Invitation to Braver Angels: Bridge-Building Across Political Difference

The following is an invitation from Charlie Birge, a CG community member, to join him in his work with Braver Angels, a group he describes below. Charlie writes:

Braver Angels workshops invite both sides of political conflicts to attempt to understand the underlying values and concerns of their opposites. I’ve found this to be a powerful exercise in goodwill and compassion, because I’ve worked to find wisdom in views I find problematic, while setting aside (and discerning the suffering in) habitual critical reactions. This has opened my mind to the wisdom of many conservative thinkers and principles, wisdom that feels deeply aligned with central Buddhist teachings, particularly on virtue, responsibility, family and communal harmony, and the role of the “wheel-turning” monarch (in modern terms, the role of government to sort out social problems).
Braver Angels workshops also invite us to reflect on the potential drawbacks of our own political views and tactics. I’ve found this to be a powerful exercise in humility, and has made me realize that some views and political tactics that I previously endorsed — ideas widely taken for granted by myself and my generally progressive milieu — had significant blindspots, and had the potential to increase collective suffering despite coming from good intentions. That said, after going through this reflection, other aspects of my views remained firm, which has strengthened my convictions and allowed me to express them with more clarity, non-contention, and ease.
In general, I see Braver Angels as attempting to structure our political dialogue and debate so they are based on and cultivate wholesome qualities — goodwill, kindness, curiosity, humility, integrity, etc. — in service of finding common ground and solutions to deeply divisive issues. I see rich potential for integrating Buddhist contemplative practices with Braver Angels-style reflections and discussions, and, if possible, I would love to facilitate this. I’ve offered to do a presentation on mindfulness meditation to the Braver Angels Minneapolis chapter (of which I’m a member), and if you know of any interest among Common Ground members in this kind of thing, I’d love to get connected with them. Please email charlie.birge@gmail.com to get involved.

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