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

State Coordinator

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] for more information.

Braver Angels of Central Arkansas

APRIL CHATHAM-CARPENTER
[email protected]

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. Since then, we have hosted other workshops in 2019 in Fort Smith, Jacksonville, and in Little Rock at the main Central Arkansas Public Library. We have presented on Braver Angels and polarization to several groups and organizations since that time, including Rotary Clubs, Catholic High School senior class, St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, 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 November and December programs. To do so, we ask that you either email us for a link to the program (Glen White at [email protected] or Jeannie Burrus at [email protected] ) or register for the events on Eventbrite by following the links below, which will allow you to register (free of charge for all our events):

November 2: “How to Have 1:1 Conversations across the Political Divide”: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/braver-angels-having-conversations-across-the-political-divide-registration-123831117205

December 7: Depolarizing Within Workshop: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/braver-angels-central-arkansas-depolarizing-within-workshop-registration-123838701891

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 leaders locally, just to explore what interests and motivates people about Braver Angels and its mission. We hope to include more of these in future posts, so if any of you would be willing to offer your brief bio sketch about why you decided to ally with us in our cause, please contact us. We plan to always pair one Red and one Blue bio, so we need folks of both persuasions! The usual tendency is for more blues than reds to join Braver Angels, so if you are of the red persuasion politically and are a member, please consider doing this or otherwise volunteering. Thanks!
    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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