Jan Mercker, Loudoun Now
Mel Pine is a 72-year-old Buddhist who grew up in a Jewish family in Philadelphia. William “Butch” Porter is a 44-year-old Southern Baptist from Shreveport, LA. Pine leans to the left on the political spectrum, while Porter is politically conservative. But the two have become friends and meet regularly for coffee and conversation, thanks in part to the Better Angels organization, which seeks to reduce polarization by bringing folks together from across the aisle.
Better Angels is a national organization launched in 2016 by journalist and author David Blankenhorn with a goal of helping Americans seek common ground in communities and find unifying principles in politics, even when they disagree. The local chapter has been active for the past year, organizing red-blue workshops designed to give Loudouners tools for engaging in respectful, productive dialog and a chance to go beyond the surface with neighbors whose views are different.
“As I’ve gone through life, I’ve had a lot of well-educated, progressive-type friends. That’s my social circle. I’m working, though, for it not to be my bubble,” said Pine, a former journalist and public relations executive who lives in Hamilton. Pine was an early Better Angels member in Northern Virginia and recently became the organization’s Virginia coordinator. He’s also a co-chairman of Loudoun’s Better Angels alliance.