After a turbulent 2020, Erickson and Gearin hope for a better 2021 with Braver Angels
The objectives of Braver Angels, according to its website, is to “restore civic trust in the United States of America. It is about healing the wounds between left and right. It is about challenging institutions to be better, building community together, and discovering what it means to be an American in our time.”
After a turbulent 2020 and what happened in Washington D.C. last month, those objectives may seem like to trying to push a rock up a mountain.
Yet for Lisa Erickson and Kim Gearin, the two local members of Braver Angels, they aren’t going to give up for the rest of 2021 and beyond.
The pair has talked about examples in which the skills they learned have changed people’s minds.
Erickson was a Braver Angels convention in St. Louis in 2019, in which she was in a conversation with a male who shared the same political beliefs as she did. As she told the story, the male, was having a disagreement with a family member over a political issue and trying to change that person’s mind to match his own opinion.
The 10-minute conversation was over and Erickson didn’t know what would happen. Three days later, Erickson was leaving St. Louis and ran into the male’s wife at the airport. The wife thanked Erickson because ever since the conversation he became a different person and changed for the better.
Gearin took part in a discussion about gun control with students at Osceola High School before COVID-19 occurred.
She said the students were able to talk and understand each other so much, that a student commented, they wished adults would be able to talk like this.
“It was a very enlightened conversation,” she said. “They were struck by how powerful, promising it was, which is a typical response to a (Braver) Angels conversation.”
Another victory for Braver Angels came last month when Erickson and Gearin helped lead the charge for Polk County to support the Fair Maps resolutions which calls for the State of Wisconsin to create a nonpartisan procedure in drawing the legislative and congressional redistricting maps.
“The cycle needed to be stopped,” Erickson said, as whichever political party was in control in the time previously would draw the maps in their favor.
The County Board approved the resolutions, which will now go to the voters in April and let them decide.
“We have to do more,” Erickson said. “We have to listen to each other. We have to try heal the anger between parties.”
Erickson and Gearin started 2020 with plans to have community and regional debates with the goals of being respectful to each other. COVID-19 threw a wrench to those plans for now.
Because they have some work in front of them.
Erickson recalled taking part in two different conversations in which disparaging remarks were made about former President Donald Trump’s family and what it now means to have a Democrat (President Joe Biden) in the White House.
“These comments were so disturbing, it makes the work more important than ever,” Erickson said. “We have to get know people on a human level.”
The pair acknowledges social media isn’t helping their cause.
“It’s a huge part of the problem,” Erickson said. “It shuts down conversations before they can even start. People are going to sources to justify their thoughts and ideas.”
Said Gearin: “They need to step away from social media, sound bites and talk to each other.”
The pair concluded they hope to revive those plans in a post-COVID world.
“We need to find those common goals and to listen,” Erickson said.
For more information, check out braverangels.org