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Tom Campbell: America’s heart problem

“America has a heart problem,” proclaimed the Rev. William Barber at the Democratic National Convention. Combining the words and style of an old-time revivalist with a modern-day prophet, Barber stirred the audience and reverberated across America.

Barber began by saying he wasn’t there representing any group or organization but wanted to talk about faith and morality. He said he was concerned “about those that say so much about what God said so little, while saying so little about what God said so much. When religion is used to camouflage meanness, we know that we have a heart problem in America.”

He went on to say there have always been forces that wanted to harden or stop the heart of our democracy, and he called on us to conserve the divine tradition that teaches us to “do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with our God.” Our Constitution, he said, calls us to commit our government to establish justice, to promote the general welfare, provide for the common good and ensure domestic tranquility.

Some issues, he said, are not left versus right or liberal versus conservative, they are right versus wrong. At this moment we need to “embrace our deepest moral values” to push for a revival of the heart of our democracy. “When we love the Jewish child and the Palestinian child, the Muslim and the Christian, the Hindu, the Buddhist and those who have no faith but love this nation, we are reviving the heart of our democracy.”

Regardless of your political persuasion, race, religion, gender, sex or nationality, you cannot deny that our nation has big problems, spiritual problems that require healing. There have been other moments in our history when we haven’t lived up to the ideals and dreams our Founders had, but there also have been times when we have. 

America needs a healthy exchange of ideas and policies but now is the time to call a truce on the angry, divisive rhetoric separating us, searching instead for the common ground that has historically and can today unite us. We have been a nation able to compromise and find solutions, but unwillingness to even engage is a clear demonstration that Barber is right in saying we have a heart problem.

Barber said somebody with a good heart will employ a defibrillator to work on a bad heart, to shock and revive that ailing heart. “In this season when some want to harden and stop the heart of our democracy, we are being called, like our foremothers and fathers, to be the moral defibrillator of our times.”

This nation needs to be shocked with the power of love, mercy and justice for all. Barber concluded, “We have never lived this vision perfectly, but this ought to be the goal… We can’t give up on the heart of our democracy. Not now, not ever.”

Tom Campbell is former assistant state treasurer and is creator/host of NC SPIN.

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