A democratic citizen is not a citizen who can do anything he wants. It’s a citizen who has an obligation at the same time. And just to give you an example, if I may, the freedom of speech, what is the duty associated with it?
Well, if I have the right to speak, I have the duty to let you speak. Now, that’s not so simple. It doesn’t mean just to stop my talking and wait till you’re finished and then come in and get you. It means I have an obligation inwardly — and that’s what we’re speaking about, is the inner dimension. Inwardly, I have to work at listening to you. That means I don’t have to agree with you, but I have to let your thought into my mind in order to have a real democratic exchange between us. And that is a very interesting work of the human being, don’t you think?
Civil Pen Pals as a Way to Know the Other
by Susan Leem, associate producer
After listening to our On Being's Civil Conversations series, Michigander Carolyn Peterson wrote us expressing her hope for real-life opportunities to engage civilly with others differing in perspective:
"I would like someone to set up a website in which people could find political pen pals for civil, substantive conversations. For example, I am a liberal Christian Democrat who would like to ‘talk’ with a fundamentalist Christian Tea Party supporter. We would agree to stay engaged, to share sources, to treat each other with respect."
We’re curious about this possibility as well. One of the objectives of The Civil Conversaions Project was "beginning new conversations in families and communities." Maybe it could it function like a Match.com site, which, instead of pairing you with a romantic partner, would pair you with your political opposite — though the two need not be mutually exclusive of course! Many of us could get behind Ms. Peterson’s ground rules to “stay engaged, share sources, and treat each other with respect.”
How might we going about doing this? Have you experienced a positive “substantive conversation” in this kind of intentional manner? How would you design such a regular encounter or opportunity in everyday life?
About the image: A self-portrait of a woman with two titanium rods secured in place with long screws and other hardware who is looking for some “old school style pen pals” that “want to talk about the world, art, music, share ideas, etc.” and “connect with people” she “would normally never get a chance to meet.” (photo: Katie Dureault/Flickr, cc by-nc-sa 2.0 )
Unearthing a Cherokee-Slave Narrative at a Plantation Home
by David McGuire, guest contributor
Some stories in our families, and in our culture, get passed down. Some lay hidden, or are actively forgotten. Public historian Tiya Miles has worked on the latter — unearthing the painful histories of African slave ownership by Cherokees in the 19th century.
In this short excerpt from our upcoming show, “Toward Living Memory,” Miles explains how one fragment of an archival document led to a meaningful change at the plantation home of Cherokee Chief Vann.
Change and Hope Come from the Margins
by Krista Tippett, host
I can only urge you to listen to Vincent Harding, a wise voice of history and its deep resonance for the contemporary world. He uses the word “magnificent” often and he embodies that word.
Vincent Harding offers an essential and utterly helpful perspective, I feel, to our ongoing collective reflection on civility, moral imagination, and social healing. He was a friend and speechwriter of Martin Luther King Jr. and a force in the philosophy of nonviolence that drove the civil rights movement’s success. That is to say, he was at the center of a moment of human and societal transformation that was wrested from another American era of toxic division and social violence. And Vincent Harding has continued to mine the lessons of that time in the intervening decades, and to bring them creatively and usefully to young people today.
These are stories we rarely see or hear, and they are happening in neighborhoods in places like Detroit and Philadelphia where our lens is usually focused on despair and decay.
So among other things — interestingly, from a very different direction, echoing my conversation with Frances Kissling — Vincent Harding reminds us that change and hope come from the margins. And he has stories to tell about that hope as it’s embodied and lived on the margins of today.
This is also a beautiful hour of production — rich with the music by which people, as Vincent Harding puts it, did not merely demonstrate but “sang” their way to freedom in the 1960s. You will never hear the song “This Little Light of Mine” or the phrase “a Kumbaya moment" in the same way again. Enjoy, and be enriched.
About the image: Reverend Jim Forbes (L) hugs Dr. Vincent Harding (R) during a service at All Souls Church to commemorate Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday (photo: Mark Ralston/Getty Images).