Democracy Cafe

I enjoyed so much the Democracy Cafe we held on March 26. The thoughtful exchanged with about 20 people taking part reminded me of the kinds of inquiries I had in Montclair, New Jersey, where Socrates Cafe began. It was great to be able to use Zoom video to connect people from across the U.S. and Mexico this time around, many if not most of them inveterate Socrates Cafe-goers.

First off, here is a wonderfully thoughtful note I received from participant Lou Marines after our dialogue:

Here is the note I wrote transmitting Heather’s blog, to my friends hither and yon, inviting inquiry and reflection about the “lives vs profits/jobs” proposition raised by the Easter  “fill the church pews” proposal.
As to what we can do, in addition to the containment guidelines, helping our neighbors, writing checks when and where we can, and visibly supporting those who take the courageous steps to “do the right thing”, we can help those enterprises we are involved in (churches, service groups, local govt commissions, etc.) adjust to the very probable contingency that we may not see “normal” again for a very long time. Dr. Fauci says if all goes very well, we likely have 6-12 weeks until we see infections abate. And then it may well cycle until we get a vaccine (not clear if he sees that vaccine as preventative or curative, or both) in 12-18 months.
I have started that conversation with the Board of my church, which church may not meet again this year, and if we change nothing about our operations, may not survive. That would be a loss of a loving, interdependent community.

Longer term, we have to look at the effect of the “laissez faire capitalism” begun under Reagan, with its emphasis on individualism, the preeminent role of corporations, and the need to downsize government (and currently to “put America first”). Those of us who have been voting citizens for the last 40 years “own” this situation–as I heard a speaker say to elders gathered at a senior center recently: “Don’t think you can walk away from these problems in our society; they were created on your watch. You have got to help clean up the mess.”

Like Odin, I see it as a political problem, but I see it more as symptomatic of a social problem. I ignored the “deplorables… hanging on to their guns and their Bibles ” (as Clinton/Obama opined) while I raised a family and built a business. I only connected with the “Coastal elites” (and their Chicago/Dallas colleagues) who looked like me. Because we were doing great, I assumed, blindly, that all Americans were doing great (exc for that “troubling racism” problem).Now I/we are getting the invoice for that willful blindness (or while seeing it, my inaction–“not my problem, no time”).

And, now I have to do better in my community building community, leveraging, as Rahm Emanuel said, this crisis. I am proposing to a local religious institution that we begin a series of interfaith dialogues, and then see how much community service we may coordinate together. This effort is inspired and informed by Wendell Berry and Eberhard Arnold (author, “Why We Live in Community”). among others. To that end, I visited a mosque for an extended introduction before we were sent home to stay. I see opportunity there, on the Far Side.

And for the long term, I am gently suggesting to our children, for our grandchildren, some behaviors which may create in the kids the awareness of, the need for, and the importance of, altruism and community interdependence. And I am pointing our children (and their friends) toward resources which may now cushion the financial blows they will likely suffer, so stress does not manifest more protection than collaboration.
And I am encouraging my fellow elders, one at a time, to get involved in mentoring the next generations, in NGO’s like Big Brothers, so those boys without reliable parental support, can be helped on their way to maturity. (I am “mentoring” more senior folks).
As Clinton said, “it takes a village” and I am glad to be in this neighborhood with Roger and with you and Ceci.
Thanks for bringing us together.

— Rich Bernstein, MD, our nonprofit’s steadfast and generous supporter, recommended this is a good time to watch the documentary “Pandemic,” so I subscribed to Netflix to do just that.

A participant said that many of us, depending on where we live, can join advisory committees at hospitals to help decide how best to allocate sparse but critical resources.

Here’s one scholarly article that was sent to me by Rich on: “Fair Allocation of Scarce Medical Resources in the Time of Covid-19

Lou Marines registered for a webinar, “Town Hall: Philanthropy During COVID-19 Outbreak,” that took place the very next day after our inquiry.

Here’s a Washington Post article, “Hospitals consider universal do-not-resuscitate orders for coronavirus patients,” shared with us after the dialogue.

Also, thank you Lou and also Claire Diao for your kind donations this week to our nonprofit .