When it comes to politics and religion, what one believes should deserve to be respected, at least as one’s right to do so, especially in a healthy democracy. There is nothing wrong about being a conservative or preservationist; nothing sinful about being liberal or progressive. And virtue does not always stand in the middle. Different values and perspectives are vital to the health and sanity of any organization.

Differences are part of the package labeled life. They obliterate boredom while offering quality control challenges to politicians and other believers with open minds. What one thinks and where one stands does not require “Universal Correctness” as much as it calls for sensitivity to others’ positions.

So-called Right wingers and Left wingers have their take on matters political, religious and cultural. Awareness is to be cherished in a democracy and those who speak their minds should be appreciated, if not for what they say then at least for speaking up. It takes a special kind of courage, even at the risk of vilification, to question the status quo, from whatever perspective. No system is perfect; and truth, if it be so, should always will out.

But credibility gets lost in extremes; rigid righteousness and closed minds work directly against issues that need to be reasonably dealt with. Passion has its place but requires a voice that honors others’ beliefs intelligently instead of demeaning them, creating unproductive conflict.

Of course what’s Right can be right but so can what’s Left. It is in their extremes where both become dangerous. It seems the hallmarks of extremism are rigidity and anger that can too easily lead to civil insanity and violence. Rigidity in itself can be acceptable but when combined with a closed-minded righteousness creates a volatile “true believer.” Anger complicates and rarely, if ever, solves anything. Passion and intensity may mix well but passion and anger too often provide the makings of rage.

The righteousness of democracy should not be about self but about all of us. It needs to be teachable – open and willing to listen and sometimes to change. Traditions are as important as possibilities but what really matters is a healthy mix of differing voices coming from many directions. Voices that are aware, caring and respectful of other ideas. It is in our many differences that democracy may find its own truth and also the strength to strive to achieve it.

In the meantime, the power of democracy (and some of its dangers) live in those voices, whatever they sound.  May the minds behind them be open, informed, and caring about what is good for all.