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    Op-Ed
    Sunday, June 23, 2024

    A house divided: Have we gone too far?

    President Abraham Lincoln was perhaps the most eloquent of our nation's leaders. He warned against "a house divided" and urged us to "listen to our better angels."

    Some scholars suggest that at this precarious moment in our nation's history the country is leaning away from democracy and exhibits signs of permanent division.

    Braver Angels is a movement that believes we can protect and cultivate our democracy if we listen to each other. But it will require civility and focused listening to each other.

    Braver Angels has successfully conducted workshops, Town Hall-style events, debates, and community conversations across the country to address the polarization in our country. We are a group of volunteers who care about community and our country.

    We have a simple set of ground rules:

    [naviga:ul]

    [naviga:li]We all speak for ourselves. We are not here to further the agenda of some outside group or party.[/naviga:li]

    [naviga:li]We share, explain, and understand.[/naviga:li]

    [naviga:li]We gather to pool our knowledge AND our questions, not to persuade anyone that we are "right."[/naviga:li]

    [naviga:li]We focus on the topic at hand.[/naviga:li]

    [naviga:li]We do the Old School stuff (be nice, don't interrupt, take turns).[/naviga:li]

    [/naviga:ul]

    The Braver Angels Connecticut chapter is making it happen in the Nutmeg state. Our workshops are based on extensive experience, sound principles and the solicitation of input from workshop participants, recognized external leaders, issue-oriented caucuses, and continuous research. As a result, these workshops are thoughtfully conceived — then thoroughly vetted through field testing.

    Braver Angels CT has hosted two previous events: a debate asking "Should social Media be regulated?" and an information session on "Critical Race Theory and its potential application in K-12 education." The Braver Angels CT Alliance is planning to offer monthly activities in 2022. We are committed to opening lines of communication across our fractious society. We hope to see you at our upcoming events.

    One of us — Co-chair Al Smith — attended a Braver Angels event on the subject of election integrity. Red and Blue attendees were asked to develop a list of the most important rules they would require around the topic of voter rights (eliminating suppression while assuring no fraud in our elections). I was very surprised to see approximately 70% of these required rules governing elections were agreed on by both groups. Yet those in Congress can't find common ground on voter rights legislation! "We the people" know better.

    As a former school superintendent, I — Co-chair Chris Clouet — was accustomed to an occasional raucous meeting. When I first engaged with participants in a Braver Angels Blue/Red Workshop I was concerned that differences of viewpoint might quickly shift into name-calling and "otherizing." I was gratified with the well-organized listening that occurred and the reality that we all found some areas of common ground.

    Nationally known journalist David Brooks recently summarized in a New York Times column a startling series of examples about how many people now interact with others in a negative way.

    Too many exhibit rage, as seen with passengers fighting on airplanes, rude customers in restaurants, irate parents at school board meetings, and patients in medical settings behaving badly.

    "We the people" can change these situations for the better. But we need all hands on deck!

    Come join us in this important work. Let's put our derailed nation back on track. And have some fun and purpose while accomplishing this.

    For more information: BraverAngels.org and Braverangelsct.org

    Please contact ct-coordinators@braverangels.org if you are interested in becoming involved in Braver Angels CT.

    Christopher P. Clouet, Ed.D., of New London, is a former New London superintendent of schools and assistant professor of education at Mitchell College. Al E. Smith of Brookfield is president of the Western CT Military Officers Association. They serve as co-chairs of Braver Angels CT Alliance.

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