How polarized is the United States? Think of family members, friends, and associates with whom you are unable to discuss political subjects. Do you avoid listening to viewpoints you oppose? Are you afraid of offending others? Do you use sources of news and commentary for accurate information, or to comfortably reinforce what you already think? What will your reaction be if the Presidential candidate you oppose wins?
Many think that disdain for the “other side” is reaching alarming levels. The November 2018 “Midterm Update” from More in Common’s Hidden Tribes project (https://hiddentribes.us/) found 86% of Americans worrying that political divisiveness will lead to increasing violence. We are not headed for another civil war. However, extreme polarization is destructive of personal relationships, essential political discourse, and a cohesive social fabric. Fortunately, many organizations and individuals are focused on healing our divisions as we approach an election which will push one large segment of our populace into angry despair, and the other into gleeful gloating.
We are supporting the work of Braver Angels, a 501(c)(3) volunteer organization formed to help bridge the divides that are driving the country into factions that don’t understand each other and don’t talk to each other. We give our time to Braver Angels because it promotes the exchange of ideas by teaching people how to depolarize, how to listen, and how to speak to each other. Among its activities are workshops, discussions, and debates (using its own inclusive and no-winner, no-loser format). Most of these events are still online, owing to COVID-19. Check them out under “What We Do,” at https://braverangels.org.
Braver Angels is launching an initiative called “With Malice Toward None,” designed to bring Americans together through the election with a commitment to mutual respect and cooperation. We can rise above the temptation to denigrate, and can deal with our emotions in supportive communities. We can find common ground with each other where possible, and (within reason) work to understand and respect those who hold opinions that differ from ours. Braver Angels will provide religious communities, colleges, and civic groups with free meeting templates, facilitator training, and other resources for online or in-person gatherings before and/or after the election. To register for more information on With Malice Toward None, visit https://braverangels.org/what-we-do/with-malice-toward-none/. Do it now— it will feel good to begin contributing to the healing that we desperately need!
Braver Angels was inspired by the words of Abraham Lincoln, who not only called on us as Americans to summon the “better angels” of our nature to overcome the passions that strain, “but must not break, our bonds of affection” — but called on us to find the courage needed to pursue a more perfect union, “with malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right.”
Kris Korfata and Thomas H. Brantley are the Wyoming co-coordinators for Braver Angels. They work closely with Janet Sedgley, the volunteer coordinator for Montana.
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