As a pipe welder back in the day, Darcy Crosman worked on a pipeline at a geothermal power plant in northern California that drew its energy from deep underground.
As a Braver Angel these days, Darcy (Blue) draws her energy from her immediate community of El Sobrante, California, and from the concerns that threaten its wellbeing over the long term.
And as every Braver Angel should, she takes what she has learned (and continues to learn) from the organization to give energy back to the community.
Before Darcy discovered Braver Angels in 2019, she hadn’t been much engaged with local civic matters. Yes, in earlier times she’d gone to demonstrations and participated in political campaigns in the notoriously vocal neighborhood of Berkeley nearby. But it was the sense that America was being pulled apart by polarization that led her to attend a talk by psychoanalyst Christopher Bollas. Among other topics, Bollas addressed the views of farming communities in North Dakota – almost uniformly Red. “You have got to talk to [people like] them,” was Bollas’ exhortation to his audience.
“Bollas had a farm in North Dakota. He’s listening to farmers. It was so clear to him that people get isolated and when they’re in their silos, they can think whatever they want,” says Darcy. “I didn’t know that anybody was [approaching others] like that –– just listening to them.”
Darcy sought out organizations that manifested that approach and soon came across Braver Angels. She attended a Red/Blue workshop run by the Alameda Alliance nearby, and was hooked. Her next step: to attend the organization’s in-person convention in the summer of 2019. She went with Carlos Hernandez, the very active Red from the other side of San Francisco Bay. “I was his Blue date!” she laughs. “It was so exciting to meet so many people at the convention who just wanted to talk – who were making believers out of people around the idea of depolarizing.”
At the convention, she met David Lapp, and they discussed ideas that she could bring to her own community. Back with the Alameda Alliance, she and others started off thinking big, about the myriad events they could organize and run. They eventually decided to show a documentary on the early work of Braver Angels. “I recruited for it,” says Darcy. “I brought out a lot of leaders in the community; I had to step out of my comfort zone to reach [Red-leaning people].”
Not that Reds were rushing to sign up. “They just wanted to be underground,” she recalls. Her struggle to enlist Reds persisted; she eased back on her early involvement with Braver Angels, particularly as the pandemic shut down interaction in many dimensions. But when she next crossed paths again with David Lapp, he brought up the idea of Common Ground workshops – Braver Angels events where the outcome is a clearly defined area of agreement on which participants can act.
Darcy saw an opportunity to use that event format to discuss homelessness in her area. “That got people motivated,” she recalls. “It’s a real issue for our community, in many ways.” The event that she put together, held in June 2021, lasted more than four hours. Out of the workshop came four key goals, which would be worked on by people from the community at a follow-up town-hall meeting on the topic.
That meeting attracted more than 30 participants in person and dozens on Zoom, involved the county supervisor, and led to the formation of an action group that is now exploring potential solutions to homelessness in the immediate area. “It was democracy in action!” says Darcy. Another issue that may follow the same discussion trajectory: wildfire evacuation routes –– a hot topic, quite literally, in drought-stricken California.
Lately, Darcy has become deeply involved with Braver Angels’ We the People’s Forum, the group representing “everyday Americans” of all stripes who make up two-thirds of the nation’s population. As a former union welder, and subsequently as a counselor of adolescent girls and as a dissertation coach and editor, Darcy is very well qualified to help shape the group’s agenda.
Aside from helping with the ongoing operation of the group in monthly leadership meetings, Darcy has been instrumental in bringing to life next week’s national event exploring various approaches to homelessness and featuring speakers who have themselves been on the street or who work on housing issues.
It’s clear that Darcy has found not only a community in Braver Angels but also a powerful mechanism for change in intrinsically local issues that matter. The thrust of her involvement may not be strictly on the meta-issue of depolarization, but it is in no way less important because of it. She points out that bringing together the left and right cohorts of the community to tackle local problems has practical benefits. “We can come up with solutions that the entire community will embrace,” she says.
It’s fair to say that this Blue, with her blue-collar background and her Red colleagues nearby, has both boots planted squarely in practicality.