Featured Essays

The Places We Find Hope: More Selected Songs from the BA Songwriting Contest

For this conversation, the Blue is Cameron Swallow—a Braver Angels moderator and bluegrass musician in Kenosha, Wisconsin, who spent 18 years teaching secondary school. The Red is Jennifer Stepp—a pianist, musical theater dabbler, and community arts advocate who also serves as a city council member in Gastonia, North Carolina. Cameron and Jennifer are both deeply connected to North Carolina, and each now plans to visit the special diner the other discusses in this conversation.

A Change is Gonna Come: Selected Songs from the BA Songwriting Contest

For this conversation, the Blue is Sage Snider—a singer, dancer, songwriter, and pirate musician in Nashville, Tennessee. The Red is Ronni Lynn Smith—singer, songwriter, and pianist from Waynesville, Ohio. Sage and Ronni met at Braver Angels’s first National Convention in 2018, and have been playing together and talking music ever since.

Bluegrass Bridge

I’m not sure if we could become friends today, starting as strangers, given the greater levels of hostility and suspicion that divide our culture. But we can still play music together, and I will hold that door open while hoping (and working) for better times.

Not Yet a Forlorn Hope

The mission continued. Every so often since 1944, the ambitions of great leaders and the swirling currents of history have given subsequent generations their own rendezvouses with destiny.

Black Lives

Black lives matter. But black lives are different – and understanding them helps us understand this moment in America.

Red Virus Blue

Three months in and we now have red vs. blue viewpoints on the interpretation of uncertain data…

What is Information For? Fear and Knowledge in a Time of Crisis

We know that information is important. But we almost never ask what it’s important for. We don’t bother because it’s obvious. Information is for knowing things. And knowing things is how we make decisions about what we think and what we do.  Enter the coronavirus pandemic, this force that’s made life unrecognizable for pretty much …

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Flexing Our Coping Muscles This Pandemic: A Disaster Responder Weighs In

Covid-19 didn’t get here first. We’ve all been living in another kind of pandemic, long before the virus entered the scene. And we are all the stronger for our experience. In recent years, one way or the other, we’ve established our own ways of coping with political stress. At times it certainly doesn’t feel like …

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How to Communicate the Chili Bowl Metaphor of American Identity

In my previous article, I argued that the chili bowl should be America’s new national metaphor. I said that it strikes the right balance between individuality and commonality. A chili bowl has unique and identifiable ingredients, but it is still held together with a single sauce.  People can maintain their unique identities, while also having …

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Braver Angels Media- Writer’s Guidelines

Welcome to Braver Angels Media, the opinion page of Braver Angels, where our writers explore themes of importance to our organization and community. We publish standalone pieces and frequent symposiums about civil discourse, civil society bridge-building, bipartisan common ground, the divides between American reds and blues, the work of depolarization, American culture and heritage and …

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America: Not a Melting Pot, Not a Salad Bowl, but a Chili Bowl

When working to illustrate what, precisely, Americans of diverse backgrounds have in common with each other, metaphors like the ‘melting pot’ and the ‘salad bowl’ have been used in the past. But neither is as apt and fitting as a dish arguably more delicious than either: the chili bowl. A chili bowl metaphor encourages individuals …

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Polarization and Alienation: The Natural Result of Going Against Our Nature

Because I wrote a book about talking across lines of difference, I’m often asked why polarization has reached such an extreme. I can recite a list of the usual suspects—the repeal of the Fairness Doctrine in 1987 and subsequent fragmentation of media into overheated niches; geographical sorting; the elevation of morality-infused issues like abortion and …

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Identity Politics: Should We Just Call It Fairness?

The ever-present debate about “identity politics” continues to rage. It’s a conversation that gained strength during the civil rights activism of the latter 20th century, but it truly became a cultural touchstone amid what many have come to see as the “culture war” that has culminated in the horrifically divisive 2016 election, and the current …

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The Pros and Cons of Emotive Politics

Better Angels has advanced its mission of depolarizing politics by focusing largely on psychological techniques encouraging cooperation, empathy, mutual respect, and productive communication. We can justify this approach because politics, like religion, is an emotional issue. Our political positions are largely founded on belief systems that rely on fundamental faith in those beliefs. When our …

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Dispatch on One-on-One Conversations: Talking Ourselves Into a New Perspective

By Randy Lioz and Paul Norris Involvement in Braver Angels can be a highly rewarding endeavor, and each of us feels an increasing pull towards the organization, taking on more and more responsibility within it over time. In addition to sharing coordinator duties within California—Paul in the north, Randy in the south—Paul is also an …

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