To the editor:

If democracy rests on the art of compromise, the recent public quarrel over immigration may be telling us that we have more than an immigration problem. It may be telling us that we have a democracy problem; that we can't govern ourselves.

I once heard John Danforth, the Republican former senator from Missouri and an ordained Christian minister, point out that there is an inherent tension between democracy's requirement for compromise and religion's requirement for uncompromising adherence to one or another set of principles. If we aren’t careful about how we go about practicing religion, we may be going about being anti-democratic. If I assert, "I'm right, and you're wrong--end of discussion", wouldn't Danforth say I was obstructing democracy?

On Memorial Day, we pause to remember those who have given “their last full measure” to keep this democracy alive. We owe it to them to cultivate real public discourse to replace public quarrels like we’ve seen over immigration. And we better start cultivating soon--even if it hurts or inconveniences--before we let personal principle ruin what they died to preserve for us.

Robert A. Letcher, PhD