Mike Nagler

My wife JoAnneh and I recently took a road trip down the coast of California, visiting old friends. One night, in Los Angeles, we were at dinner with a group of them, when someone asked what interesting things had happened to everybody the previous week.

We each mentioned something, until one friend said that she was going out with a man who had asked her on their most recent date whether she considered herself a nurturing person. Everyone else at the table was married and all of us had quite a bit to say about this fellow’s question, some of which had to do with the uniqueness of it. No one could remember ever having been asked this on a date. The conversation was still going when we realized the restaurant was empty except for us.

To be honest, I don’t remember many details about what everyone said. But, perhaps, because we were speaking about matters of the heart, I do remember that we took extra care with how we listened to one another and how each comment expanded generously upon the previous speaker’s point. And how, for the next hour or so, no one left the table. It was as if we were trying to practice what each of us was preaching. In the very way we treated and interacted with one another — listening with our whole selves, with our entire attention — we were demonstrating nurturing. We were demonstrating how the heart should work.

Everyone’s story mattered.

Around that table were folks I’d known since college — really, before we were adults — but adulthood had led us into a variety of divergent political views. In fact, one of my oldest friends was sitting across from me — someone I’ve known for more than 50 years, who, when we chat on the phone, we choose to avoid discussing the rough seas of the current American political climate. I’m sure my friend and I aren’t alone in this sort of behavior. For better or worse, we often find safe haven in what remains of value in our friendships and proceed carefully.

There are, of course, friendships that have broken apart on these same rough seas.

I cannot remember another time in my adult life where the state of the nation has so adversely governed my behavior in precisely this way, and it has broken my heart.

But, sometimes, as the poet Mary Oliver has written, our hearts break open so they never close again to the rest of the world.

I read recently that democracy falters not when we disagree about things but when we lose interest in trying to make sense of the other person’s point of view, when we’re no longer fully present to any views beyond our own. I’ve engaged in endless conversations with folks who are “my kind” of partisan, but, on the other hand, I can’t wait to leave the room when I realize the person I’m talking to doesn’t believe that voter suppression is happening across the country — or that Jan. 6 was a violent uprising against our elected representatives in Washington.

I, and millions of others, have lost — at our peril — the essential instinct about how to nurture one another as citizens of a republic.

I know that to speak of the heart in the same breath as the corrosive events roiling our country might seem naïve or simplistic, but I believe this soulful part of ourselves is the human repository of all that’s essential to a vital democracy. When surgeons open the heart to repair valves or damaged tissue, they see no spirit or soul hiding there, but I often use the word “heart” as if it was my emotional center, my core of integrity.

I’ve heard it said that the human heart is the first home of democracy — it’s where we embrace the questions about whether we can be equitable, generous, courageous, empathetic.

And, in my heart of hearts, I certainly believe that what’s now happening in America, our national turning away from our interdependency upon one another, our turning away from others who don’t look like us, vote like us, whose histories are nothing like our own, is causing grave dangers to our democracy.

Is there a foreign threat just off our shores that I’m not aware of? Is this the reason we’re buying more guns than at any time in our history?

Or do we believe the threat has become ourselves? Our fellow citizens. Have the dissimilar hearts that built this pluralistic society and the power of inclusive patriotism lost their essential resonance for us?

Instead, we must nurture our dissimilar hearts. Nurture them as if the life of our country depends upon it. Because it does.

Mike Nagler is a member of the Burlingame Library Board of Trustees.

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(10) comments

Dirk van Ulden

Mike - thank you for your thoughtful article. From my experience, I have found folks who seem to have similar opinions as yours to be far less receptive to discussing opposing views than the other way around. I have given up on nurturing them. There are several contributors on this forum who exhibit that characteristic repeatedly. Perhaps your article will open their hearts as well.

Terence Y

Mr. Nagler, thank you for your testimonial. In regards to the buying of more firearms than at any time in our history, I would say we should give a hearty thanks to a Democrat party who encourages the defunding of police along with their tacit acceptance of idiot BLM and Antifa death and destruction. Unfortunately, this rise in the number of guns sold isn’t due to a foreign threat, this is due to a domestic threat – of increasing violent crime rates that are not addressed by a majority of Democrat-controlled urban centers (reference the Major Cities Chiefs Association (MCCA) Violent Crime Survey). Of course the people in charge of keeping the public safe releasing arrested and convicted felons out into the public doesn’t help matters. To wit, search for Boudin or Newsom. Yes, we must nurture our dissimilar hearts. Maybe the first step would be to re-introduce the concept of patriotism in order to make America First, again, instead of the America Last policy we’ve begun in 2021. BTW, it’s a bit hard to claim voter suppression is happening across the country when supposedly, we’ve just had the highest number of voters on record. If we need to suppress votes, we should be suppressing illegal and stolen votes, especially from the recent election.


Terrence, if you are going to posit a counterpoint, at least pretend to be factual. The Democratic party at no time has had tacit acceptance of BLM and Antifa destruction leading to deaths. What part about making America first took place by right wing white supremacists at the Trump induced insurrection on January 6th that lead to actual deaths and destruction? Where is the Republican outcry about that? You are correct in one thing, we had the highest turnout of voters in the last election. Then why, pray tell, has the Republican Party introduced voter suppression laws in 26 states for solutions to non existing problems? Finally, your position of illegal and stolen votes is evidenced by only a small handful of cases and, ironically, committed only by Republicans.



You should know by now that factual info and reality are things that Terence doesn't believe in. All that info has been shown to him before and his response is always "fake news". Finding two ballots from dead people and three from people that were registered in a different county or state that cast a ballot out of three hundred thousand votes means "massive voter fraud" to him and his fellow members of the tinfoil hat society that live in their fantasy world.

Terence Y

Dear readers – I present Taffy as Exhibit No. 2. Another person who is not interested in nurturing his dissimilar heart. Instead of any relevant responses to my comments, Taffy can only launch a pathetic personal attack and spew debunked fake news. As usual, Taffy is unable to address bumbling Biden’s America Last policies and has no accomplishments to write about. Meanwhile, in other news, the media laughs at Biden when Biden says there will be consequences for Russia if Russia fails to address ransomware hackers. If Russia told Biden to jump, Biden would ask how high. And progressive Harris thinks that since rural Americans don’t have access to copy machines, voter ID would be unfair. I guess Harris has never heard of these progressive technology things called smart phones with cameras or multi-function printers that can scan and print at the same time. Hey Harris, chances are these same rural areas probably have decent water and electrical supplies, unlike CA. Now I'd better submit this comment before PG&E cuts off electricity.


Dear readers, I present exhibit #1 from the fantasy world, Terence Y. See my second sentence from the 4:20 PM post and see his second sentence from his 4:24 PM post. He is not even fun to read anymore because he gives us the same old drivel. I am beginning to think that maybe he isn't even a real person. Maybe he is just a Russian Bot.

Terence, I am sure you will check and see if I replied. I forgot to ask in my earlier post how you are doing with your bamboo fibers and cheese dust?

Terence Y

Taffy, if I’m not fun to read anymore, why do you continue to gobble up my comments and then take the added time to respond? Obviously, you’re a fan, bot or not. I'd recommend you retire your hackneyed talking points and ask the Democrat party for some new ones. Maybe some which are actually effective. Or better yet, break free from their idiocy and learn the truth. Only then might Terence bot struggle against your assertions. Do svidaniya!

Terence Y

Dear readers – I present Rel as Exhibit No. 1 as one who is not interested in nurturing his dissimilar heart. Instead of factual counterpoints to my comments, Rel insists on regurgitating hackneyed fake news and Democrat talking points. For instance, Rel is unable to provide a list of Democrat leaders who denounced idiot BLM and Antifa riots or their $1 billion in damages. Rel doesn’t tell us that an Antifa leader was arrested in conjunction with the Capitol riot. Rel doesn’t seem to realize a half a million patriots could do a lot more damage if there really were an insurrection instead of a riot. Rel tries to conflate voter suppression with voter ID, two completely separate issues. Rel doesn’t tell us that he considers a few million illegal and stolen votes to be minor. Compared to the supposedly 150+ million votes that were cast, a few million votes may seem small, but these few million illegal and stolen votes are enough to show the election was stolen by bumbling Biden. Why are Democrats so dead-set against election integrity and their audits? BTW, Rel, we’re all still waiting for you to list any rel-evant bumbling Biden accomplishments. Meanwhile, more illegal votes found in GA.

Dirk van Ulden

Terence - with folks like Jorg and Rel around you are wasting your time. They are, as you said, just mindlessly regurgitating old talking point. They will never get out of the groove so I am not even responding to anything that they have been scrawling for the past 5 years.

Terence Y

Hi Dirk – everyone knows lefty lemmings spew fake news and lies. If not for misinformation they would have nothing since facts won’t help their cause. Besides, I like to keep them engaged so readers can see how they’re all talk and no substance – eventually seeing their names and tuning them out. It makes our positions so much stronger when we can easily and continually point out their hypocrisy and debunk their lies. As we’ve all noticed, these rabid lefties cannot point to any backwoods Biden accomplishment. It’s even more amusing when these folks become apoplectic and resort to personal attacks.

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