Featured Essays

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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Red or Blue? Liberal or Conservative? The Pitfalls of Labels

Our political divide between red and blue, left and right, is often characterized in the media as an ideological conflict between liberalism and conservatism. Yet the meanings of these ideological terms are often misinterpreted and mischaracterized–most often by opposing points of view– in order to fit a preferred political narrative. For those on the left, …

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Dispatch on a Debate at UC Berkeley

The University of California, Berkeley, holds a distinct place in the history of political discussion in America. In fact, it’s practically synonymous with left-wing campus protests. In the midst of great national division over the Vietnam War, it was in fact a local land dispute—which spurred the crowd-powered creation of People’s Park on university land—that …

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Mistakes were Made, But Not By Me: A Look at Some Common Cognitive Errors

When I started researching the different types of cognitive errors to which we fallible humans are susceptible, I had a hypothesis: Blues don’t make cognitive errors. Reds do. Oh, the irony. My presumption that my team of liberal and progressive Blues is free of cognitive bias was itself a trifecta of conformity, availability and confirmation …

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Our Descent Toward Political Loathing, Resentment, and Distrust—And How We Rise Again

“My country is tearing itself apart. I must do something…but what, exactly?” These were the thoughts running through my head during the 2016 election. It seemed our country– and my Facebook feed– was full of vitriol. It couldn’t lead to good governing, and it couldn’t be healthy for people to constantly be outraged. Yet what …

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Work and Fairness: Different Visions, Same Values

Perhaps more than any other Western democratic people, Americans revere work. This is not surprising, given our history. Unlike the aristocratic European societies that colonized the Western Hemisphere, where unaccountable noblemen gave the order to work to their peasant subjects, and where labor was carried out for the benefit of society’s rulers, the United States …

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Building a House United: The Political Understanding of Better Angels

If you are an American with any reason to follow local news, chances are you’ve heard of us—Better Angels has been covered by scores of local and regional newspapers, not to mention occasional features in national titans like The Federalist, USAToday, and the New York Times. The stories almost always read the same way: America …

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