by Elisabeth Robbins, Better Angels Moderator
Can seven progressives and six conservatives get together for a day of talking about their political beliefs without anger and explosiveness?
When participants follow the structure of a Better Angels Red/Blue Workshop, the answer is yes. Even more, it can be a positive experience for all involved, including the observers.
Held recently at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Woodland, the workshop was moderated by Steve Sphar of Sacramento, and assisted by local resident Elisabeth Robbins, who, along with Viola Fong, organized the event. Participants were divided into two teams: Reds, who tend to lean conservative or Republican on the issues, and Blues, who tend to lean Democrat or Progressive.
The group engaged in exercises designed toencourage listening and learning from each other. They talked about the strengths and potential problems of their own group and asked each other questions to elicit information about the other team’s values and beliefs.
In the structured format, asking “gotcha” questions, those designed to show how the other side is wrong or to change anyone’s mind, were not allowed.
Blue participant Joy Henning commented that “it helped me feel a little more hopeful about my country.”
Evan Cliff, a Red participant, said that “both political sides have a lot more in common than politicians and the media lead us to believe.”
“I appreciated being in a group that spoke of politics in a respectful manner with those of another point of view. It was refreshing,” said observer Dixie Clark.
The workshop was free, with lunch sponsored by the Woodland Ecumenical and Multi-faith Ministries, and the venue provided by St. Luke’s Episcopal Church.
A “Better Angels” workshop sought to iron out political differences.