, and we all know what shell shock has been called ever since: post-traumatic stress disorder. Says Carlin,

Still eight syllables, but we’ve added a hyphen! And the pain is com- pletely buried under jargon…. I’ll bet you if we’d still been calling it shell shock, some of those Vietnam veterans might have gotten the attention they needed at the time.

Carlin missed one precursor to shell shock, an important one in the context of this book. During the Civil War, traumatized combatants developed a condition that they called ‘‘soldier’s heart.’’ The violence that results in soldier’s heart shatters a person’s sense of self and community, and war is not the only setting in which violence is done: violence is done whenever we violate another’s integrity. Thus we do violence in politics when we demonize the opposition or ignore urgent human needs in favor of politically expedient decisions.

This book, like the personal journey that helped shape it, does not blink at the darkness laced through American life today. Still, it is full of hope about our capacity to see the light. When I came out of my own darkness back into the light — to the people I love, the work I believe in, the world about which I care — the conflicts within and around me no longer tore me apart. With eyes wide open and a broken-open heart, I was better able to hold personal and political tensions in ways that generate insight, engagement, and new life.

Looking at politics through the eye of the heart can liberate us from seeing it as a chess game of moves and countermoves or a shell game for seizing power or a blame game of Whac-A-Mole. Rightly understood, politics is no game at all. It is the ancient and honorable human endeavor of creating a community in which the weak as well as the strong can flourish, love and power can collaborate, and justice and mercy can have their day. ‘‘We the People’’ must build a political life rooted in the commonwealth of compassion and creativity still found among us, becoming a civic community sufficiently united to know our own will and hold those who govern accountable to it.

In January 1838 — when Abraham Lincoln was twenty-eight years old and the Civil War was twenty-three years off — a prescient Lincoln addressed the Young Men’s Lyceum of Springfield, Illinois, on ‘‘the perpetuation of our political institutions.’’ Exhorting his audience to understand the responsibility to protect American democracy against its enemies, he said:

At what point shall we expect the approach of danger? … Shall we expect some transatlantic military giant, to step the Ocean, and crush us at a blow? Never! All the armies of Europe, Asia and Africa combined … could not by force, take a drink from the Ohio, or make a track on the Blue Ridge, in a Trial of a thousand years.

At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, if it ever reach us, it must spring up amongst us. It cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide.

The Cold War made it clear that America was vulnerable to attacks from abroad despite the protection of two oceans, a fact underscored by the events of September 11, 2001. Still, Lincoln’s case holds. If American democracy fails, the ultimate cause will not be a foreign invasion or the power of big money or the greed and dishonesty of some elected officials or a military coup or the internal communist/socialist/fascist takeover that keeps some Americans awake at night. It will happen because we — you and I — became so fearful of each other, of our differences and of the future, that we unraveled the civic community on which democracy depends, losing our power to resist all that threatens it and call it back to its highest form.

Our differences may be deep: what breaks my heart about America may make your heart sing, and vice versa. Protecting our right to disagree is one of democracy’s gifts, and converting this inevitable tension into creative energy is part of democracy’s genius. You and I may disagree profoundly on what constitutes a political failure or success, but we can still agree on this: democracy is always at risk. Government ‘‘of the people, by the people, and for the people’’ is a nonstop experiment in the strength and weakness of our political institutions, our local communities and associations, and the human heart. Its outcome can never be taken for granted.

The democratic experiment is endless, unless we blow up the lab, and the explosives to do the job are found within us. But so also is the heart’s alchemy that can turn suffering into community, conflict into the energy of creativity, and tension into an opening toward the common good. We can help keep the experiment alive by repairing and maintaining democracy’s neglected infrastructure, whose two levels are the primary concerns of this book: the invisible dynamics of the human heart and the visible venues of our lives in which those dynamics are formed.

It is well known and widely bemoaned that we have neglected our physical infrastructure — the roads, water supplies, and power grids on which our daily lives depend. Even more dangerous is our neglect of democracy’s infrastructure, and yet it is barely noticed and rarely discussed. The heart’s dynamics and the ways in which they are shaped lack the drama and the ‘‘visuals’’ to make the evening news, and restoring them is slow and daunting work. Now is the time to notice, and now is the time for the restoration to begin.

For those of us who want to see democracy survive and thrive — and we are legion — the heart is where everything begins: that grounded place in each of us where we can overcome fear, rediscover that we are members of one another, and embrace the conflicts that threaten democracy as openings to new life for us and for our nation.∗


About Parker J. Palmer:
Parker J. Palmer’s writing speaks deeply to people in many walks of life. Author of nine books—including the bestsellers The Courage to Teach, Let Your Life Speak, and A Hidden Wholeness—Palmer is the founder of the Center for Courage & Renewal. His work has been recognized with ten honorary doctorates and many national awards, including the 2010 William Rainey Harper Award, previously won by Margaret Mead, Paulo Freire, and Elie Wiesel.

Excerpted with permission from the publisher, Wiley, from Healing the Heart of Democracy by Parker Palmer. Copyright © 2014

∗In the course of writing this book, I have heard a good deal of debate on the question ‘‘Is the United States a democracy or a republic?’’ My answer is that it is both: we are a representative democracy set in the context of a constitutional republic. I give due attention in this book to the structures of our republic, one of whose most important functions is to protect the rights of individuals and minorities from being overwhelmed by the majority. But my primary focus is on the health of the democratic processes characterized by Lincoln in the Gettysburg Address as a ‘‘government of the people, by the people, for the people.’’

Press the President Costume Contest

Still looking for a Halloween costume idea? Well, a press release I received from the political blog Press the President might influence you with the idea of winning cash for your politically inspired costume.

Washington, D.C. (October 6, 2014) – With Halloween and Election Day just around the corner, PressThePresident.com wants you to get in the spirit by submitting photos or videos of yourself dressed as your favorite politician or political issue. Every year, hundreds of thousands of Americans celebrate these holidays with costumes and parties and now you have a chance to be rewarded for your creative efforts.

PressThePresident.com is offering a cash prize for the best photo or video submission of individuals dressing as a politician or demonstrating a political issue. Press the President’s editorial staff will judge video and photo submissions on relevancy, creativity, and originality. All photos and videos must be submitted by 12:01 a.m. PST on November 5, 2014 to be considered. For full submissions guidelines, please scroll down.

Struggling for the best costume idea? We have you covered. Here are some hot button issues we think would make great creative costume idea:

• Global Warming – With so many options for this one, it is hard to know where to start. The easiest costume idea is simply to wear a global and dress it up with winter accessories – before you know it, you are warming the globe!

• Pollution – While covering yourself in trash may cause some individuals to stop in shock, it certainly gets the point across! According to DoSomething.org, Pollution is one of the biggest global killers, affecting over 100 million people. That’s comparable to global diseases like malaria and HIV.

• Animal Rights – Wear a costume that showcases your feelings about clothing from animals, food from animals, fur trade, and rights associated with hunting.

• Veteran’s Rights – Although Veteran’s Day isn’t until November 11th, why not get a head start on celebrating the men and women who have served our country by dressing up like one of your military heroes? In light of the recent Phoenix VA Hospital scandal, many Americans have made an effort to educate themselves about what they can do to support these individuals.

Photo Submission guidelines:

• Must be original content from the user.
• Must be accompanied by caption of whom the politician or political issue is and why the individual decided to dress like them.
• Any photo containing nudity, profanity, violence, graphic content, illegal drugs, derogatory comments, personal attacks or slander towards others will be removed and will not be considered for the contest. Anything that is considered spam or an advertisement will also be removed.
• Contestants are encouraged to submit a written piece as well (no more than 500 words) about the politician or issue they are portraying.

Video Submission Guidelines:
• Must be original content from the user
• Must be no longer than 60 seconds in length
• It must be clear which politician or political issue you are imitating.
• Must abide decorum of Press the President – any video containing nudity, profanity, violence, graphic content, illegal drugs, derogatory comments, personal attacks or slander towards others will be removed and will not be considered for the contest. Anything that is considered spam or an advertisement will also be removed.

• Contestants are encouraged to submit a written piece as well (no more than 500 words) about the politician or issue they are portraying.

Rights of Press the President:

• Press the President reserves the right to remove any photos or videos that do not comply with the above guidelines.
• Press the President reserves the right to use any submitted photos or videos on PressThePresident.com or in any other manner or platform Press the President chooses to promote itself now or in the future.

Prizes:

Submissions will be judged on relevancy, creativity, and originality by Press the President’s editorial staff.

• 1st prize – $300.00
• 2nd prize – $150.00
• 3rd prize – $100.00

Winners will be contacted via email at which point they will be required to send their mailing address for follow-up purposes. The winner of the contest will most likely be interviewed for a press release about their photo and why they decided to “go political” this Halloween instead of rocking the spooky outfit.

How to Enter

To submit a picture -Email contact.us@pressthepresident.com. Please include a short sentence about the costume and what this politician or issue means for you.

To submit a video –You simply take your smart phone, ask your friend or family member or a simple passerby on the street to record you for 60 seconds doing your best impression or impersonation of the politician of your choice. Care taken for costumes and props are given special attention by the judges for consideration for prizes. Once you have your 60 second video, you can post it here on Press the President. Just create a profile using your Facebook account: http://www.pressthepresident.com/show.jsp.

And away you go! This is your opportunity to have fun and get prize money for doing it!

For more details, visit: http://www.pressthepresident.com/show.jsp?page=181264

The State of Faith in America

In 2012 a Pew Research study showed that one-fifth of the U.S. public identified themselves as unaffiliated with any religion. This means atheist, agnostic, and just darn nothing. Apparently two years later this inspired the folks at Larry King Now to put together a show on “The State of Faith in America” that primarily focused on the rising tide of nonbelievers in the United States. Assuming that two years later we’re still trending that way. (I just want some newer data to prompt a show on Larry! That’s all I’m saying.)

Now I am a lady that has watched more than her fair share of round table television shows and many, okay all, of them have featured people on opposite ends of the issue being discussed. The guests for this one are: Gus Holwerda, who directed the documentary “The Unbelievers”, Lawrence Krauss, a theoretical physicist who is featured in the film “The Unbelievers”, Michael Beckwith, a new thought minister and author, David A.R. White, a Christian actor who stars in “God’s Not Dead”, and Jay Bakker, pastor, speaker, author, and son of Jim and Tammy Faye.

The participants were respectful of each other and although I may have detected a hint of exasperation in Krauss’s voice on the rare occasion, voices were never raised and tempers never flared. The problem is the show is only 30 minutes so no thoughts were given a chance to be expanded upon and no responses were given a chance for the other side to then make a brief rebuttal. King’s heart was in the right place, but he needed at least 60 minutes for it to be a real conversation.

Let’s be honest, we could have a million round tables like these and many of the questions posed by King may never be settled to the satisfaction of every American. The folks over at Larry King Now were nice enough to bring this episode to my attention and now I’m sharing it with you, if you’re interested.

Also for those who may be interested, here is the trailer for the movie “God’s Not Dead” that guest David A.R. White is in.

And for those of you who want the flip side trailer, here’s the one for “The Unbelievers”.

Craftivism Now!

Are you ready to be inspired? Like let’s go out and change the world right now, this minute, level of inspiration? Then pull up a chair because have I found the book for you and it is all about crafting. Yep, like needle and thread, yarn and bead, clay and paper crafting. The book is called “Craftivism: The Art of Craft and Activism” and it was edited by Betsy Greer, author of “Knitting for Good!: A Guide to Creating Personal, Social, and Political Change Stitch by Stitch” and she also runs the blog Craftivism.com.

What is craftivism? It’s a term for crafting that is motivated by social or political activism. Greer explains that “the creation of things by hand leads to a better understanding of democracy, because it reminds us that we have power.”

“Craftivism” is divided into four categories: Personal Threads, Refashioning Craft, Craft as a Political Mouthpiece, and Activating Communities. Personal Threads features personal approaches to craft including the concept of guerrilla kindness and some really badass cross-stitchers and quilters. Refashioning Craft discusses how you can use craft for clothing that can reflect beliefs by crafting resistance or making a statement such as a jewelry maker who creates in public and gives away the result. The next section, Craft as a Political Mouthpiece, includes the AIDS Quilt, a knitted mouse activist, the work of the Adithi collective, and more. Finally Activating Communities which shows how crafting can improve and empower communities be it by updated suffragette banners (there’s one for Robyn!) or making handmade basketball nets.

“Craftivism” is a fascinating look at art, politics, crafts, and fashion. The interviews and stories are inspiring and at times emotionally moving. You’re going to want this book and then get ready to get engaged.

Internet Randomness & Fun

A couple of interesting things have passed through my inbox recently and I thought I’d share them with you.

First up is Amplifyd, a social activism start up that helps crowd-source political lobbying for people, communities and causes by having activists call and lobby local, regional or national representatives on your behalf. Here’s a cute little video that explains the concept:

You can learn more at their IndieGoGo page.

Next is an interesting entrant in the crowded social networking website category, RealSoulful.com. Unlike most social networking websites which focus heavily on the outward part of networking, RealSoulful is setting itself up to be a resource for the individual and hopefully create a more sincere community from that.

Users can create their own content, and I set up an account to see what it was like. I haven’t had a lot of time to interact with RealSoulful, just kind of poke around. What would normally be your homepage on other sites here is called “My Sanctuary”. There is a Vision Board that you can upload pictures to, and along the top there are options such as adding your mantra, expressing gratitude, setting intentions, typing journal entries, enter a prayer, share a random act of kindness you witnessed, and release a negative emotion. You have the option of sharing these with “Soul Central”, which is the community’s timeline/feed (like Facebook), and for those of you who cannot say good-bye to Facebook, RealSoulful also gives you the option to share all of those things on your Facebook as well.

I have to say that although I haven’t had much time to spend on the site it really does seem like it could be an interesting tool for someone looking for a more spiritual social media experience. There is even more to it than everything I mentioned here! To learn more, visit RealSoulful.com.

Lastly, quite a while back Self Magazine sent me this quick fun video that I’ve been sitting on because honestly, it got kind of lost in my inbox. But I have it now to share with you! Self Magazine answers the question, which is worse, artificial sweetener or real sugar?

Moonlight Tarot’s Question Corner: Mystical Answers to Mundane Inquiries

By Angela Kaufman, Moonlight Tarot LLC

It is November and Americans are counting down the days until changes instituted under the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, go into effect. A question on many minds is the subject of this month’s column: What is up with Obamacare? Please understand that while I am curious about the implications of this monumental shift in policy, it is also my intention to not reflect my own views, hopes or fears in this reading- a difficult task and exciting challenge.

In only three cards a glimpse is shown, not every aspect of this complex social, political and economic shift likely to be caused by the institution of this new bill. For an initial intuitive “warm up” I hoped to glean a sense of the good, bad and ugly about the coming changes, trying to be objective and open up purely to the guidance from Spirit. My initial impression is that the original bill promised, discussed and debated will be either stopped or watered down. My sense is that even this close to the “deadlines” there will still be cuts, compromises and political reconstructive surgery on this policy so that what we have heard rumor of will not be what ends up coming down the line. My sense is that discrepancies among powerful institutions that influence government will not allow this bill to pass as intended and civil disobedience in many forms will ensue. I also sense that the majority of individuals hoping to receive positive benefit from this policy change will largely be in the dark about their rights and responsibilities and that misinformation or poor information will be a significant disadvantage to the masses.

On a positive note I sense a turning point on the horizon for numerous health crises including those involving prescription drugs and obesity. The attention given to the flaws in current healthcare system will revolutionize healthcare as we know it and that greater accountability and definitive results will be demanded by numerous powers involved from researchers to insurance companies to health advocacy groups. I feel a shift in power accompanying this issue- on more than a medical front, on an economic and civil rights front as well. Greater attention given to populations neglected and underserved by the healthcare system and greater priorities given to addressing lack of preventive care. Revolutionary ripple effects will follow this change- a fissure or drastic schism among political rivals. The government shutdown last month will not be the last act of disharmony among those in power. Again I wish to emphasize this is not my hope, nor is it any reflection of my personal feelings about this bill. My sense is that the individualization of coverage will not imminently take place- it seems to me that this is initially a result of confusion and lack of awareness of the majority of lay people regarding how to individualize care to meet their needs.

Now for the cards- an interesting mix! No Major Arcana, a surprise considering the significance of this milestone bill- this also leads to my impression that what rolls out next year will be quite watered down but will serve as a philosophical and political catalyst more than an actual step in our collective enlightenment or betterment. There are however two aces. The Ace of Cups, the Four of Swords, and the Ace of Pentacles.

The Ace of Cups suggests happiness, compassion and new understanding emerging. This suggests a unified benevolent and loving atmosphere. It is associated with joy and celebration. I feel this card represents the cleansing, positive aspects of this change- that for many the satisfaction of accessing care will be a relief. It also suggests a new beginning that suffices to satisfy the emotional needs perhaps more style than substance.

The Four of Swords suggests the downside of this transition phase- stagnation, delay and loss of power. The engine that drives this change seems to run out of steam before the main mission is accomplished. There is a sense of being driven into hibernation as well. While delays have already occurred we may expect another delay of four weeks or four months before the final product is ready. Stagnation is likely to occur as multiple sides reach a stalemate and there is little budging from Democrats or Republicans for a period of likely 4 months. Further delays will likely accompany the roll out phase- as if the original plan is laid to rest before it is even born.

The final card in the reading is the Ace of Pentacles. Another ace reaffirms the message of new beginning, after a period of standoff the breaking point will arise in favor of profit and business rather than in favor of the benefit of the public. The bill will be born after progress is halted but what is birthed is more concrete and profit driven version of the original mission, having lost idealism and social conscience. It would also seem that happy optimism are replaced by concrete, direct and rigid final product that serves to get the job done. As much as this bill brings about a new model for healthcare it appears to deliver more economic features than socialist benefits, for better or worse.

As we brace for the changes ahead excitement be prepared to embrace the emergence of new concepts around healthcare stemming from what is benevolent and disappointing about this first step in the direction toward a new model of managing health needs. The initial changes slow in coming, bring dividing lines both economically and philosophically. We may choose this transition to be our collective initiation- a catalyst for change that may not fully take shape for another four years or so but which at least brings to life the possibility of a system that looks far different from what has been accepted as status quo. The “first born” version of this plan appears to fall short of the social ideals upon which it was originally based, but it is nevertheless the first step. As a catalyst, this first bill will serve the purpose of challenging the past model and though it seems to come close to mimicking it when all is said and done I feel the door will be open for further change in the long term.

Remember, no matter where you are reading this all readings are intended for entertainment purposes in accordance with NYS law.

The deck used this month is the Aquarian Tarot published by US Games Inc and created by David Palladini. For more information visit http://www.usgamesinc.com/Aquarian-tarot-deck/

Interested in being the Querent in next month’s column? Contact Angela at Trionfi78@gmail.com.

About Angela:
Angela Kaufman has been exploring divination through Tarot cards for over a decade. She is a Certified Professional Tarot Reader and formed Moonlight Tarot in 2009 which would become Moonlight Tarot LLC in 2010. Angela uses the Tarot to assist clients in exploring personal growth and development, and in accordance with New York State Law offers readings for entertainment purposes. Angela began providing readings on a professional, “Moonlighting” basis in order to provide affordable readings to those seeking guidance, inspiration and fun. Angela is also co-author of the new book “Wicca, What’s the Real Deal? Breaking Through the Misconceptions.” And the newly released “Sacred Objects, Sacred Space, Everyday Tools for the Modern Day Witch” (Schiffer Publishing, 2011). In 2006 she joined ISIS Paranormal Investigations and has accompanied the team on numerous investigations in private residences and businesses throughout the capital region, Adirondacks, Vermont and Massachusetts.

For more information on services offered by Moonlight Tarot LLC, visit http://www.moonlighttarotllc.com