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Transpartisan Review Note #49

A Comment on Needleman’s American Soul

Transpartisan Note #49

by A. Lawrence Chickering and James S. Turner

Our country’s partisan divide impacts the way we do business, whether we work in commercial, nonprofit, academic, or government programs. The following short article, written with fellow public policy analyst A. Lawrence Chickering, explores one of the many facets of this impact when examined from the “Transpartisan” perspective.transpartisan

The American Soul: Rediscovering the Wisdom of the Founders (San Francisco State University), Philosophy Professor Jacob Needleman’s 2002 book on the meaning of America, offers insight, solace, and guidance for 2017 Americans.

Professor Needleman sees in the face of Lincoln, the mind of Jefferson, the character of Washington, and the multitude of attributes of the men and women of America’s founding generation the emergence of “the idea of America” leading to “a community of conscience”.

Dr. Needleman’s website says of the book, “At the heart of The American Soul is a call to rediscover the timeless truths hidden within the founding vision of the American nation…this uniquely American vision has the power to speak again to the modern world’s need for meaning and community.”

The book addresses American slavery, the destruction of the culture of the American Indian, and the Vietnam war, which Dr. Needleman calls “crimes and defeats,” saying they “cry out for a clear vision of America asleep to its own spiritual essence, while bringing home the depth of what America owes to its own people and to the earth itself.”

Publishers Weekly said of the book, when it was published in 2002, “While Needleman clearly finds much to love about America, he balances our light with our darkness, our genuine good will and spirituality with our great crimes….Needleman’s latest work gives open-minded readers a new set of spiritual role models and much valuable food for thought….”

We believe that Dr. Needleman captures an essential aspect of what we observe, suggest, and advocate as Transpartisan politics and policy. In particular, we believe that a large majority of the individuals disassociating from current political parties and processes resonate with the deep subjective part of the American essence described by Dr. Needleman. We believe they are searching for ways to express that resonance.

The book closes with a call for rekindling the American mythology, to understand what is truly eternal and indestructible in the American vision. As the transpartisan political process unfolds we believe that its expression is shaped by the essential American vision.

Transpartisan Review Note #48

Introducing Voice for Hope – Healers of Planet Earth

Transpartisan Note #48

by A. Lawrence Chickering and James S. Turner

Voice for HOPE (Healers of Planet Earth), founded in 2010 to support ‘Freedom to Choose Your Path to Wellness,’ works to bring the attention of Congress to the development of integrative medicine as a part of national health care policy.transpartisan

An Atlantic article quoted Hippocrates to capture the core of integrative health: ‘It is more important to know what sort of person has a disease than to know what sort of disease a person has.’  The World Health Organization’s 1948 constitution said, ‘Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.’

Integrative medicine grounds its practice in this definition. Where conventional medicine has the negative mission of seeking to expunge disease, integrative medicine adds the well-being that promotes health, thus avoiding or mitigating the diseases that conventional medicine addresses—and, in the process, reduces the role that it needs to play. Integrative medicine seeks to know the person as well as the disease.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has a research center on integrative health. The White House Commission on Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) Policy’s 2002 report contains an array of policy approaches to advance integrative health. You can read about the Congressional Mindfulness Caucus. Voice for HOPE works to create dialogues between members of Congress and their constituents about ways integrative medicine can play a broader role in national health care policy.

Integrative health is enormously important for policy on health. The current policy debate—ObamaCare was a prominent example—focuses almost entirely on medical care for people who are sick. It pays almost no effective attention to encouraging behavior changes that would keep them well and avoid having to use expensive doctors and hospitals when they get sick.

Integrative health includes practices focusing (in the words of The Mayo clinic) ‘on the whole person and includes physical, emotional, mental and spiritual health . . . mind-body medicine (such as meditation, acupuncture and yoga), manipulative and body-based practices . . . and natural products (such as herbs and dietary supplements)’. In public health the absence of simple behaviors such as hand-washing and sanitation play an enormous role in promoting disease.

From 30 to 40% plus of Americans use various forms of organized integrative health approaches to stay healthy. Millions of people in the U.S. use organized diet, exercise and mindfulness programs. In developing countries Educate Girls Globally (EGG) is experimenting with community-based health programs to promote change in negative (to health) behaviors and habits of traditional people. For example, they have launched an experiment using ‘Girls’ Parliaments’ to promote hand-washing, and in two months the percentage washing their hands has increased from essentially zero (based not on what they say, but on soap used) to between 70-80%.

The policy challenge is how to encourage people to change their behavior, which is difficult. EGG’s program is still too new to reach strong conclusions, but preliminary results are encouraging.

A major objective of a transpartisan politics is to promote development of a strong and active concept of citizenship in place of the current weak concept where all attention is on the government. A transpartisan health policy would seek the same objective: to encourage citizens to take more responsibility for their own health, taking personal care of themselves, and reserving expensive conventional approaches to cases where they become really sick. In health as in political action, transpartisans promote active citizenship in place of the passive roles currently played both by voters and by patients.

On Sunday, June 11, Voice for HOPE will join other Washington, DC, charities in a 5K Run/Walk on the shore of the beautiful Anacostia River in Washington’s Anacostia Park. People across the country and around the world can join or support the event – Jim Turner, chair of Citizens for Health and Voice for HOPE, urges everyone reading this note to support the 5K Run/Walk here.

Transpartisan Review Note #47

President Trump on the Abraham Path

Transpartisan Note #47

by A. Lawrence Chickering and James S. Turner

The Abraham Path is a cultural route celebrating a journey made 4,000 years ago by Abraham, the common patriarch of the three Abrahamic religions—Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

USA Today says, “President Trump has billed his [May 2017] visit to Saudi Arabia, Israel and the Vatican as a sort of triple pilgrimage to places deeply meaningful to adherents of Christianity, Judaism and Islam.”transpartisan

That paper quotes Trump’s national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, saying “the trip reflects the president’s belief ‘that we all have to be united and we have to be joined together with an agenda of tolerance and moderation.’ ”

The Abraham Path Initiative is an American nonprofit organization recreating Abraham’s trip for interested individuals. If you have the time and stamina, walking across the West Bank over several days is an experience never to be forgotten. See the online guidebook to the path here.

The Initiative, co-founded by William Ury, mediator and co-author of Getting to Yes, says “known as ‘the Friend,’ Abraham is still remembered for his legendary welcome and kindness toward strangers. This ancient journey is a cultural thread that binds humanity together, a tangible reminder that no matter what divides us, what unites us is far, far greater.”

In addition to its Middle East walks, the project partners with interreligious organizations leading local Abraham Walks, such as those in several places around the United States, including Cincinnati, Dallas, and Austin, Texas. Organizers take participants on mini-pilgrimages that link local churches, mosques, and synagogues and include interfaith liturgies and speakers. Contact the project to help create a local walk of your own.

President Trump, in his initial speech in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on May 21st, said, “For many centuries the Middle East has been home to Christians, Muslims and Jews living side-by-side. We must practice tolerance and respect for each other once again—and make this region a place where every man and woman, no matter their faith or ethnicity, can enjoy a life of dignity and hope.

“In that spirit, after concluding my visit in Riyadh, I will travel to Jerusalem and Bethlehem, and then to the Vatican – visiting many of the holiest places in the three Abrahamic Faiths. If these three faiths can join together in cooperation, then peace in this world is possible – including peace between Israelis and Palestinians.”

President Trump’s nine-day journey that began in the Middle East consciously includes the spiritual essence of Abraham’s embrace of humanity. A Presidential trip successful in advancing this spirit will advance the best hopes for humanity.

(Photo of the Omar Mosque and Bethlehem Peace Center, two of the many locations on the Abraham Path. Learn more at www.abrahampath.org)

Transpartisan Review Note #46

Search For Common Ground, Transpartisan In Action

Transpartisan Note #46

by A. Lawrence Chickering and James S. Turner

Daryl Davis, African-American R&B and blues musician, worked to improve race relations by personally engaging with leaders of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK). Known for his energetic style of Boogie-woogie piano, he bonded with Klansmen who loved his music. He engaged using a fundamental principle of action: “Establish dialogue. When two enemies are talking, they’re not fighting.”

Search for Common Ground, founded in 1982 to find ways to end violent conflict, gave Davis one of its Common Ground Awards in 2014 to honor his outstanding accomplishments in conflict resolution, negotiation, community building, and peacebuilding. Davis directly affected race relations by befriending, and talking deeply with, KKK leader Roger Kelly and other Klan members.davis

Eventually Kelly quit the Klan. “He no longer believes today what he said,” Davis explains. “And when he quit the Klan he gave me his robe and hood, which is the robe of the Imperial Wizard.” Twelve other Klansmen have done the same.

Read this and other Daryl Davis stories in Conor Friedersdorf’s March 27, 2015 article in The Atlantic,The Audacity of Talking About Race With the Ku Klux Klan.” Hear Daryl interviews here and here. Listen to Daryl’s music here, here, and here. Check out his book and DVD here. Daryl’s is an inspiring story of what can happen when adversaries talk with each other.

Common Ground founder, former State Department diplomat John Marks, says recipients of the Common Ground Awards show what can be achieved when we work with, and for, each other. Recipients have made significant contributions toward bridging divides and finding solutions to seemingly intractable problems. The list of Award recipients reads like a glossary of group and individual efforts creating possibilities for a less violent world. Daryl Davis, who received the Award in 2014, provides one powerful example.

One last note. Search for Common Ground founder John Marks introduced us to each other at a 1993 party for Lawry’s book Beyond Left and Right: Breaking the Political Stalemate, at his Washington DC home. We recently discovered that unknown to us we had each served at different times on the board of Search for Common Ground.

(Image from Accidental Courtesy: Daryl Davis, Race & America, a documentary film directed by Matt Ornstein.)

 

Transpartisan Review Blog #45

Educate Girls Globally (EGG), founded by Lawry Chickering nearly twenty years ago, has enjoyed extraordinary success promoting positive social changes in the most “difficult” populations in rural India. The most important of these are cultural—from premodern, pre-individualist, role-driven values to more modern, individualist, conscious values.

Transpartisan Review Blog #44

September 11, 2001 (9/11) Canadian air traffic control diverted 38 wide-bodied, US-bound airliners to the Gander, Newfoundland, Northeast Canada airfield. The town of Gander, population 10,000, suddenly found itself host to 6,600 stranded passengers and several hundred crew. Come From Away, the Broadway musical story of their five days together in Gander, captures their shared experiences.

Transpartisan Review Blog #43

March 6, 1857, Roger B. Taney, Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, wrote the 7-2 Dred Scott opinion finding that “a negro, whose ancestors were imported into [the U.S.], and sold as slaves,” whether enslaved or free, could not be an American citizen.

On March 6, 2017, the 160th anniversary of that infamous decision—the worst in court history, historians say—Justice Taney’s descendant, Charles Taney of Greenwich, Connecticut, apologized to Dred Scott’s great-great-granddaughter under the gaze of a Roger Taney statue installed on the Maryland State House grounds in 1872.

Transpartisan Review Blog #42

transpartisan matrix

Ownership As Key To Empowerment

Revisiting the Transpartisan Matrix

by A. Lawrence Chickering and James S. Turner

The Four-Quadrant Transpartisan Matrix distinguishes the values of freedom (self-expression) and order (tradition for the right, justice for the left) that are important for both conservatives and progressives. We believe the “four-quadrant” format more completely represents what most people value than the simple left-right spectrum now used to describe our politics.

Although the “political debate” tends to emphasize one or two of the quadrants—order-left, freedom-left, order-right, and freedom-right—more than others, all quadrants matter and contain part of “the truth.” Much of our political dysfunction (we believe)—the failed policies, paralyzing conflict, many voters opting out, and two-term presidencies rarely accomplishing succession—occurs because neither party represents an effective combination of values (especially freedom and order) of most voters.

TTR explores, both in theory and in practice, real experiences, showing how four-quadrant programs, featuring all quadrants, both bring people together and solve problems.  

Our current political system focuses almost exclusively on governments as the dominant instruments of justice, with citizens having little or no role in school reform or reducing ethnic and racial conflict or foreign policy or any other public policy. Motivated by this weak concept of citizenship, two sides focus on electing “their people” to office to pursue or impose the “correct” (narrow, often single quadrant) policies.

Governments alone cannot effect four-quadrant engagement. Citizens too must be engaged. From our perspective we believe the intensely committed Trump supporters and resisters and the large number of individual citizens dissatisfied with the choices in the last election, including the ninety million non-voters, and the social activists from all sides, demonstrate the existence of a core group of citizens working to broaden our political framework. We offer the four quadrant approach as one way to understand and relate to current political activity.

A new, reformed — we would say expanded — politics will depend on a strong concept of citizenship, promoting citizen engagement that integrates the essence of left and right: for example serving the disadvantaged (order-left) in civic engagement with people “close-by” (order right) in institutions promoting free, voluntary commitment (recognizing that you can’t force people to be human — freedom-left and right).

This vision requires a strong role for civil society and civil society organizations structured to engage people across apparent differences and overlooked similarities in shaping change. Busing people far from home to internally-segregated schools failed to accomplish school integration. At best such objective integration accomplishes little, if anything. Real integration depends on internal, subjective engagement. As an example, school reform fails when bureaucratic mandates command obedience from depressed teachers, who pass their depression on to their students. School reform happens when full stakeholder ownership of schools brings empowered parents, teachers, and kids together to make schools as good as they can be.

Shared ownership of public spaces is a key to the subjective change that is at the heart of the transpartisan vision. It is the key to four-quadrant, transpartisan programs such as Delancey Street drug rehabilitation center (San Francisco), the All-Stars leadership program (New York City), and the UNICEF Girls Community Schools (Upper Egypt, a thriving hope in the epicenter of Islamic terrorism in Egypt).

Empowered ownership of public spaces drives the transpartisan vision. We offer the Transpartisan Matrix as a way to understand empowered ownership within the pandemonium of our current political milieu.

Transpartisan Review Blog #41

Critics left, right, and other, including us from time to time, find it easy to pillory and mock President Trump’s erratic, unpredictable, and apparently highly inconsistent style of leadership. They call him “child,” “clown,” and bumbling amateur. Then the President’s response to the horrendous pictures of gassed civilians leading to the American bombing of Syria reminds us that, as President, he wields enormous power that deserves, nay, requires, more than mockery.

Transpartisan Review Blog #40

transpartisan

Transpartisan Tax Time

by A. Lawrence Chickering and James S. Turner

Now Tax Reform arrives on the Congressional agenda. Congress sees the problem as not enough money to pay for all the projects, programs and material that everyone wants. The budget remains unbalanced. Lawmakers feel pressured by constituents, who they feel want all kinds of services but balk at paying taxes for them.

The last time federal income fell unacceptably short, near the end of the 19th century, Congress embraced the income tax, which the US finally adopted with a 1913 Constitutional amendment. Since tariffs, then the government’s primary financing source, fell short, Congress found a new money supply—the income tax.

Today individuals and groups from a variety of political viewpoints suggest a new source of government money for the 21st century: The Automated Payment Transaction (APT) Tax.

“Capitalizing on financial data processing technology,” according to the APT website, “we can create a tax system for the 21st century that is simple to understand and easy to administer. The concept for this transaction tax was developed by the distinguished University of Wisconsin Professor of Economics Edgar L. Feige.”

The website for the book, “The Economist’s Tale,” which presents the red, blue and green spheres shown below, says, “We tax the $16 trillion in income we earn, the small blue sphere in the diagram.”

Red – Current Taxes     Blue – Current Collective Income     Green – New Money Source

“We don’t tax the whopping $5,000 trillion in payments that occur each year, the large green sphere. Our government’s budget is $4 trillion, the tiny red sphere.”

“The red sphere takes a big bite out of the blue sphere – which is why income tax rates are so high. But the red sphere takes a tiny bite out of the green sphere.”

“If we taxed payments at the miniscule rate of 1/10th of 1% we’d have a trillion dollar surplus.”

Summarizing the impact on an individual, the site says, “Taxes on $100,000 would drop from $31,000 to $100, and the budget would be balanced.”

“The author of this plan estimates that this system could save $500 BILLION ANNUALLY (yes you read that right) for the government and citizens by completely replacing the enforcement and collection of taxes.’” Read Daily Kos article here.

“According to the computations of the proponents, the rate would be 0.35%.”

Read Forbes article here.

We present this concept of a new source of governmental income as an important idea that Congress, other policy makers, individuals in the Tax Reform debate, and citizens at large might find useful in their Tax Reform efforts.

We make a key transpartisan point when we say that our conventional left-right debate often overlooks possibilities that might be useful and fall outside current ideologies.

We believe the APT deserves to be part of the deliberations on Tax Reform currently underway in Congress.

(Image of Ben Franklin keeping vigil over the certainty of taxes from his post on the $100 bill from pexels.com.)