The battle for America’s soul

by Phyllis Stenerson – Ideas we need to talk about  (HTML version)
Progressive Values e-letter  -  October 4, 2013
The fight raging in America’s capital is ostensibly over the nation’s budget but it’s really about everything. Conflict that has been building for at least 40 years seems to have hit a high mark.

Controversy is embedded in the political process of making decisions about government taxing and spending. Dig into this drama and you’ll find threads that connect to countless ways that citizens, elected representatives and government interconnect with one another.

“America is deeply divided” has become a cliché for trying to describe what’s going on in our nation when the scope of the scenario is just too big to fully grasp. Culture war has become a term for describing this intangible concept with far reaching implications. Culture wars can be subdivided into class wars when it’s about money and religion wars when it’s about values. People aren’t talking much yet about intellectual wars but that dialogue needs to emerge. Right now Democrats and Republicans seem to be living in different worlds, using differing language, arriving at different truths.

We’re immersed in a clash of worldviews. In the big picture we talk mostly about two dominant worldviews, conservative and progressive. Conservatives tend to be Republicans; progressives tend to be Democrats. The reality is that most people hold a combination of worldviews but that is too complex for sound bites and punditry.

A worldview is how we see the world and our place in it, our philosophy of life, our moral and intellectual truth. Moral values are strongly influenced by religion and spirituality leading to clashes within our highly diverse religious culture. “All politics is moral” says linguist George Lakoff.

We, as citizens of a democracy, must talk about the ideas at the core of the American experience and government. Links are provided to diverse voices on a range of topics, many of whom are independent journalists and philosophers who publish primarily on the web. I think of it a having a virtual conversation with wise, visionary people and am most grateful to these patriots.

You are encouraged to use this “conversation starter kit” to talk about these ideas, adding, deleting and amending perspectives as the dialogue deepens and spreads.

“We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.”
June Jordan
* * * * *
“It is the poorest and most vulnerable who are always hurt the most in a crisis like thisthat is our job in politics — to talk about what happens to themThe biblical purpose of government is to protect from evil and to promote the good.…That vision of “common good” is what we have lost, and there is nothing more important in our public life than to find it again…Why the Government Shutdown Is Unbiblical by Jim Wallis, Sojourners, posted on, Oct 3, 2013
Your False-Equivalence Guide to the Days Ahead  by James Fallows Sep 27 2013
Suffocating Echo Chamber By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF, New York Times, September 25, 2013
Conservatives With a Cause: ‘We’re Right’ By ASHLEY PARKER, New York Times,  September 30, 2013
G.O.P. Extremists Defy Description by John Cassidy, TheNew, September 30, 2013
Republicans Facing a Test of Unity By ASHLEY PARKER, New York Times,  September 26, 2013
Marlin Stutzman and post-policy nihilism By Steve Benen,, October 3, 2013
Grayson blames shutdown on GOP literally drinking on the job By Josh Eidelson, Salon.Com, October 1. 2013
Permanent Republican minority By Harold Meyerson, Washington Post, October 1, 2013
Where the G.O.P.’s Suicide Caucus Lives Posted by Ryan Lizza,, September 26, 2013
Staunch Group of Republicans Outflanks House Leaders By JONATHAN WEISMAN and ASHLEY PARKER, New York Times, October 1, 2013
When we come to the moral principles on which the government is to be administered, we come to what is proper for all conditions of society… Liberty, truth, probity, honor, are declared to be the four cardinal principles of society. I believe that morality, compassion, generosity, are innate elements of the human constitution; that there exists a right independent of force. Thomas Jefferson

A compassionate government keeps faith with the trust of the people and cherishes
the future of their children.

Lyndon B. Johnson

If you go deep enough into any faith tradition, you find
the common ground
with all faith traditions.
Martin Marty

Nothing is politically right
which is morally wrong.
Daniel O’Connell

A progressive moral vision
is deeply connected to the
exercise of conscience.
Rev. Dr. Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite

Justice is conscience,
not a personal conscience but the
conscience of the whole of humanity. Those who clearly recognize the voice of their own conscience usually recognize also the voice of justice.
Alexander Solzhenitsyn

Patriotism is in political life
what faith is in religion.
Lord Acton

For the religious the holy is truth,
for the philosophic
the truth is holy.
Ludwig Andreas von Feuerbach

We must always take sides.
Neutrality helps the oppressor,
never the victim. Silence
encourages the tormentor,
never the tormented.
Elie Wiesel

When there is a lack of honor in government, the morals of the whole people are poisoned.
Herbert Hoover

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Phyllis Stenerson, Paideia LLC 612.331.1929
Paideia (pu-di’uh) is an ancient Greek philosophy of educating for citizenship to create an ideal society

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