Civility in politics? We’ve just about given up on that concept.

Loud, angry and arrogant is how we talk to each other. We don’t debate as much as we just scream. Heck, we can’t even agree on what the truth is anymore. Those willing to listen to opposing views and have reasoned, open dialogues are being drowned out in the din.

Every day, we see the political landscape getting a little more divided and a little more hostile. Families, and we see this first hand, are banning political talk at holiday meals and other celebrations just to get through the day without getting mad with each other.

So forgive us if we’re skeptical — and yet hopeful — of an idea being pushed locally by two Frederick County residents who are on opposite sides of the political spectrum.

Jim Carpenter, a Democrat from Frederick, and Natalie Abbas, a Republican from Myersville, are behind a local chapter of Better Angels, a national nonprofit organization established nearly three years ago to bring people together to discuss the issues without the rhetoric that often goes along with it.

The name Better Angels comes from an 1861 speech made by President Abraham Lincoln during our country’s most divisive time, the Civil War.

“We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies,” Lincoln said. “Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature. “

Better Angels helps bring people together by having members consider their own reasoning for their stances on political issues and then encourages dialogue with others who have opposing views. They do this mostly through workshops. Each Better Angels chapter strives to have an equal number of people from each political party so that no one view dominates.

The biggest surprise some might find, Carpenter told us, is that we have more in common than the current political climate would lead you to believe.

“When they get together and share that with the other side, they find out, we’re really more similar,” Carpenter said last week. “It kind of breaks down the initial barriers no matter what they started out with, and opens them up.”

We’re encouraged by their effort and we hope people from opposing viewpoints will have the courage to challenge their own beliefs enough to sit down for a conversation. But we know that’s probably going to be the toughest part.

We’ll have a better idea of how successful Carpenter and Abbas’ Better Angels project is going when they host a Red-Blue workshop in Frederick this December. We’d also hope that some of our elected officials from both sides of the political aisle will attend the workshop to show their commitment to a more civil dialogue moving forward.

Tom Sterling, the Maryland coordinator of Better Angels, called Frederick a “microcosm of the country” given the Democrat-Republican split. In our eyes, this could mean that Frederick could be the perfect place to try this out.

We’re hopeful that Frederick, a place where opinions on broad issues can run deep and firm, will support this attempt at a civil dialogue on tough topics and set the tone for other communities to follow.

(12) comments

Jim Hartley

It takes two to make peace, but only one to make war. Civility requires a civil partner, not one who sneers at "losers" and "traitors" and "enemies". But the greater danger is not the Orange Vulgarian but rather the millions of our fellow citizens who tolerate, or even endorse, his assault on our Constitution. They cheered when he said "The press is the enemy of the people!" Deplorable indeed.


'Now was it that both found, the meek and lofty

Did both find, helpers to their heart's desire,

And stuff at hand, plastic as they could wish;

Were called upon to exercise their skill,

Not in Utopia, subterranean fields,

Or some secreted island, Heaven knows where!

But in the very world, which is the world

Of all of us,—the place where in the end

We find our happiness, or not at all!'

From the 1805 poem by William Wordsworth: The French Revolution as It Appeared to Enthusiasts at Its Commencement

He wrote this after experiencing the revolution first hand, and witnesssing what comes next after most such revolutions. I recommend reading two other pieces: A poem - Character of the Happy Warrior, and his play Borderers.

Good luck -


We have a middle schooler as president, who makes up nasty names for anyone who does not bow to him, so, no, we are not going to have civil politics until he is out.

Obadiah Plainsmen

Politics is war & war is hell, welcome to hell.


Sure, Abraham Lincoln believed in the better angels of our nature, by demonstrating the singular, extraordinary power a president holds to provide moral and inspirational leadership for the good of the nation in times of anguish. In stark contrast, we got Trump. There will be a long, long road to recovery once the unfit, divisive and self-centered Trump, who addresses his presidency's focus to a minority of his like-minded supporters and his own self-interest, is out of office. Only then will there be a chance to re-build bridges and repair the schisms in our country, all wrought by a bullying and cowardly man of no conscience, no moral character, and no interest in the betterment of ALL Americans. The Better Angels Project, here and nationally, can hopefully help in the rebuilding that will be needed to take place once he's gone, and build on those common values most American's share and aspire to. Until then, I'd challenge anyone to watch even a small segment of Trump's most recent rallies, steeped in ugliness and ignorance, or seriously contemplate his recent threat of an impending civil war if he's impeached, and truly believe that any rebuilding of civility is possible while he remains in office. A sad and embarrassing legacy he is, and a rude awakening, for anyone who at this point still doesn't understand...............that voting matters, even in seemingly "stable" democracies.



Comment deleted.

And right on cue, it’s Captain Happy. [beam][beam]


An irony when there was a time when people protested for freedom of speech which resulted in death of Kent State deaths. Now students are afraid to voice opinions on campuses for fear of personal retribution and physical harm.


Sounds like snowflake talk to me. The strong have no use for civility, that is the realm of the weak.


You may see a snowflake as a "joke" even when it displays multifaceted beauty. But a snowfall can stop our activities and burry a city. Beware a snow bank.


Who is a bigger snowflake than a grown man who cannot accept criticism and comes up with "clever" sophomoric nicknames in attempts to bully them? Yeah, you'll never give a direct answer to that will you?


I wish them luck with this.

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