Our diversity consists only in part in demographic differences such as race, ethnicity, and social class. Equally important are the wildly different lenses through which we see, think, and believe. At the center of America’s public life is a marketplace of ideas that only a free people could create, a vital, colorful, chaotic bazaar of religious, philosophical, political, and intellectual convictions. When democracy is working as it should, it is a complex and confusing mess where we can think and act as we choose, within the rule of law; can generate social and technological advances via the creative conflict of ideas; and can still manage to come together for the sake of the common good.
Just as a virgin prairie is less efficient than agribusiness land, democracy is less efficient than a dictatorship. We often move too slowly on matters of moral or practical urgency. And yet this loss of efficiency is more than offset by the way human diversity, freely expressed, can strengthen the body politic – offering resilience in the face of threat, adaptability to change, creativity and productivity in everything from commerce to science to culture.
From “Healing the Heart of Democracy: The Courage to Create a Politics Worthy of the Human Spirit” by Parker J. Palmer