Welcome to Braver Angels Arkansas’s webpage!

Working across political lines to support respectful communication, listening to understand, finding common ground, and bipartisan problem-solving.

About Braver Angels Arkansas

Braver Angels Arkansas is a group of Arkansans who are allied with the national organization Braver Angels (braverangels.org) that was formed in 2016. We have been starting from a small base of a few committed individuals and have had letters and guest columns published in central Arkansas media, and we have put on several presentations and workshops to spread the word about our mission.

Our goal is to establish a vibrant and active organization in Arkansas as we seek to reach across the political divide and develop greater respectful communications and, where feasible, collaborations to help solve problems facing our state and nation. As seen on the national website: “Braver Angels is a citizens’ organization uniting red and blue Americans in a working alliance to depolarize America. We try to understand the other side’s point of view, even if we don’t agree with it. We engage those we disagree with, looking for common ground and ways to work together. We support principles that bring us together rather than divide us.

Braver Angels of Central Arkansas’s first ever workshop: Skills for Bridging the Divide

Arkansas State Coordinator

April Chatham-Carpenter

Arkansas Red State Coordinator
[email protected]

 

J. Glen White

Arkansas Blue State Coordinator
[email protected]

Arkansans and others, we invite you to contact us with questions, suggestions, or to volunteer to help us in our cause. We believe that securing our country’s future relies on the committed action by citizens who are willing to develop and maintain relationships with those of differing political views. Maintaining the ability to work together where common ground is found (and we have more common values than we have been led to believe!) is essential for a healthy, functioning democracy.

ALLIANCE/REGIONS

By paying $12 a year to join Braver Angels via the national website (www.braverangels.org), you qualify to be a voting member of the local alliance. To be involved or to volunteer, you must be a member, but all members of the public are welcome to join our programs and workshops, and there is no cost for attending any events, in person or online. We also welcome clubs, organizations, churches, etc who are interested in hearing from us, securing a presentation from one of our leaders, or who simply support our mission.  Contact Glen White at [email protected], Mary Hunt
[email protected] or April Chatham-Carpenter at [email protected] for more information.

Braver Angels of Central Arkansas

MARY HUNT
BACA Blue Alliance Co-Coordinator
[email protected]

Kate Zakrzewski
BACA Red Alliance Co-Coordinator
[email protected]

Braver Angels of Central Arkansas (BACA) consists of an Executive Committee (EC), a Volunteer Working Group (VWG), General Alliance members, and Alliance Co-Chairs. Guests are always welcome to attend alliance meetings and will be encouraged to join Braver Angels as dues-paying members. (Only dues-paying members qualify to be officers and to vote.)

 Volunteer Working Group:  For Braver Angels members who are willing to devote their time and energy to a larger role, we invite volunteers to become part of the VWG regardless of their political leaning.  This group supports the activities of BACA such as:

  • Organizing, leading, moderating, chairing workshops and events;
  • Helping to staff workshops and events for set-up, registration, administration, and/or clean-up;
    • These first two types of members above include trained/certified (via national BA process) moderators, organizers, participant managers, & zoom feature managers. They may form as a separate program committee with one person designated as leader.
  • Recruiting new members;
  • Being an advocate for Braver Angels in the community; and
  • Voicing opinions and ideas to the EC.

BACA’s 2021 Program Schedule

We will have programs every two months in 2021, with public programs one month, then no local meeting on alternate months, in which we will publicize to our email list and Facebook page several options to attend other national events. All Braver Angels’ events are open to the public, regardless of where you live. To learn more about the individual workshops we offer, click here.  Or, you can visit our Events page to see a list of all upcoming workshops and other events.

  • February 8, 6:30-8pm, With Malice Towards None program. We will focus on post-election processing and how to bring people together in our search for common ground in this time of strong polarization and competing views of reality.  Eventbrite sign up link:  https://www.eventbrite.com/e/braver-angels-central-arkansas-with-malice-towards-none-registration-136510309009
  • March: No BACA program.  We will let you know via email and/or our social media or website of upcoming national events that you may find of interest, or go to https://braverangels.org/online/workshops/ and click on “find an event.”
  • April 5: Media & polarization panel discussion: We’ll have a stellar panel of members of the Arkansas media who will discuss their views about the media and its influence, good or bad, on political polarization, followed by opportunities for those attending the program to ask questions of the panel. The panel, which will be moderated by April Chatham-Carpenter, will feature: Philip Martin of the Democrat Gazette; Donna Stephens, UCA journalism professor; Gwen Moritz, editor of Arkansas Business; and Wesley Brown, publisher of the Daily Record.
  • May: no local program, national meeting publicized
  • June 14: local program, topic to be determined

We also are planning for our first-ever local Red/Blue workshop in late April/early May, most likely two Saturdays in a row from 9 to noon. The Red-Blue workshop has a group of 5-8 Reds and a group of 5-8 Blues both participate in a highly structured workshop that has consistently received rave reviews by its participants. The format allows for significant sharing between the two groups of their perspectives politically, in a way that encourages respectful and honest communication, while avoiding arguing and heated rhetoric.  This will be a major program that has consistently generated lots of buzz among its attendees, so stay tuned for more information on the Red/Blue workshop. We need at least 5-8 volunteers for both the Red and the Blue groups, who are committed to active participation in the entire process on both dates. Observers are welcome but will not be able to participate or communicate during the workshop.  If you are interested in possibly attending, please let us know via email; we especially need to hear from those of you who are willing to actively participate. Contact Glen, April or Mary (email links below) and we’ll put you on a waiting list. No need to commit right away, just let us know if you would like to consider it. For more information on the Red/Blue workshops, go to: https://braverangels.org/what-we-do/red-blue-workshops/; and for a video of an early version of this workshop, check out the 50-minute documentary: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u6kZpN5T3lU&t=105s

Workshops and Debates

Since we first began working to develop a Braver Angels alliance in central Arkansas, we have hosted several events, beginning with a skills workshop at St. Michael’s Episcopal Church in November 2018. Other workshops were held in 2019 in Fort Smith, Jacksonville, and in Little Rock at the main Central Arkansas Public Library. In 2020, we hosted several workshops, programs and events online and have a number of other plans for 2021. We provide presentations on Braver Angels and polarization to local groups and organizations upon request, including Rotary Clubs, Catholic High School senior class, St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, book clubs, merchants’ associations, college groups and others. We began monthly public meetings online in July 2020, and for 2021 we plan to alternate local online programs with participation in national workshops and events. We hope you will join us for our scheduled  programs in 2021. See the list below, or email us for an Eventbrite registration link to a program (Glen White at [email protected] or Jeannie Burrus at [email protected]). Our programs are sponsored by the Central Arkansas Library System, Braver Angels, and UALR’s office of Applied Communication.

In The News

Here are links to a few media stories or events related to our activity in Arkansas:

  • https://www.arkansas-catholic.org/news/article/6670/Listening-a-skill-to-hone-during-election-season
  • Arkansas Democrat-Gazette article on Braver Angels in Arkansas:
  • Extreme political polarization has many negative effects, but one of the most dangerous is its potential to endanger our democratic form of government. Local Braver Angels moderator Jerry Henderson provides an excellent overview of the research and thinking currently informing the discussion about what polarization in the US may do to degrade our government and society. Recommended reading. bit.ly/2RDEa6R
  • Intrigued by Braver Angels, but cannot seem to make it to a live event? Check out the Braver Angels podcast. Recent topics include Black perspectives from the left and right, transcending the politics of hate with the politics of love, and a new way of looking at religion and politics.
  • The link below features two brief biographical statements from one of our Red and one of our Blue members, just to explore what interests and motivates people about Braver Angels and its mission.
    o Bio sketches from Nathan and April
  • State Coordinator Glen White was interviewed recently by John Coffin on KABF-FM 88.3 community radio in Little Rock about Braver Angels. Here is a link to the 25-minute recording, which includes an overview of Braver Angels and political polarization.
  • This is a documentary about Braver Angels. Filmed at an early workshop that brought together liberals and conservatives shortly after the 2016 election, this 50-minute peek into a Red-blue workshop offers hope that good people of differing ideologies can communicate and relate with respect to each other without giving up our fundamental beliefs. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u6kZpN5T3lU
  • April Chatham-Carpenter of UA-Little Rock and Glen White presented on political polarization research and Braver Angels on Friday, April 24, 2020. It was our second online project, and except for a few brief audio problems during the first part of my talk on polarization research, it seemed to go well. Check it out here: https://www.dropbox.com/s/9wbwkhgyiczm8fz/Braver-Ang
  • Saturday, December 7, 2019, our local Braver Angels alliance had a guest editorial published in the Arkansas Democrat Gazette:

Bridge the divide: Polarization imperils democracy by Jerry Henderson and J. Glen White Special to the Democrat-Gazette | December 7, 2019 at 2:25 a.m.

Many Americans are understandably weary of the current uncivil roar of partisan politics. Pew Research shows a steady rise of political polarization in the past decade to record levels.

A corrosive force in our country, polarization is producing troubling tension between friends and family members, in addition to placing our democracy at peril. Jennifer McCoy, a respected political scientist, reports research that political polarization, as it intensifies, can significantly erode democratic institutions.

Freedom House, which monitors freedom and democracy worldwide, notes new democracies surged globally from the 1970s through the 1990s. However, since 2005, democratic institutions and civil liberties have steadily declined around the world. Many experts argue that democratic institutions, including our own, are much more fragile than we might assume. Deepening mistrust along with an unwillingness to seek common ground, are threatening the perfect polarization storm that could so seriously undermine social cohesion that our democratic institutions could be substantially endangered.

It is tempting to detach and simply view ourselves as a victim of the crazy political drama, but this response may unwittingly make us part of the problem. Most of us choose a team, either “red” (conservative) or “blue” (liberal), based on complex psychological and personal history influences (though we assume our views are based on well-reasoned facts).

As described in the work of social psychologist Jonathan Haidt, once our tribal affiliation is chosen, additional factors, mostly beyond our conscious awareness, can transform us into highly dedicated soldiers for our team. Our personal identity and value system are basically hijacked by our political identity. These forces create deep distrust and animosity between red and blue teams.

That contempt for the other half of the American population is unhealthy both for us personally and for our democracy. At the extreme, polarization can result in demonizing and dehumanizing the other side, which can potentially put vulnerable and unstable individuals at risk for violence.

If the health of our American democracy begins to decline due to the pernicious effects of polarization, what would be the nature of our patriotic obligation to act? What if we started by stepping back from our tribal allegiance and re-oriented our personal attitude?

We could strive to be more compassionate toward the other side, to genuinely seek to understand their views, and to be open to the possibility that some of their ideas may have merit and could provide balance to our views. We can reach out and begin a dialogue with a friend or family member across the political divide with no expectation that either side will change their views. We can then commit to genuinely listening and speaking with respect in search of understanding and common ground rather than engage in fruitless debate.

To be successful, we must each honestly challenge our own negative stereotypes and the nature of our animosity toward the other side, as suggested by Parker Palmer in his book, Healing the Heart of Democracy. We can learn to monitor our emotional arousal as a cue we are in danger of being swept away by tribal instinct, which will likely cloud our thinking and lead to unskillful actions and decisions.

Another important step is to seek more balance in our “media diet” and avoid relying only on news sources that confirm our existing views and that vilify the opposing party. It is a strong, but psychologically unhealthy, high to drink in the nectar of moral outrage at our political opponents.

Push beyond the bubble and seek dialogue and friendship with people who have different views from your own. Pew Research has indicated that having just one close friend across the political divide softens our negative political stereotypes. We can also, by our votes and letters to our congressional representatives in Washington, express our support for civil bipartisan dialogue and reasonable compromise. Insisting on ideological purity and viewing politics as a zero-sum game only stoke the fire of polarization.

Remember, there is only one America, so to borrow from Lincoln, let us call upon the better angels of our nature and learn to respectfully live with those whose political views are very different from our own.

Finally, you don’t have to take on the journey of depolarizing alone. You can join the Better Angels team and contribute to healing the heart and soul of our nation. For more information about Better Angels (braverangels.org) in Arkansas, contact Glen White at [email protected]. [Jerry Henderson and J. Glen White are members of Better Angels of Central Arkansas, a citizens’ organization uniting red and blue Americans in a working alliance to depolarize America. Editorial on 12/07/2019]

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