Shanna Ratner was the speaker at the January 25 TTJ meeting, “Listening Across the Political Divide”. A resident of Fairfield, Shanna was a founding member of Franklin County’s local Braver Angels group in 2017. A national group, Braver Angels (BA) formed after the contentious 2016 election, and groups now exist in every state, with over 12,000 members.
About 25 people showed up to our zoom meeting, just a few reds among the more numerous blues, a microcosm of Vermont itself. Shanna began by showing two short BA videos, including Finding Common Ground in Ohio, a film of the very first BA workshop. It showed facilitators bringing together seven reds and seven blues in dialog and listening. After the workshop, people shared stories, describing heartfelt connections with people from the opposite side of the spectrum. Here’s the video:
In BA dialogs you see people listening to each other and finding their common humanity beneath political differences. People seem less alien when you see how their life experience leads them to their beliefs. Shanna led us in breakout groups that had us practice listening skills and finding commonalities in how we each arrive at our political views.
Some additional insights from Shanna:
-It’s not about changing peoples’ minds or arguing over facts; it’s about finding the 80% that we agree on.
-A local legislator who is part of Franklin County BA says it’s the only place he can really be honest, since he has to be politically correct within his political circles.
-To keep a local group going, you must (ironically) keep politics out of it, so it remains a safe place for people of all persuasions.
Shanna shared her story of forming their local BA group. She initially got involved after a BA Bus Tour came through her town. She asked her neighbor, a retired military officer to join her, but was challenged in finding more reds (groups ideally have equal numbers of reds/blues). She went to the local gun shop, fire station, and other places where she might encounter reds and invite them to participate.
The Franklin County group initially attended some BA workshops, including “Skills to Bridge the Political Divide” BA’s most popular course; they have remained together, meeting quarterly. In 2018 they wanted to go beyond simply talking, and tackled a couple legislative issues; this year, their team is leading a “Skills to Bridge...” workshop on March 4. To take part, contact Dan Pipes: firstname.lastname@example.org
TTJ is offering a follow-up meeting on Monday *February 22, for anyone interested in pursuing steps toward forming a local BA. If you missed the January 25 presentation, you can request it here: TTJerichoVT@gmail.com
*Meeting has been postponed until March 22