If you are disgusted with politics and the current state of political parties, you should do something about it.
Last week, I received an email from the New York coordinator for Better Angels, announcing nine workshops around the Capital District, including two at Crandall Library in Glens Falls.
Two years ago, I attended one of the workshops in Bolton Landing and what I witnessed was somewhat miraculous.
Better Angels was an experiment in the summer of 2017, and its organizers were busing around the country with a vision to “reunite America.”
They described a goal of “an America with less uninformed animosity between left and right.” It sought to “bring people together from across the divides to rethink currently polarized issues.”
But here’s the thing: On that day in July, it worked.
Dan Gealt, who previously served on the editorial board at The Post-Star, was one of the participants. Listen to how it affected Dan:
“My biggest takeaway from the event was how surprised I was at how little I have been really listening to the other side,” Gealt said at the time. “Since the event, I have been listening a lot more and I have consciously restrained myself from blasting out so many rote responses. And I now find myself gently pointing out to people that they might be doing exactly what they complain the other side is doing.”
I was excited to hear Better Angels was coming back.
It was an opportunity for our community.
It was an opportunity for all of us to learn how to communicate and debate issues civilly.
Bruce France is from Guilderland and retired. He drives a school bus in Guilderland and saw a sign in the Guilderland school library, promoting one of the Better Angels seminars. He said he had been looking for a way to get involved since the last presidential election.
Better Angels was it.
He spent 15 hours training to be a volunteer moderator for Better Angels. He has now done events at the University at Albany, Siena College and Guilderland and was scheduled to be the moderator at the Glens Falls events.
“I think anyone who does it will benefit from it,” said France.
At the event in Bolton Landing in 2017, moderator David Blankenhorn said, “We’re not trying to get people to change their views, but to listen. If you listen and try to understand, if you are confident people will listen, you become a human being and a friendship develops and the rancor goes way down. It sounds simple. It’s like magic.”
We could use some of that magic.
And it’s what I saw in Bolton Landing that day. Nobody changed their views, but they did find some common ground, and in many cases, that their views were not so far apart.
My goal with this column was to promote the workshops and maybe get some of our political leaders to participate.
Then I got a call from France.
The workshops at Crandall Library were canceled because no one signed up.
I was not willing to give up, and France said he was willing to schedule another workshop at another time if there was interest.
I’d love to see the Republican and Democratic Party chairs in each of our three counties lead the way.
I’d like to see Republican chairmen Michael Grasso (Warren County), Dan Boucher (Washington County), and Carl Zeilman (Saratoga County) be in a seminar with Democratic chairpersons Lynne Boucher (Warren County), Melissa Shea (Washington County) and Todd Kerner (Saratoga County) to discuss the issues and ways to communicate.
If they are not willing, what about a respected Republican like Kevin Geraghty and a respected Democrat like Mike Parwana leading the charge with some of their most enthusiastic friends and colleagues to spend a day talking about the issues and coming to terms with the divide within our country.
That is the catch here.
Better Angels’ Red/Blue workshop is a day-long seven-hour workshop with 10 Republicans-leaning citizens and 10 Democratic-leaning citizens.
Let’s think of it as an investment not only in our community, but our country.
I’d like to see Better Angels hold an event in every community locally. All it takes is for one person to send an email.
Bruce France is waiting to hear from you. Shoot him an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell him you want to set up the workshop. I’m going to be talking to our editorial board and see if they are willing to participate in one.
We all can make a difference if we choose. We know we can’t wait for the politicians.