Originally posted August 28, 2018.
Better Angels – Slowly Bridging the Partisan Divide
This week of August 25, 2018, there’s been an outpouring of respect and love for the late Senator John McCain. It is good to see the nation once again remember that we are all Americans together.
She wishes to share with us what the organization is all about and her personal experiences as a delegate at the Better Angels convention in June, 2018. Mrs. Freeman is passionate about the mental health of individuals and family relationships and about the health of the wider community and of our country. She became concerned about the rhetoric permeating American society, so she decided to contribute in a positive way. Please read about her experiences below.
Better Angels – Let’s Depolarize America
Better Angels is a national organization that started about 18 months ago. It was in response to the rancor and polarization that is going on in our country often fueled by our political leaders and by some media.
The term “better angels” comes from a part of Lincoln’s first inaugural address.
“The mystic chords of memory….will yet swell the chorus of the Union when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”
At their First National Convention, a week ago, I saw the better angels of our nature.
When I first heard about the organization, I was doubtful. Can people from the political extremes listen to each other with respect? Can we disagree without being disagreeable? I doubted this could be true. When I went to the website at www.better-angels.org, I learned more about this and decided to organize a workshop in my neighborhood. If the proof is in the pudding, the pudding turned out pretty good. People were respectful, listening and learning something new. They saw each other, blue and red, as human beings who want the best for our country.
So, when I heard about the First Annual Better Angels Convention that took place in June, I immediately applied. I was accepted and became one of 147 delegates, almost equally red and blue who made the trek all the way to Virginia. My anxiety level was high before I arrived. I was uncertain about the experience of being around all these people from disparate political, socio-economic, religious, ethnic, cultural, and racial and gender backgrounds. We all had in common that we had participated in or observed a Better Angels Workshop. We had learned the value of listening to each other.
There were many examples of the Better Angels workshop’s success. The president of a college Republican Club was not accepted on their campus. The President of the Democrat Club reached out to him. They began listening to each other with a recognition of each other’s differences. After a while they became friends and then roommates. They are now bringing Better Angels to the college campus. Their goal is for people to feel free to speak out about whatever their political beliefs are without feeling attacked or criticized.
Then there was a Christian man who had been in a workshop with a Moslem man. They both had preconceived ideas about each other. The Moslem man explained to the Christian man that he felt as if his own religion had been hijacked by extremists. The Christian man softened when he heard the sadness coming from the Moslem man. Both of these people attended each other’s houses of worship to learn more about the other’s religion.
A married lesbian woman became best friends with a leader from Focus on The Family, a conservative organization that does not support same sex marriage. After listening, they began to understand each other’s differences. When people pointed out to them their surprising choice of a good friend, they laughed. They had begun to see each other as caring human beings.
These were people who were trying to and succeeding in understanding the differences between them. We heard an important message at the Convention. It was that people did not have to give up their beliefs, indeed, should not give up their beliefs. Living with and acceptance of each other’s differences is the important goal. Hopefully, our political leaders will be moved by the citizens of our great country to find common ground and to make needed changes.
I am a Moderate Republican. I was afraid that I would be too far right for the liberals at the convention and too far left for the conservatives. Or that I would find myself not accepting of other’s points of view. What I discovered was that when we all carefully listened to each other we heard that at our core we all love our country. We want the best for our country, our families and for the future. I had an “uh oh” moment speaking with one woman about the issue of abortion. This is one of the most difficult issues to have a discussion about. It surprised me to learn that some of the concerns that I had, were also concerns for the other person. We listened carefully and respectfully to each other.
Peter Yarrow, of Peter, Paul and Mary fame, sang to us the last night. His songs were a soothing reminder that we have more holding us together than tearing us apart. We all sang together with our arms around each other’s shoulders. We turned to each other to say “You are my friend, no matter what your political point of view”.
Workshops being organized in NJ and New York. I urge you to check out the Better Angels website. See them on Facebook. Learn more about their many programs and volunteer opportunities.
For me, becoming a Better Angel was something that I was compelled to do. I’m tired of seeing family members argue, roll their eyes, and in the worst cases not talk to each other. I want something better for our country, for my family, and for the future.
Please feel free to contact me at email@example.com with any questions.
Better Angels – Slowly Bridging the Partisan Divide
Bio: Mrs. Randy Freeman, LCSW practices psychotherapy in Wayne, New Jersey. Her focus is on her clients leading a more satisfying life, as individuals and in their relationships. You can read more about her practice at her website.