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Learning to talk politics at the next level

By Kathy Fallert
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Have you ever avoided political conversations with friends or family? Most of us have. Disparity in political views can bring out the worst in people and the polarization between political parties has been gaining momentum for years. This is exactly the reason the Better Angels organization formed and is offering workshops to address the issues head on.

Better Angels is a national citizens movement to bring liberals, conservatives and independents together at a grassroots level – not to find centrist compromise, but to find one another as citizens. The organization began in December 2016 when 10 Donald Trump supporters and 11 Hillary Clinton supporters gathered in Ohio to see if they could respectfully disagree and find any common ground. The meeting was a success. Members realized they liked each other and wanted to learn more about one another. This led to Better Angels workshops in other communities and eventually all across the United States.

Through workshops, debates and campus engagement, Better Angels helps Americans understand each other beyond stereotypes. They strive to form community alliances and reduce the bitterness that can poison civic culture, especially during an election year. Better Angels provides tools and understanding to bring back civil debate and to encourage respectful conversations across many divides – within families, among friends, at churches and workplaces as well as between political parties and other factions in our society.

Dennis Smith, Douglas County Better Angels organizer shared his experience: “My wife Libby and I saw a story on TV about Better Angels on the 4th of July last year. It addressed all the stressful issues that we’d experienced with family and friends who had a different political view. It showed how a group of ‘reds and blues’ (Republicans and Democrats) actually transformed their distaste and distrust by finding common ground and respect. We’ve been to what is called a ‘fishbowl’ event on gun control, and a debate on building a wall to control immigration. Each event was welcoming and well facilitated for people to speak their truth and learn from others with different views.”

Castle Pines resident and former president of Pine Ridge HOA Michael Czerwinski is involved with Better Angels and considers himself to be in learning mode. “To be able to discuss without chastising takes contention and adversarial attitudes out of the equation,” Czerwinski remarked. “With Better Angles, we share views and facts as a social discussion without contempt.”

Mary and Rob Brooks, 22-year residents of The Village at Castle Pines have also found the benefits in working with Better Angels. Mary stated, “It truly does help to bring Democrats and Republicans together by opening up a conversation instead of the tremendous division we’ve had.”

“At a Better Angels function, both sides present a case. You have to go through a moderator and cannot rebut the speaker directly,” continued Mary. “You discover in this refereed environment that we think more similarly than dissimilarly, which is the dialog we desperately need.” Rob added, “It’s a safe forum to state views in an unemotional way. This needs to occur so we can understand why we all think the way we do. The long-term effects of this is people coming together more and not being afraid to discuss their views.”

Better Angels is hosting a free “Depolarization from Within” workshop on Saturday, March 21, from 1-4 p.m. at Christ’s Episcopal Church, 615 4th Street in Castle Rock. To register, email Dennis Smith at Dennisski89@gmail.com and request an invitation. To learn more about Better Angels, visit www.better-angels.org.

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