Rising Above the Anger

This in from Molly...

Like white on rice.  I told you.  I’m hiding today, writing my heart into every word of what is soon to be the Red Boot Coalition Book and Manual and realize that at this moment, I am right where I need to be.  Everything…absolutely everything I’ve done, accomplished, experienced, known, cried over, laughed about lands here with The Red Boot Coalition.

Politics has been an interest of mine since I was a little girl. I grew up in Charlotte. My father, Henry Wilmer, ran for mayor in 1976 and served on both city council and the board of county commissioners. A shirtsleeves-rolled-up kind of guy, he was a gentleman, a fixer, a get-things-done doer. He was a statesman.

My mother, on the other hand, was a poet. My passion for people comes from her. Mary Wilmer was active in Charlotte’s addiction recovery community. Her uncanny ability to connect heart and head was something, to this day, people remember. She was authentic, kind, tender and a heart-filled giver.

And so it is my integrated mother-father-me who writes you now – the tender-hearted mother and the fixer-doer-father – deeply concerned with what’s going on underneath all this highly polarized, angry and demonizing dialogue.

I decided to hit the polarization issue head on by asking hundreds of Americans what’s really happening beneath all that polarized dialogue and perspective.  On August 1, I set off on a cross country road trip. I rented a Mustang convertible and donned a pair of Red Cowboy Boots.

Why Red Boots? Put on a pair. Red Boots are an immediate conversation starter, and while I’m not a shy person, I figured I was going to need all the help I could get. Why the heck would anyone want to engage in dialogue around American politics, much less engage with a stranger?

I was completely surprised. Americans DO want to talk about it and we know a lot more about it than you might think.

I met Americans across the spectrum: Christian, Muslim, Hindi, Jewish, Black, White, Asian, Latina, rich, poor, straight, gay, corporate, gun-owner, pro-life, pro-choice, welfare recipient, entrepreneur, young, old, Mexican, Russian, Iranian, African, urban, rural, country, city. I was blown away by how willing folks were to open their hearts and add their passionate perspective to the mix.

Doray was one of the folks I met on my trip!

And after all that connecting, I walked away with two so simple-it-will-kinda-make-you-laugh-out-loud conclusions:

1. Politics is simply ONE manifestation of our culture’s deeply rooted and painfully wounding “us-versus-them” perspective – a perspective that when unexamined and untethered lends itself to fear, anger and violence.

2. When we couple this fear of “the other” with the increase in technology, social media and 24/7 news stations, we have people within communities who do not know each other. We talk of those within a certain demographic or group based on what we think we know about the group. We do not know the real person.

Words that fuel this dialogue are everywhere – “them,” “they,” “the other.” These words have become such a part of our daily coming and going that we don’t even see them anymore. We are all waiting for THEM to change ... to correct the issue ... whether that’s members of Congress, the “media,” the other political party, somebody other than us. We’ve become disempowered by this dysfunctional “us versus them” perspective.

My takeaway? Reform of our political system is necessary, but I do not believe reforms are possible (or truly effective) without engaging each other in dialogue, outside the political system. If we can’t talk with willing hearts and open minds within our own lives – with our neighbors, our friends, those of a different skin color, political party, sexual orientation, tax bracket or religion – then how do we expect those we elect to do so?  We the people, remember?

After a great deal of soul-searching myself, I am beginning to wonder if this dialogue about politics might actually provide a beautiful gateway into something richer, more meaningful and truly globe-shaking. Might this hyper-polarized state of politics provide all of us with an eye-opening and wondrous soul-searching opportunity to explore how we engage with those in our own lives? Do we choose to truly see, listen and seek first to understand the “other” or resort to the easy, the quick and the safer us versus them lens?

So this really is what lies at the core of The Red Boot Coalition.  The Red Boot Coalition is a growing community of people who aim to address our culture’s obsession with fear by being what our world so desperately needs right now: strong, heart-driven, joyful, authentic, overtly transparent, compassionate, reflective, genuine, innovative and curious human beings.

On October 17th, we will begin meetings designed to address our “not-knowing each other”.   The 11-step program is designed to engage people, either individually or in communion with others, who want to transform the us versus them perspective into a new way of seeing, interacting and being. The Red Boot Coalition Meetings will be a thought-provoking, heart and mind-opening dialogue-driven program that unleashes the power that comes from unity, understanding, heart-full connection and joyful belonging.

As Gandhi once said, “In a gentle way, you can shake the world.” At last, that little part of us that says “I matter” and the part of the world that is crying out for our help have combined forces to bring us here to shake things up and bring forth