www.montereycountyweekly.com AUGUST 31-SEPTEMBER 6, 2023 MONTEREY COUNTY WEEKLY 21 There are plenty of cues that signal people’s political affiliations. Some are obvious—hats or T-shirts advocating a cause or candidate, for example. Many are subtle, and may not come up until deep into a conversation. But to flag ourselves as red or blue, right or left, feels extreme. So when I was handed a name tag on a blue lanyard at a conference to signify my left-leaning political identity, I was at first uncomfortable. Did I really want to advertise my views at-a-glance to a contentious, divided world? And besides, we were there—from July 5-8, at the Braver Angels National Convention in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania—for the purpose of crossing over the red/blue divide. I was one of roughly 700 delegates from around the country, equally divided between red and blue. We had come together to challenge political polarization and engage in robust civic debate. “Lots of feelings going into this event,” I wrote in my journal on the plane ride to Gettysburg. “Hopeful, high expectations, nervous...Flickers of doubtful. How can anything be a panacea in this day and age? But maybe just a glimpse of progress, a bit of illumination on the path ahead, is enough. So I go back to hopeful.” Hope felt especially important for this journey—and especially personal. I had first heard of Braver Angels in 2020, when then-president, now-candidate Donald Trump was dominating the media, George Floyd was murdered, Covid ran rampant, masks became politicized, and QAnon conspiracies were going viral. When my sister, an evangelical Christian, began sending me videos about the “Plandemic” and the stolen election, I stopped responding to many of them. Our mother tried uncomfortably to straddle the widening divide between us, as we all learned to tread lightly and avoid speaking about many topics. We still loved each other, but as our shared sense of truth dissolved, it also felt like we no longer really knew—or trusted— each other. I searched online for ideas on how to communicate across the gulf and stay connected despite ideological disagreements. I took three of Braver Angels’ workshops via Zoom. Their “Families and Politics” offering was helpful, but I still craved more guidance on how to bridge the gap in my own family. So in 2023, I applied, along with my husband, Kevin Smith (director of digital media at the Weekly), to attend the nonprofit’s third national convention. We were accepted. Stepping into that sea of red and blue convention delegates in Gettysburg, I knew I had a lot riding personally on this event, and suspected that others did, too. A s we threaded our way to the dining hall for breakfast that first morning, through waves of red lanyard wearers, we couldn’t help but wonder if they were as wary of us as we were of them. Did they perceive us as coastal-elite-bleeding-heart-immoral-California-liberals? Were they Trump-voting-antiimmigrant-gun-toting fascists? Across from me at the breakfast table was an atheist from Utah with AMONG US Top: The band Gangstagrass brings together hip-hop artists and bluegrass pickers. The fusion band helped pilot a workshop for songwriters and musicians at the Braver Angels convention, guiding people who hold divergent political views to create and perform music together. Below: Attendees at the Braver Angels convention in July wear red and blue lanyards to signal their political leanings. JEFF SEVIER MELODIE YVONNE