Kudos to Keith Horcasitas and Phil Beaver (“Conservatives and liberals can find common ground, be civil,” in the recent Letters column.) Despite their vastly different opinions, they have begun a conversation with “Conversation Rules of Engagement” that allow them to find a surprising number of things they share in common. Most importantly, as is evident from the letter, they learned how to converse in an atmosphere of mutual respect and actually listen to the other with an open mind and heart. Mr. Horcasitas said they hope to open the conversation up to others.

May I suggest Parker Palmer’s book, “Healing the Heart of Democracy,” that suggests and guides such conversations.

I remember a paper I wrote for an ethics class in college. It focused on evil and how that took root in a society. Using the Holocaust to trace the process, I found that the first step is to scapegoat a segment of society and blame them for our problems; in the case of the Holocaust, the Jews. Couple that with fear of the other and you’re on a sure path for evil to prevail without people ever acknowledging their culpability.

Polls tell us that Americans are most dissatisfied with Congress and its inability to govern. Yet we insist that candidates demonstrate their ideological purity (read “do it our way; compromise is weakness”) that ensures gridlock and continues a downward spiral of distrust and disrespect.

It is indeed time to take our country back, “we the people,” but not by instilling fear and hatred of the other but by willingness to respectfully listen to the other and find common ground at the grass-roots level. Then we demand that the government truly be “for the people” — ALL the people. This will never happen top-down but only from we the people up and only in an atmosphere of mutual respect.

Yvonne C. Hymel

registered nurse, retired

Metairie