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Better Angels holds first workshop in Chico

Around two dozen people gather in the Bidwell Presbyterian Church in Chico as part of a Better Angels discussion workshop on political discourse.

Thursday night marked the first time Better Angels, a bipartisan group of politically-minded individuals, held a discussion workshop in Chico.

The meeting took place at the Bidwell Presbyterian Church downtown.

The participants were passionate about politics, but they never let that get the better of their emotions when discussing the issues. The philosophy of the Better Angels is simple: politics don't need to be as divided as they are.

Twenty-six people attended the meeting, made up of volunteer participants and observers. After introductions, the group split depending on how they politically define themselves: liberals and conservatives. Each group was charged with listing stereotypes of the other, then addressing the truth within those stereotypes. It's an exercise that had a real impact on Mark Dickman, a Chico conservative.

"I think both sides really felt that there's a lot of power in the accusations or what we perceive people are thinking of us," Dickman said.

There were ground rules for the activity. Respectful body language was a must, and no one was allowed to interrupt while others were speaking.

The exercise left Richard Robinson, a Chico liberal, with a sense of what's truly important in political discourse, regardless of party.

"We both love this country. There's no need for us to think the other side doesn't," Robinson said. "It's just we have a different idea of what to do. But we both have the same goals. We want the country to be a better place for everyone."

The goal of Better Angels is not to change minds, but to provide a safe place for deeper understanding. They have workshops all across the country, and they're training more than 100 citizen moderators to facilitate workshops in their own communities, according to their press release.

The name Better Angels was not inspired by religion. It's derived from Abraham Lincoln's first inaugural address, when he appealed to "the better angels of our nature."

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