Kellie's Thoughts After Heart Perception Project's First Workshop--Nashville, TN 1/21/17

Some of you know that I'm in Nashville this weekend working with Heidi on creating connections and fostering communication between people of conflicting viewpoints as a small way of healing the rift that's so apparent in our country right now. I'm a liberal non-theist that has flown to red-state, evangelical Christian, Trump-voting America (on the Inaugural Weekend no less) to try on another viewpoint. Because, as much as I love the progressive city of Seattle I live in, my tenure there has given me not an iota of understanding how we've come to where we're at-- with Donald Trump as our national leader.

I just got back from co-leading a workshop with Heidi, it's late, and I'm struggling with what to write here, because what I have to say is so counter to the story we're telling ourselves in progressive America about who the America is that voted for Trump. I was the only person who voted for Hillary in the room tonight at our workshop. There were two people who didn't vote, the rest of the room voted for Trump- and most of those participants expressed deep complexity and misgivings regarding their process around voting for such a flawed man.

So, what was it like, being surrounded by Trump voters? Deep. Heart-opening. Tapped into love-- the same things I feel when I'm surrounded by my dear progressive friends and we're being profoundly honest and vulnerable with each other. We're all just messy, beautiful, deeply flawed humans after-all.

There's so much to share, and I intend to write more, but I just want to say it's worth second-guessing the assumptions we make about the other side of the aisle. Sure, there are nasty white supremacist MF's out there, but it's a mistake to characterize all of Trump's voters as such. One of the exercises we led people through tonight was having them process their reactions to people wearing "inflammatory" T-shirts. I had a feminist pro-choice T-shirt with me and a Black Lives Matter shirt with me. I assumed the BLM shirt would create the most reaction, but it didn't; people shared that they felt curiosity and compassion in response. I was floored. Where were all of the intolerant racists?

The feminist, pro- choice shirt created more of a response, but not the knee-jerk one that my pro-choice, feminist-self assumed. The reactions were layered, complex, compassionate, and pained. Raw vulnerability showed up in one woman's response, and I responded with raw vulnerability in kind. Two different sides of the aisle; one shared experience of heart connection.

So what's the message here? We've got to stop boxing each other in. Reality is messier, more complex, more layered than we give it credit for. It's so easy to just dismiss a person --or an entire swath of our country -- for something they did that we judge to be reprehensible. The difficult thing is to listen, to tolerate the discomfort of sitting with complexity that doesn't easily fit in a box, and to reach for each other when we want to recoil in fear and distrust. What's the worst that can happen? That we'll fall in love when we'd rather hate? And isn't that what needs to happen if we're to get out of this mess?

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