Finding Common Ground
From Our Friends at Braver Angels:
Red (conservative or Republican-leaning) and Blue (liberal or Democrat-leaning) community members will come together in structured and facilitated discussions that intend to find common ground through listening and learning rather than declaring or debating. It will be held on Friday, September 30 from 9am – 3:30pm at the Newaygo United Church of Christ, 432 Quarterline Street, Newaygo, MI 49337. This event is free, open to Michigan residents, and breakfast snacks, drinks, and lunch will be provided. Donations are encouraged but are not required.
The “Red and Blue Workshop” is the signature workshop created by Braver Angels, a non-profit organization whose mission in part is to depolarize and unite America. This event is made possible by individual donations, and is supported by the Fremont Area Community Foundation.
“I’m concerned about the culture of contempt being fostered in our county, politically,” states Sally Kane, one of the coordinators of the Red and Blue Workshop. “It’s alive and well nationwide too. Contempt breeds more contempt. It disrupts our humanity and our democracy on all levels. We need to heal from this. The best way is through relationships and safe conversations that foster trust, respect and deeper understanding. Our democracy is at risk if we don’t.”
Braver Angels is a national movement with a strong Michigan presence. According to their website every level of leadership within the organization is equally balanced between conservatives and progressives, as much as possible (given these are volunteers). The Braver Angels Pledge states “As individuals, we try to understand the other side’s point of view, even if we don’t agree with it.
In our communities, we engage those we disagree with, looking for common ground and ways to work together.
In politics, we support principles that bring us together rather than divide us.”
Sarah Brabbs is a Michigan Braver Angels Facilitator who co-moderating this workshop. “I’ve seen the power of a group of people who differ drastically in their political views, setting aside time and engaging in this workshop - it’s this willingness at grassroots levels that is key to depolarizing our country. One person at a time. I often hear from workshop attendees that making the decision to attend feels very risky, but it’s not one that anyone ever regrets, and often it has a life-changing impact. New relationships are formed, and hope is rekindled. I’m proud to volunteer how I can with this organization, and especially having gotten to know folks in the Newaygo area this year, I’m excited to be able to travel in to help make this workshop happen.”
The “Red and Blue Workshop” invites and encourages anyone interested in developing a deeper understanding of, and connection with, people whose political beliefs differ from their own to join the event. Space is limited, and the acceptance process will assure an evenly divided group between conservatives and liberals. Attendees can join as a “Participant”, who will be actively involved in discussions with others of the same as well as different political persuasions. “Observers” will watch and listen but not participate in the discussions.
“It is easy to disagree with anger and hatred, and to lump issues and people into negative sound bites,” states Sally Wagoner, event co-coordinator with Sally Kane. “It takes courage and the willingness to listen with an open mind and heart instead of throwing verbal, and sometimes real, weapons. I urge our community members and civic leaders to join us, and become a ‘Braver Angel’ on September 30.”
For those who wish to see how politically divergent community members can come together through the Braver Angels process, a successful Red and Blue Workshop was recently held in Traverse City, Michigan. A special segment will be aired on CBS Sunday Morning, on September 18.
Registration is required for this free event. To register, go to www.BraveAngels.org. Click on “Find an Event” at the top, then click on the calendar to September 30. Click on “Red-Blue Workshop Sessions 1 & 2”; “Click Here to Register” will take you to the Eventbrite registration page.
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