For my final National Week of Conversation post, I’m sharing a Honky-Tonk Critters’ performance about traveling. Despite the song’s lyrics, I have not yet “been everywhere,” so to fix that I’m going on the road (again). This December, I’ll be doing an East Coast music tour as a fundraiser for Better Angels. But to make this project work, I need your help.
I plan to start in Maryland and drive north until I get to Vermont. In between, I’ll make as many stops as I have places to play (especially in Rhode Island, Connecticut, and Massachusetts). If you want to host, assist, or attend a house concert, please let me know. Any support is appreciated.
This tour also has the specific purpose of raising money, awareness, and participation for Better Angels. While there are many great organizations working to encourage civil discourse across our nation, I’ve chosen to support Better Angels for three reasons:
1) Better Angels has equal participation from “Reds” and “Blues”–which is unusual for these generally liberal-leaning groups. In “The Big Sort”–a book showing how America has become ideologically polarized along geographic lines–Bill Bishop argues that “mixed company moderates; like-minded company polarizes” (70). This principle was central to our founding fathers’ federalism and has more recently been confirmed by social psychologists. For example, Hamilton argued that while communities isolated from different ideas become more extreme, the “jarring of parties… often promote deliberation and circumspection, and serve to check excesses of the majority.” Like our federal system, which brings different voices together, the “Better Angels Rule” promises that “at every level of leadership we are half red and half blue.” By guaranteeing the inclusion of opposing voices, Better Angels fights conversation’s potential to provoke rather than diminish polarization.
2) Better Angels runs workshops specifically about polarization. For example, you might talk about how you think “the other side” sees you and what is and is not true about that judgment. While I’m skeptical a “Red” can persuade a “Blue” to change her mind about gun control, I believe a conversation can open that Blue’s mind to reconsider dismissive stereotypes about Red people. Even if we can’t find common ground, Better Angels can help us remember our common humanity.
3) Better Angels is a movement. Its leadership has travelled the country to spread the word, and has thereby built up grassroots participation, encouraged sustainable local chapters, and inspired independent efforts (like mine). Its message is catching, and I hope to spread it further.
Mostly, I’m supporting Better Angels because I want more people to experience the good work they are doing. If you want access yourself, for just $10/year you can become a member, which allows you to “organize workshops, build alliances, get trained as moderators,” and be included on regular, nation-wide discussions. To learn more, click a link below. For (more of) my opinions, keep following my posts and attend a show in December!