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Stop Fighting Over Politics with the Help of Braver Angels

During July workshops at the McKenna Center, trained Braver Angels moderators warned participants against the four horsemen of polarization: stereotyping, dismissing, ridiculing and contempt. Image courtesy of Roxanna Deane.

A citizens group spearheaded by former Tye Preston Memorial Library Director Roxanna Deane wants to stop the endless arguing about politics.

Braver Angels works to unite red-and-blue Americans in an attempt to depolarize or ‘depol’ Americans as a highly contentious midterm elections approach.

Extremists exist on each end of the political spectrum. Braver Angels may not be for them, Deane said.

“The majority of people in the middle share values, want what’s good for America and their families,” said the Braver Angels ‘ambassador.’

“They don’t define things the same way and may have different ideas for achieving the same goals.”

Deane said the group’s name references a famous quote by President Abraham Lincoln.

In his 1861 inaugural address, Lincoln warned Americans heading into the Civil War: “We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory will swell when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

During July workshops at the McKenna Center, trained Braver Angels moderators warned participants against the four horsemen of polarization: stereotyping, dismissing, ridiculing and contempt.

Arguing politics is like having a wrestling match with yourself, not others, she said.

“It’s not just that you disagree with their position on any topic, it’s that you don’t like them and make them enemies and can’t stand them,” Deane said. “When that attitude is in your brain, that the other person is just not as smart as you, you can’t communicate. It just comes across as I don’t like you, so why would you want to talk to someone you don’t like?”

Braver Angels teaches facilitators to use mediation techniques favored by marriage therapists.

“Just listening and repeating what people say helps,” she said. “They know that they’ve been heard.”

So far, some 30 Comal County residents have completed training with Braver Angels. They include Canyon Lake Pct. 1 County Commissioner Donna Eccleston and a representative from Texas Sen. Donna Campbell’s office, and Marilyn Aden, chair of the Comal Democratic Party.

Lynn Silver, a Democrat, and Ron Fisk, a Republican, are collaborating on an opinion piece for a local newspaper.

The Comal group is included in Braver Angels’ Central Texas alliance, which encompasses areas within 100 miles of Austin.

Deane said she would like to see churches get involved, too, since they have members with different viewpoints who need to come together for the sake of the congregation. Workshops also are available on Zoom and can be structured for families or tailored to different groups’ needs.

A 1960 study concluded that four percent of Republicans and four percent of Democrats would have been unhappy if their child married a member of the other political party, she said. Today 35 percent of Republicans and 45 percent of Democrats oppose cross-party marriages.

“What makes it so tense in America is the idea of the hatred and not liking people,” Deane said. “I’m not saying this is easy. I think it’s worth the effort.”

New Braunfels activist Suzie Pratt, who attended one of Comal County’s first workshops, said the program has the potential to benefit many — if they take the time to care.

“I would say I’m an ecologically conscious wife and mother, with a real drive to inspire others to get involved in their community,” she said. “We are all busy, but life doesn’t wait for us. I caused one of the first runoff elections of its kind by running for New Braunfels City Council while planning a wedding close to election day, working full time, and still making time for family.

“I’m nobody special, so if I can do all of that, what are you capable of doing to make a difference?”

Workshops are planned for the fall. For more information, email braverangelscentraltexas@gmail.com.

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