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Politicians Should Talk About Belonging

Source: Wikimedia Commons
September 3, 2019

It’s hard to talk about belonging in politics.

Questions about whether we feel “at home” in our communities, schools, workplaces, and civic organizations can be deeply personal. These subjective questions don’t fit neatly into the boxes of public policy, economics, or law. And yet, questions of belonging are at the heart of what politicians everywhere should be talking about and thinking about in the 21st Century. We all need a sense of belonging in order to thrive — emotionally, intellectually, physically. There’s now great and growing empirical evidence that we need social connection as well as purpose and a sense of place in order to lead healthy lives. We know that rich community is associated with better society-wide outcomes including health, safety, civic participation, and even economic productivity.

Belonging ought to be a bigger issue in politics around the world.

So, I was heartened to see that Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana and now a top-tier contender for the Democratic nomination for US president, just put out a first-of-its-kind plan for “healing and belonging.” It’s part of a more comprehensive set of policies for addressing the challenges of mental health, depression, and addiction in the United States.

As Mayor Pete points out:

“deaths due to drugs, alcohol, and suicide are characterized as ‘deaths of despair,’ which are often preceded by people and communities being left behind.”

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