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Carroll County Braver Angels group attempts to bridge political divide; first meeting set for Saturday morning

The Carroll County Alliance of Braver Angels is attempting to tackle the seemingly insurmountable issue of political polarization and will hold its first information session in Westminster Saturday morning.

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Though it may not have all the answers, at least the organization is attempting to do something, said Jordan Haegerich who co-chairs the Carroll chapter of the national group.

The national organization endeavors to provide citizens with the tools to discuss politics constructively and respectfully by holding workshops that bring Republicans and Democrats together to discuss stereotypes and — hopefully — find some common ground. Carroll County Braver Angels will hold an information session to gauge interest and recruit new members Saturday at 10 a.m. at the Westminster public library at 50 E. Main St.

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“We’re not trying to change anybody’s mind,” co-chair Cindy Hirshberg said. “That’s not what this is all about. This is about protecting friendships.”

Braver Angels of Carroll County Alliance of Braver Angels co-chairs, which they are trying to get off the ground. Notably, Cindy Hirshberg (left) is a Democrat in her mid-70s and 33-year-old Jordan Haegerich (right) is a Republican member of the group attempting to address polarizing politics and the political divide. He lives in Hampstead and she lives in Carroll Lutheran Village in Westminster.

Braver Angels formed in 2017 as a response to divisions that were exacerbated by the 2016 election. Although the organization once had a presence in Carroll County, Haegerich said the group fizzled amid the pandemic before he had a chance to join.

As a rule, Braver Angels chapters must have one Republican and one Democrat as co-chairs. A 33-year-old Republican, Haegerich felt called to do something about the political divide after the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol. He said it broke his heart that a place that should be open to disagreements and compromise had to withstand the antitheses of everything democracy means to him.

A Democrat in her mid-70s, Hirshberg felt called to action after seeing a presentation given by her co-chair. Saturday’s hourlong meeting will include a slideshow presented by Haegerich, a time for sharing of experiences, and a 35-minute documentary about Braver Angels that Hirshberg said resonated profoundly with her.

“My challenge is that I could live in my silo as happy as could be, and never be disturbed by anybody,” Hirshberg said, “because in my silo everybody agrees — except for those friends that I lost.”

Haegerich said arguing in bad faith about political disagreements has damaged his relationships with family and friends. If there is interest, the organization plans to offer local workshops to help political discussions, including a family and politics workshop in time for the holidays next year.

Braver Angels’ popular Red/Blue Workshop gathers an even number of Republicans and Democrats to identify and unpack stereotypes they may hold about one another. Haegerich said he would love to be able to hold that free workshop and other events and would be happy to partner with local organizations if there is interest.

Although Republicans are the majority in Carroll County, Haegerich said Braver Angels has an easier time getting Democrats to show up for events.

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Because Maryland has no Braver Angels state coordinator, the duo are building from the ground up. Hirshberg said she is training to be a workshop moderator.

“I need to live my values,” Hirshberg said, “and my values say to offer other people the opportunity to salvage valued friendships.”

Saturday’s event is sponsored by the Cedarhurst Unitarian Universalist church, where Hirshberg attends services. Haegerich said he also feels called by his faith to help bridge the political divide. A Hampstead resident, Haegerich works as resident life coordinator at Carroll Lutheran Village in Westminster, where Hirshberg lives.

Although there is a notion within the organization that Braver Angels should seek out moderates who will have an easier time finding common ground, Haegerich said the Carroll County chapter will welcome those with extreme political beliefs with open arms.

Nationally, Braver Angels has 76 organizations, more than 50,000 email subscribers and more than 2,400 trained volunteers.

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“I think we need as many different views as we can,” Haegerich said, “and yes, we need the Trump Republican and we need the Bernie Sanders Democrat. We need all sides and everybody in the middle. Everybody is welcome and everybody can benefit from these skills — and we can benefit from hearing their opinion.”


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