After many hours of following impeachment coverage, I’ve learned one thing: Our elected officials are far more divided and disrespectful — and divisive — than the citizens of this country.

They rant, they rage, they hoot, they holler, they table-pound and finger-point, and then they have the audacity to roll their eyes. Their public behavior would get middle-schoolers kicked out of class or sent to their rooms from the dinner table. The “adults” are depressed, disappointed and exhausted by their behavior.

While both sides allege and foment hate to distract the voters, our country is left adrift, searching for competent leadership and worrying about any possible pathway to keep our republic intact.

There is hope, however. In Minnesota, we have numerous positive political role models. Congressional staff members working for U.S. Reps. Dean Phillips (D) and Pete Stauber (R) stood up straight, brought their integrity with them, declared their love of country and our democracy and attended a Better Angel Workshop.

Fourteen congressional staff members, conservative and liberal, came together, looked one another in the eye, and listened to the other side at a Better Angel Red/Blue Workshop. They led with curiosity, not judgment. They listened and learned, they found common ground.

Hate doesn’t build anything. But listening to understand the other side builds trust, empathy and routes to respect. Listening to the other side doesn’t change strongly held views; instead, it opens hearts and minds so that they better understand what the other side values. It’s the hard and essential work of citizenship.

Better Angels: Come divided. Leave hopeful.

If action is the antidote to despair, then we, the citizens of this country, need to get off our duffs and take positive action. Google “Better Angels of Minnesota” and attend a workshop to “depolarize” yourself. Learn conversation skills so you can talk politics in a civil manner with your neighbor or your child or your brother. Learn about what the other side thinks and values in a Red/Blue Workshop. Attend a monthly Better Angel debate. Join your community’s Better Angel Alliance where Reds and Blues come together monthly to practice what we value — listening to understand the other side and finding common ground.

America, we need to pull our country back together. No hero is going to save the day; we are the heroes. Citizenship work is hard, but there is much at stake. The trade-offs are worthy of our time, attention and energy.

Let’s save our democracy: Get out of our bubbles, move beyond our tribes, turn off cable TV, unplug Facebook and take positive action on behalf of our nation.

We cannot allow ourselves to be as divided, disrespectful and divisive as our politicians. We are better than them. It will be our fault, the shame will be on us, if we, the citizens, do nothing.

Join our unified campaign, our kindness crusade, a Minnesota 2020 New Year’s Resolution. We promise to examine our own divisive behavior, learn how to have civil political conversations and work to stop the polarization that is ripping our country apart.

Grab your political partner or political opposite, your children or your brother. Join other citizens, conservative and liberal, at a Better Angels Workshop. Let’s depolarize America.


Kim Martinson, of Burnsville, is a retired high school administrator.