04/23/2012 08:43 am ET Updated Jun 23, 2012

Upending Political Vitriol

Political conversation is dead in the water. The jadedness and helplessness that many people experience only result in disenfranchising ourselves and depriving the world of your unique voice. There is another engaged, proactive way that requires you taking your place at the table. Our humanity is at stake!

Our culture and political process is adept at demonizing opposing points of view and candidates. What if, instead of accepting this as the norm, we embrace a proactive response that insists on a new discourse?

Ratcheting down the inflammatory rhetoric is possible if we elevate our expectations. The alternative is to accept the social and political gridlock that benefits extremists and pundits.

When people are labeled as "Evil, Un-American or Unpatriotic" serious debate and conversation is impossible. Accepting the name calling as business as usual is more than demeaning, it gives power to those who hijack democracy with loose language and labels. Instead it is possible to engage the conversation and leaders with a proactive demand for adult conversation by conveying your expectations of civility and seriousness about ideas.

Expect a dignity of difference. Strongly held views and robust argument are possible when we dignify difference by honoring the validity of different beliefs. A policy position or policy prescription is not inherently bad because we find it loathsome. We each have the power to elevate public discourse by expecting policy implications or beliefs to be discussed with frank discussion about the implications for the lives of all affected by a specific position. Instead of demeaning difference, dignify the differences by treating them with the serious respect they demand by engaging them.

Polish the world. Politicians and other leaders share in the inherent goodness that marks the aspirations and lives of most people. Like the driving force that compels people to enter politics or assume public leadership most of us want to polish the world by leaving it a more just and conflict free place in which the well-being of all people is possible. Insist on knowing how a leader or institution expects to polish the world through the results and impacts of their beliefs and policies.

Claim your voice in the process. Our own silence, disengagement or jadedness benefits no one. The world needs your unique voice and contribution actively engaged. Instead of succumbing to the incarcerated view that you are insignificant, your own story and experiences reveal that you re a valued and rich contributor to enriching the political and cultural discourse. Your voice and contributions enrich the political and social process ensuring a lively, vibrant and healthy democracy. Throwing up your hands in despair serves only to cede your voice and life to shrill and life-draining voices. Choosing the life-giving way brings new life to you and to and to the human family.

The moral arc of the universe is towards fulsome life-giving, life-affirming inclusion of all people. We're witnessing the voices of the Arab Spring and the people of Myanmar claiming these truths. While we don't know the results they will produce we do know that this moment of human history reveals that the old patterns of control and orthodoxy are giving way to new emergent truths about what it means to be human.

It is possible to be happy and change the world! Not the sort of happiness promised by buying a particular car or item of clothing but the happiness that emerges when you ground your life in seeking your well-being. Your own well-being results in a path of seeking the well-being of others. In this way of experiencing life you change the world and discover a profound happiness in being alive.

In this emergent time of a new consciousness of what it means to be human and to be fully alive the invitation and power rests in your life and hands. The divisive rhetoric and conflicts ravaging our time can only be changed when you embrace a new way of claiming your place in what it means to be human. The choice is yours - life is at stake!

Robert V. Taylor is the author of A New Way to Be Human published by New Page Books and Chair of the Desmond Tutu Peace Foundation in New York City.