I’m excited to share with you about an organization that blew me away. It’s started around 2016, but I just found out about them and participated in one of their online zoom debates with 1600 people around the country. My husband, Ron, also participated, and afterward, he said, “This is the first thing in a very long time that gives me hope that Republicans and Democrats can have civil conversations.”
The organization is called, Braver Angels, it’s “a citizen’s organization whose mission is to unite red and blue Americans to work together to depolarize America. We try to understand the other side’s point of view, even if we don’t agree with it. We engage those we disagree with, looking for common ground, and ways to work together. We support principles that bring us together rather than divide us.
We reject the normalizing of extreme polarization. We say no to the breakdown of political and social life that it brings.”
Their debates center around contentious topics. The one Ron and I participated in was about “cancel culture”. There were approximately 12 speakers, all well known in some circles. There were left-wing and right-wing extremists, centrists from each party, and people I didn’t know which side they supported. Everyone agreed to follow some basic rules and they mostly did. The moderator did a wonderful job, she rang a little bell letting you know you have 20 seconds left, if you went over your time speaking, she turned off your microphone, then allowed you back on for a few seconds to finalize your thoughts. After the speaker gave an opinion either for or against, the other speakers were allowed to ask a few questions then the moderator took a few questions from the Zoom audience before going on to the opposing view speaker.
Best of all, I was able to hear opinions that were different from mine and have an aha moment of why they felt the way they did. It allowed me an understanding that I would never have had. I could see both sides of the argument and it left me with food for thought. There were people I disagreed with, but it was so civil.
It’s amazing when you have the space to listen, it feels so respectful. We’ve forgotten how to do this, how good it feels, and how much we can learn from the other person.
In addition to the debates, Braver Angels offer online workshops, such as teaching how to be more aware of your “inner polarizer”, how to be critical without demonizing others, and how to have great conversations. They offer Podcasts and book and film discussions about challenges facing our country. They believe many minds are better than one and that we have so much to learn from one another.
I whole-heartedly recommend them. Try a workshop, debate, or book discussion. You’ll find it feels amazing to be involved in a discussion without all the animosity. We, as a country, seem to have forgotten what that feels like. Braver Angels is showing us the way back.
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