M.I.A. and at the 19th Hole

A BLM Protester & KKK Member went to a BBQ…

No, that’s actually NOT the opening line of a weird joke. It almost happened this past weekend in Zinc, Arkansas. A group of Black Lives Matter protesters showed up in Zinc to protest near the home of Thomas Robb, the National Director of the Ku Klux Klan. The protesters were met by locals with guns. Police, however, were present to ensure protesters and locals kept the peace and, apparently, they did. This link to an article at Daily Mail.co.uk features a number of photos taken during the encounter in Zinc.

The BLM protesters said they wanted to open a dialogue with local people and, as the photos show, there was some success. The protesters also brought BBQ and all the trimmings with them. They invited everyone and anyone to lunch but it is not clear that any of the locals did.

I liked what the BLM protesters were trying to do and I hope they continue these kinds of tactics throughout the country. Some of my research has focused on the issue of intractable ideological conflict on highly sensitive issues.

Copyright 2013 by Thomas W. Klaus – LEADING IN CONFLICT: INSTITUTIONALIZING CONFLICT THOUGH LEANING RELUCTANTLY INTO THE FIGHT

The model above comes out my research into intractable conflict and represents how some conflict tends to become never ending. In an intractable conflict we may feel so worn out from previous battles that we don’t feel we can fight any more and, in fact, we don’t want to fight anymore. Then a new battle in the conflict emerges and at some point we feel we’ve got to enter the fight. Soon enough, the “gloves come off” and we are in it to win it. However, as happens in intractable conflict, the combatants exhaust one another and both eventually get to their corners only to vow again, “I can’t fight anymore.”

Racism is one of many ideological conflicts we see in American culture and society that is seemingly intractable and never ending. Just as the infinity loop indicates above, it is an iterative conflict until we find the courage to break the cycle. The ability to engage in genuine dialogue is key to getting us out of the loop. Dialogue is not discussion, debate, chatting, or negotiating common ground. It is suspending our words and first impressions, listening, hearing, and finally speaking with respect and understanding.

Kudos to those BLM protesters and Zinc locals who were able to engage in dialogue! Keep going!


POTUS M.I.A.

One of the most disturbing pieces of news over the weekend came from a surprising source – Dr. Deborah Birx. She is the woman with the scarves who would stand with Dr. Anthony Fauci behind Trump during the infamous Coronavirus Updates. She was often thought to be grimacing at the mis-information being provided by Trump yet she rarely contradicted him.

This weekend Dr. Birx told CNN the virus was now “extraordinarily widespread.” With these two words Dr. Birx confirmed the same thing Dr. Fauci has been trying to tell us for quite sometime and something we’ve known instinctively but did not want to admit: we are in deep, deep doo doo.

Trump did not like this very much. In fact, he Tweeted that he thought Birx had been influenced by criticism of her from Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.

So what is the President of the United States (POTUS) doing about the pandemic? Fortunately, he is on the front lines of protecting America’s golf courses, especially those that bear his name.

Trump Golf Count is a website that tracks whenever Trump takes time to play golf since his inauguration. So far, including those few times when he went to a golf course but might not have played, it is 268 as of August 2, 2020. In fact, this past weekend, he played on both Saturday and Sunday at his course in Potomac Falls, Virginia.

Now, I’m a golfer and I love to play, so I do not fault any golfer for taking any opportunity he or she can to hit the links, including Trump. However, 268 times in the approximately 1,277 days he’s been in office? Seriously, that means nearly 21% of those days have been spent on the golf course. Doesn’t that seem a bit excessive…given:

  1. Trump was so critical of President Obama for golfing too much (it is estimated that Trump plays, on average, 91 rounds per year as president while Obama’s average was less than half that at 42 rounds per year);
  2. It has cost American taxpayers more or less than $138,000,000 at a time when our economy is, at best, struggling; many people have lost or are losing their jobs; and a growing number of people have to scramble just to have enough to eat;
  3. Trumps latest golf outings both came on the same days that Congressional representatives and “White House officials” (which suggests to me one of them might actually be Trump, but nope, it isn’t) were in negotiations on a new pandemic relief package that has stalemated; and,
  4. Worst of all, we are in the midst of a pandemic that has now killed more 150,000 Americans and is likely to kill more than 200,000 by the election in November.

Fortunately, Mr. Trump’s heel spurs have not prevented him from fighting the good fight on our behalf on America’s…well, HIS…golf courses. Thank you, Mr. President! Have another Diet Coke, on us as always, at the 19th Hole, please.

Why is Donald Trump M.I.A. on COVID-19? After reading Mary Trump’s book I have a theory and it is quite simple: It is because Trump never developed the competencies he claims and he is in way over his head. Look, I didn’t say it was going to be an earth-shattering, innovative theory, only a simple one.

Trump’s father, Fred Trump, had those competencies, but Donald Trump does not. Donald Trump became expert at spending money, making bad business decisions, going bankrupt, and getting his father to bail him out and cover up his missteps. Add to these that Trump never really worked for anyone but his father and we can begin to understand why Trump prefers to hide out on a golf course than face the responsibilities of the office he holds. Fred Trump knew the “art of the deal” but Donald only knew the art of getting bailed out of trouble. Like Nero, infamous for fiddling while Rome burned, Trump is puttering about in luxury, enriching his own golf courses with Americans’ taxes, while those same Americans die.


For Your Consideration

If you’ve ever wondered how the myth of Donald Trump came to be, you’ll find this 18-minute segment from The New Yorker Radio Hour to be quite informative. It describes how the guy who gave us “Survivor” also gave us “The Apprentice” and made Donald Trump appear far more competent than he has proven to be, especially under pressure. Listen to An Insider from “The Apprentice” on How the Show Made Donald Trump.

Trump, Inc. is a podcast from WNYC and ProPublica which has been doing in-depth, investigative reporting on Trump, his family, and members of his administration. The project began in 2018 and I listened through what I thought was the full series as I found the episodes very informative and very interesting. In revisiting the website today I learned the podcast has continued up to the present time. Time to put in my earbuds!


chickenman – episode 87

Chickenman finally confronts the Very Diabolical.


Stay safe, be well, keep calm, keep washing your hands, keep wearing your mask, and keep striving for justice, peace, and health for all.

Tom

Follow the Leader?!?

A few weeks ago I did a video interview with my long time friend Lamar Roth. The video told the story of how Lamar and his company navigated the tragedy of a workplace shooting and has been applying the lessons learned from that to the disruption caused by the current pandemic. Since posting it, along with a couple of short vignettes of key sections, I’ve had over 200 views on the Tenacious Change LLC YouTube channel. I know, that’s not a huge amount but it is about four times more than I had hoped.

It has inspired me to do additional video interviews. I’m in the process of lining them up now and actually do them in late Summer and early Fall. I’ve got three more that I plan to do this year. One is an interview with a young man from Baltimore who works in love, justice, and education. I’m anxious to talk with him about a concept he is defining and writing about as “the work of love.” Another is on community change in the time of the pandemic featuring a colleague from Canada with whom I’ve done considerable work over the past few years. Finally, for now, I’m lining up an interview with a woman who studies “toxic followership.” In her research she interviewed survivors of the Jonestown massacre in an effort to understand more clearly the dynamics of the leader/follower relationship which led to over 900 people taking their own lives.

This week, as I was focusing on all things media related in my work, I discovered that my podcast hosting platform had been inadvertently redirecting people who were trying to find it to a different podcast. Ugh! Hopefully I’ll have that sorted by next week as I’d like to also dive back into podcasting. I have some really good interviews on hand that I need to edit, produce, and upload before I do anymore.

All of this to say…stay tuned.


what if we shouldn’t follow the leader?

Speaking of “toxic followership,” at some point we’ve really got to talk about why it is that people find themselves stuck on following inadequate, inept, and inconceivably bad leaders. (Pretty good alliteration, huh?) You are probably rushing ahead to imagine I’m thinking about Trump here…and I am…but the phenomenon is not unique to Trump. We have seen it time and again: on sports teams; in clubs; in families; in faith communities; in organizations, agencies, and governments; in towns and cities; etc.

First it has to be recognized that every leader has “fans” who would follow them anywhere, even to death. Therefore it is difficult to assert that it rests solely on the shoulders of the person in the leadership role. Some very good, ethical, honorable, and highly effective leaders have such wildly devoted fans who are, really, just too devoted.

It is also true, though, that some lousy, unethical, dishonorable, and incredibly ineffective leaders have such followers. Sometimes that is by accident. The leader may be as amazed and clueless about the existence of such followers as we are. Frankly, they are probably also clueless about just how lousy they are as leaders.

However, sometimes accumulating such die hard followers is by design of some of the worst leaders. These scare me the most. They are leaders who want people to follow their every command. They seem to have an innate ability to latch on to folks who are most susceptible to their brand of “leadership” as control.

Within the larger field of leadership studies there is authentic transformational leadership (usually just known as transformational leadership or simply TL). Transformational leadership emerged through the work of James MacGregor Burns in his 1978 book Leadership. For Burns, his concept of leadership was not based in power over followers but in power with followers to accomplish the goals of both. Transformational leaders use four core strategies that are very positive and follower focused:

  • Attending to the needs of follows and acting as a mentor or coach (Individualized Consideration)
  • Engaging with followers and asking for and receiving their ideas and feedback (Intellectual Stimulation)
  • Articulating a vision to followers that is appealing and inspiring (Inspirational Motivation)
  • Being a role model with and for the kind of behavior that instills pride, gains respect and trust, and is highly ethical (Idealized Influence)

Then there is also pseudo-transformational leadership, which, as the name implies, uses the trappings of transformational leadership to gain power over followers. Pseudo-transformational leaders use the behaviors of transformational leadership to the nefarious ends of having devoted followers who will do anything they want them to do. They do this by appearing to regard followers in this way and acting as if they are doing the same four things but, in fact, they are being deceptive and using them only for their own ends. It is, to borrow the well-worn phrase, to be “a wolf in sheep’s clothing.”

Pseudo-transformational leadership is defined by self-serving, yet highly inspirational leadership behaviors, unwillingness to encourage independent thought in subordinates, and little caring for one’s subordinates more generally.

Christie, A., Barling, Julian, & Turner, N. (2011). Pseudo‐Transformational Leadership: Model Specification and Outcomes 1, Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 41. DOI: 10.1111/j.1559-1816.2011.00858.x

The challenge presented to followers is that transformational leaders and pseudo-transformational leaders may look very much alike – at the beginning. By the time we’ve figured out that we are following a charlatan we may be in so deep that it becomes impossible to extract ourselves. Or, once we realize that we’ve been duped, we may stay in because we are embarrassed and want to save face. Or, in a worst case scenario, we don’t want out because we have bought into the pseudo-transformational leader’s vision, regardless of how bad it is for us and others.

One of things I’m looking forward to in my upcoming interview with the woman who studies “toxic followership” is talking with her about why it is that people stay in line behind pseudo-transformational leaders. Truthfully, we’ve all done it, you know. We’ve all, at one time or another, got in line behind a leader who was not worthy of our trust and only wanted power over us. It would be a good thing if we could figure this out, don’t you think?


chickenman – episode 86

Chickenman returns to get his orders for dealing with the Very Diabolical: Go Winged Warrior fast!


the view from jeff

Jeff explains: On the first day of Biking Camp Matthew wished he had read Pastor Juli’s email a little closer!! Make sure you register for NewGate Baptist Summer Camps, sadly no Viking Camps (at least this year). (Jeff, and his spouse Juli, are co-pastors at this multi-cultural church in Calgary.)

Stay safe, be well, keep calm, keep washing your hands, keep wearing your mask, and keep striving for justice, peace, and health for all.

Tom

On Drinking from a Fire Hose

Is there a science or art to drinking from a fire hose? This expression refers to when “things” (whatever they are) come at you so fast, so hard, so furiously that you can’t take it all in or process it adequately. It is like trying to take just a sip of water out of a fire hose that is spraying you directly in the face.

So, back to my question: is there a way to drink from the figurative fire hose of this moment in time? If so, would somebody please tell me how to do it?

As we inch toward the election (now less than 100 days away) it seems the crazy is coming faster, harder, and more furiously than ever.

I try to be a responsible news consumer. I limit my consumption of “wisdom” from pundits. I listen to the BBC and NPR news daily and watch the PBS News Hour regularly if not religiously because I trust the reporting of these outlets more than others. I also watch local news (mostly for the weather, a habit I learned as a child growing up on a farm in rural Iowa where weather was the news). I also watch or listen to news from the major broadcast networks. Each day I read headlines and articles that grab my attention from the traditional print media online (to save trees). In short, while each media outlet has its own bias I do my best to stick with sources that have earned reputations for accuracy, fairness, and balance.

And still, the crazy comes through. Whether it is a Federal invasion of American cities, the latest Tweet from Trump, Stupid people who refuse to wear masks then test positive for COVID-19, a “doctor” promoted by Trump who think demons and hydroxychloroquine have something to do with COVID-19 and when he is questioned about it he walks out of a briefing, and, of course, we are now at 150,000+ deaths from a virus that was, according to Trump, not a big deal barely four months ago.

Really. All of this in just the last 24 hours. And this is not a complete list. We need to get to the valve and turn off the fire hose. Do we have the will to do it? I hope so.


a clear and present danger…now

Click on the image to secure your own book at Amazon.com.

I just finished reading the book by Mary Trump about her uncle, Donald, who, as you may be aware, is currently occupying the White House.

My own background and training have some relevance on how I read the book and how I see both Mary and Donald Trump. First, like both Trumps, I am the product of a highly dysfunctional family resplendent with all the abuses that often characterize such families. This gives me the ability to read the book with a level of empathy that I might not otherwise be able to achieve.

Second, I pursued training in mental health counseling for my Masters degree. It could rightly be argued that I pursued that training as an unconscious response to my own personal background and need for healing. Upon completion of the degree, I practiced for a time as a therapist. Typically I saw individuals suffering from “adverse childhood experiences” which had created a post-traumatic disorder for them; men’s therapy groups; and, because sometimes I can’t say no, couples in the midst of a divorce who were mandated by the court to have counseling as a condition for getting a divorce. Mostly, though, the insights and techniques I gained from that course of study have informed my work with groups, organizations, and communities today.

Being able to read the book through these two different lenses allowed me to read it with a deep curiosity and a minimum of judgment. Let me say up front that the book does not portray either Mary Trump or Donald Trump as wholly “good” or “bad.” They just “are.” Both are victims of the same highly dysfunctional family system and it has significantly impacted both of their lives.

For Mary, the book reveals a sense of hurt and isolation from the larger Trump family. Her father, Freddy, was the heir apparent to the fortune of Fred Trump, Sr. but he was not deemed worthy of it by his father. This unworthiness extended to all of Freddy’s family, even after his untimely death. The same view of Freddy’s unworthiness was held by Donald and all other members of the Trump family. As a result Mary, her brother, and her mother were all treated as “less than” by the Trump clan.

This is not to say that Mary Trump grew up destitute. She did not. At the same time, she did not grow up in the full wealth of the Trump family nor with the unbridled excess that Donald enjoyed as the favored son after Freddy was deemed unworthy and died.

Mary Trump still bears the scars, if not open wounds, from having been kept outside the family and being guilty of unworthiness by association with her father. Sometimes I see this hurt come through the book but most of the time it isn’t obvious. This is a credit to her training as a clinical psychologist in which she likely learned how to observe and manage her own messy emotions that can arise in the process of observing others, even family members.

Like Mary, Donald Trump is a hapless and helpless victim of the same dysfunctional family system. Unlike Mary, Donald Trump seems clueless about his victimization and pain.

Don’t misunderstand what your are about to read: sometimes clueless is a good thing. The most painful part of healing is coming to grips with reality. To do so requires you to take your whole world, turn it upside down, and see it from a very different perspective. The pain comes as you intentionally walk away from your cluelessness. That’s not easy. It’s not fun. It’s downright painful because we all want to believe that the world as we perceive it is the world as it really is. It is just much easier to live in a state of cluelessness.

A therapist I used to see for my own healing once gave me this saying on a wall hanging: Pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses our understanding.

The portrait of Donald Trump offered by Mary Trump is of a man so deep in denial about himself, his childhood, his relationship with his parents, etc. that he has lost all sense of himself. The first and biggest wall Trump ever built was the one that separates himself from what he fears is his true self. A self that was profoundly informed by his parents as it was for each of their children. In an effort to avoid what he fears most about himself he has created this other wildly glorified self he continues to project today – strength, toughness, manliness. This is his protection from a father who could not show love and approval and a mother who preferred to be rid of him and sent him off to a military school (in truth, a “reform school”).

When we are very afraid we try to make others fear us. We erroneously believe we will be less afraid if others are afraid of us. We can also confuse their fear with respect and imagine ourselves, therefore, to be great. Unfortunately, using our fear in this way doesn’t work the way we think it does. It only makes us dangerous because the more we try to control others – whether by fear or some other form of manipulation – the more frustrated and dangerous we become.

People of the Lie by the late M. Scott Peck is one of the most interesting books I’ve ever read. Peck’s thesis is that there are people so masterful at crafting lies about their reality, including themselves, that they actually believe them to be true. When they do this they become incredibly dangerous to others. Parker Palmer, in A Hidden Wholeness, seems to suggest these same people are those who live divided lives. They are so invested in being what and who others (e.g., parents, family, bosses, spouses, etc.) think they should be that they lose touch with who they really are. These speak to Mr. Trump’s condition.

I offer this assessment without condemnation, only pity. I know what it is like to be a person of the lie and to live a divided life. I know the pain of breaking the shell that encloses deeper understanding of reality. I also do not blame Mr. Trump for choosing to believe the myth he has created rather than the reality the rest of us are experiencing under his presidency. The luxury of a soothing personal myth is a wonderful thing…until it doesn’t work anymore.

Will Mr. Trump ever let go of his myth? I don’t know. Frankly, I wish he would because I think he could be a decent man if he could allow himself to be a fully human person. I say this because all of us who have made that same journey of self have come out in a better place than we started. It is only the fear of pain that keeps us from taking the first step.

Sometimes we are forced into taking the first step. Mine came as the result of a series of life dominoes which began falling when I was 27. My father died unexpectedly and that was a deep and profound shock to my life. Within a few months I lost 75 pounds (which, in hindsight, was actually good for my health) and long held family secrets began to leak out. I began the painful journey of facing the reality of my family, its legacy of dysfunction, and how I had been impacted by it from birth.

For Mr. Trump, the first step may come as he feels his grip on the country is being loosened and, especially, if he loses the upcoming election. In a worst case scenario, he will continue to live in the full power of the myth and use every resource at his disposal to try to reclaim the office he lost because it proves his manhood and his worthiness to his long deceased father whom he saw (and helped) mercilessly judge and push out his older brother Freddy. In a best case scenario he will learn from the opportunity it presents, allow himself to heal as a result, and become less myth and more human.

I hope Mr. Trump chooses healing and humanity for our sake and his. Of course, choosing these carries a price. It is the price of personal responsibility for the hurt and damage we have done while living out our myth. If Mr. Trump can do that, he will become the real man he has tried so hard to convince himself that he is already.


chickenman – episode 85

After considerable negotiation with the Winged Warrior to end his trans Atlantic flight, Ms. Helfinger agrees to meet him at Plymouth Rock and promises to reimburse him the collect charges from their call.


Stay safe, be well, keep calm, keep washing your hands, keep wearing your mask, and keep striving for justice, peace, and health for all.

Tom

July 21, 2020 – An Audience of One

minimalist strategy planning

Last week I had to turn down a potential client who wanted me to lead a strategic planning process. It’s not that I didn’t like the client or that I’m work adverse. It just didn’t feel right ethically.

A strategy plan is developed in relationship to the context in which an organization or group exists and functions. In fact, the strategy is all about how to negotiate the context or environment to ensure organizational effectiveness, sustainability, or overall success. A strategy plan, which usually is a multi-year plan, is dependent on the context being reasonably stable. It assumes the context will be mostly stable throughout the lifetime of the plan. Traumatic disruptions do occur, of course, often in the form of an immediate crisis that occurs and then passes in a matter of weeks. Even then it may be necessary to put the plan on pause or make some adjustments to it.

What if, though, the context is unsettled, unstable, and uncertain? You know, like in the midst of a raging pandemic that seems to have no end in sight? That makes strategy planning nearly impossible. To begin a contract to lead a strategy planning process in the current environment is not only unethical, it would be a nightmare to do. Until the context and environment settles into some time of regular routine (note, I did not say “normal”) again, I’m encouraging my clients to avoid long-range strategy planning.

However, we want to be able to plan. Plus, our understanding of “best practices” for organizational development have conditioned us to have a strategic plan in place…whether we pay attention to it or not, right? (By the way, there was a fascinating segment from On The Media last weekend about “shifting baselines” that relates to this post and is quite interesting and worth a few minutes of your time.)

The alternative is what I call, for a lack of a better term, “minimalist strategy planning.” It sounds fancy, eh? In fact, it is really just the practice of adaptive leadership but, sometimes, folks just need to hear the words they expect to hear.

Early in our pandemic year (back in April which seems a long time ago now), I worked with several colleagues on putting together some resources for nonprofits. The resources were anchored in adaptive leadership. You can access that series, Leading in Crisis, Part 1 and Part 2, at this top of the page titled Work in the Time of COVID-19 on this website and by just clicking on the previous link.

We created those resources believing they would be obsolete within weeks as we all went back to our “normal” lives with the passing of the pandemic. Now, three months later, I am seeing the resources still offer relevant, solid advice for negotiating the future. They allow us to practice “minimalist strategy planning” as we feel our way through these current times.


an audience of one

I’ve been reading Mary L. Trump’s book on her famous, powerful uncle, Donald Trump, over the past few days. It is a fascinating insider’s view of the Trump family, particularly Donald. What makes it quite powerful is that, by virtue of her training as a clinical psychologist, Mary Trump is able to also write the book from a unique professional perspective.

By the way, in case you were wondering, Mary Trump does not diagnose her uncle. She does suggest the possible diagnoses from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual that could explain his behavior, but she stops short of making a diagnosis.

Though I’m still working my way through the book, the one idea that sticks with me is the degree to which Donald Trump has played, throughout his life, to an audience of one: his father, Fred Trump, Sr. Have you ever noticed, in pictures of Trump in the Oval Office, that a picture of his father sits on the credenza behind him? It is as if he is looking over his shoulder…as he seems to have done in life, from the time of Donald’s birth.

This is a point at which I have some empathy for Donald Trump because I have also played to an audience of one for most of my life. In my case, that one person was my mother. It took me until I was over 50 years old and she was 88 years old that I was finally able to exit her theater. Until that moment the sub-plot of my life was to find a way to win her approval and her love. If she ever felt any of these, she did not express them to me. To the best of my knowledge, I don’t know that she ever expressed them to my sisters either.

Many people have an audience of one they are playing to. It is far more common than we’d like to admit in a culture that worships at the altar of bootstrapism – usually described in terms such as self-efficacy, self-sufficiency, autonomy, and independence. Without help we give away our lives in the pursuit of something we will never get from that one audience member. Our desire to play that part in the hope of even a little applause can drive us to other and self-destruction. The stage lighting blinds us making it difficult, if not impossible, to see that we are responsible for our actions in the play by virtue of our choice stay on stage, in the theater, and pursue the approval of the one.

In truth, we are all responsible for ourselves – our actions, our beliefs, our attitutdes – regardless of who is in the audience and what their approval means to us. Hence, I feel empathy for Donald Trump but he is still responsible for managing it in a way that is healthy for himself, his family, and the country that he has been entrusted to steward.

This last weekend Donald Trump sat for an interview with Chris Wallace of Fox News. Kudos to Chris Wallace for a very powerful and revealing interview. I have been watching or listening to him recently on his Sunday morning interview show and have been increasingly impressed with this skills as an interviewer and competency as a journalist.

As I watched the interview this morning I was very aware of Trump’s audience of one. I’m convinced he does not share that same awareness. I’ve put a link to the interview below. It is approximately 40 minutes in the length and it is well worth the time to watch it. Be mindful who Donald Trump’s audience really is -it’s not his base, contrary to what he and many pundits believe. It is his father whose disapproval he has feared more than anything in his life. It is Donald Trump’s refusal – or inability – to get off the stage that Fred Trump, Sr. built, where he is continuously playing to his father, that makes him so very dangerous to all of us in this moment.


chickenman – episode 82

The Masked Maternal Marauder (Chickenman’s mother) has to step in for him while he continues his flight across the Atlantic.


the view from jeff

Jeff explains: With the return of professional hockey I am afraid that I may strain some unused cheering muscles!! I will need to enter in slowly with low stakes cheering – maybe one of the eastern playoff games first.

Stay safe, be well, keep calm, keep washing your hands, keep wearing your mask, and keep striving for justice, peace, and health for all.

Tom

June 15, 2020 – Go Bubba!

Today is Monday, June 15, 2020, which is also Smile Power Day. Smile Power Day recognizes the power that smiles have to make us happier, make others happier, change our mood, improve relationships, send a great customer service message (if we are in business), and even help us live longer. Hey, if it does all that, I’ll take a bunch!

Thank you!

Since posting yesterday that it was time for us to let one of our miniature schnauzers go back to the universe, we received several comments of condolences and comfort. We appreciate them all. I do have an update, though. After observing that Madison has deteriorated even faster than expected since seeing our vet on Saturday and because she is beginning to experience pain, we decided to move the visit from Peaceful Passage up to Tuesday, the 16th. This blog will post at 8:00 AM on the 16th and we expect that by noon Madison will have gone to the place where all good dogs go. Again, thank you for your kind words.

Go Bubba!: a surprising move by nascar

Boomer’s ol’ #9 after a rather nasty crash in the first turn of the dirt track at the Louisa County Fairgrounds in Columbus Junction, Iowa (circa 1959).

I’ve been a racing fan since I was very young. Iowa has a great tradition of dirt car racing – especially stock cars, sprint cars, etc. When I was a kid, they were known as “jalopy races” and my brother-in-law/father figure Boomer raced a jalopy. He won a few, lost a few, and crashed a few in his run as a dirt track racer.

My oldest friend (in terms of length of time, not age) is Mark who still lives in my hometown. Mark and I started going to races together before we even entered kindergarten. Most auto racing at that time was on dirt horse racing tracks at county fairgrounds in Iowa. Since Iowa has 99 counties, there were race tracks everywhere. The Mississippi Valley Speed Club (MVSC) was the sanctioning body for jalopy races in Southeast Iowa. Racing rotated from one track to another, about six in all, each Saturday night. While refreshing my memory on this, I came across an amazing finding! Someone digitized a Super 8 reel of MVSC racing from the 1950’s and 60’s and posted it on YouTube. You won’t get to hear the roar of the engines nor smell the fumes, but you can see some of the action in this 11 minute video.

Video by Mark Kleindolph

When we graduated from high school, I bought a rusted out 1956 Chevy for $50 to convert into a racecar. Mark and I originally had started to work on a 1952 Pontiac but the thing was built like a tank. It was just too difficult to make the modifications necessary. We stripped the 1956 Chevy, Mark put rollbars in it, and, then he took the engine out of his own rebuilt 1957 Chevy and put it into the racecar. Our first race was in West Liberty, Iowa where we didn’t fare very well. Mark got forced off the track in the backstretch and ended up clipping off an infield light pole. My run as an owner lasted only one season, but Mark’s run as a driver and racecar builder lasted a lot longer. Eventually he got some good sponsorship and he competed in the NASCAR dirt circuit. He won track and season championships at many of the race tracks we went to as kids. Of course, by the time he was racing in the 70’s and 80’s, the tracks were redesigned for much faster cars with high banking in the turns.

As kids, Mark’s favorite driver was a driver named Mark Mosier (#17) and mine was a guy name Mike Niffenegger (#76). Though I’d like to think that Mike beat Mark on a regular basis, Mark really had excellent cars and usually won. However, there was this one night I remember very clearly when Mike got the best of Mark in an unusual way. It was at the start of the feature event and as the cars were accelerating, Mike’s drive shaft broke which sent his car tumbling end-over-end in front of the grandstand until it landed on top of Mark’s car. Both were miraculously unhurt, but, of course, both were out for the rest of the feature. Alas, Mike did get the best of Mark that evening. I love the photo from that accident! Notice Mike sitting on top of his car waiting to be helped down.

Growing up in very White, very rural Iowa, jalopy/stock car racing was also very White. In fact, I don’t recall ever seeing any Black drivers in the sport through the years that I followed it closely, which was well into my 30’s and 40’s. When I go back to Iowa, I usually try to take in a stock car race while I’m there. In fact, Clemencia goes with me. She saw her first one several years ago and to my shock and delight, she loved it! In fact, her dog walking hat is a souvenir ball cap we got with the 34 Raceway logo on it. In the few times I’ve been back to the raceways in Iowa since moving to the East Coast, I have seen more diverse audiences but not so much the drivers.

The same is true in NASCAR. In fact, there is only one Black driver and his name is Bubba Wallace. He was born in Mobile, Alabama but began his NASCAR career at the age of 19 at the Iowa Speedway in Newton, Iowa. He finished 9th in that race in 2012. I haven’t followed much NASCAR for a few years but when I read an article about Bubba last year, I started following him. I still don’t get to watch much NASCAR but, when I do, Bubba Wallace is my guy.

When Bubba was 15 years old he was the youngest driver to ever win at Franklin County Speedway in Virginia. Since entering NASCAR Bubba Wallace has distinguished himself on and off the racetrack. Seven other Black men have been drivers in NASCAR but none has had the level of success of Bubba Wallace. He’s finished 2nd in the Daytona 500, 3rd in the Brickyard 400 (Indianapolis), and won the NASCAR Truck Series – and he is still early in his career. His potential was recognized by the winningest driver in NASCAR history, Richard Petty, when in 2018 Bubba Wallace was selected to drive Petty’s own legendary #43 in NASCAR.

However, last week Bubba distinguished himself off the track in a different way that took as much, if not more, courage climbing behind the wheel of his racecar. In the wake of George Floyd’s murder and the protests, he called on NASCAR to ban the presence of the Confederate flag at all of its race venues. To everyone’s surprise NASCAR did just that, going against all of the Southern “good ol’ boy” tradition that had perpetuated the display of the flag for so many years. Shortly after that, Wallace’s sponsor, Petty Enterprises, announced a new design for the #43, which had worn “Petty Blue” for many years. The new design would be all black, with #BlackLivesMatter on each side near the rear of the car, and white and black hands clenched together in unity on the hood.

Bubba Wallace’s new NASCAR #43. Retrieved from Yahoo! Finance.

Bubba Wallace is realistic. He has gotten a lot of support from other drivers but he also knows the support is not universal, especially among fans. Only seven other Black drivers have ever started in a NASCAR race in its 70+ years. He is still the only Black driver in NASCAR today. However, he has demonstrated an extraordinary level of leadership. At age 26 he has found his voice and seized the leadership moment. As a result, NASCAR has made a move away from its culture that I never thought was possible. The next test for Bubba Wallace and NASCAR will be in Talledega, AL for the GEICO 500 on Father’s Day, June 21 at 2:00 PM. This dad will be watching it from home and cheering on #43.


Free Resource for funding collaborations

My friend and colleague, Kimberley Jutze of Shifting Patterns Consulting, has just put out a terrific free resourse. Kimberley, who has a deep background in fund development, has drawn on her expertise and experience to write The Secret to Collaborative Resource Development. She is making it available at her website. Just follow the link and scroll to the bottom of the page where you will find resources, including this paper. The paper highlights the 4Ps of Collaborative Resource Development which are intended to help coalitions, collaborations, and collective change leadership groups bring the needed resources to their efforts. It is an excellent paper and Kimberley is also available to help your group put the 4Ps into action. Check it out!


chickenman – episode 59

Chickenman prepares to race the Bear Lady to his grandmother’s house…if he can get his mind off of Smokey the Bear.


Stay safe, be well, keep calm, keep washing your hands, keep wearing your mask, and keep striving for justice, peace, and health for all.

Tom

June 4, 2020 – Tianamen Square to LaFayette Square

Today is June 4, National Cheese Day, an homage to fromage all day long! (So…I guess…that means…you know…it is also a day to cut the fromage?)

Tianamen Square to Lafayette Square

Today is also the 31st anniversary of what is known in China as the June Fourth Incident. Here in the U.S. we know it as the Tianamen Square Massacre.

At this moment we have a stand off between Federal forces and protesters in LaFayette Square in Washington, DC. Frankly, it is a bit difficult to tell the two apart. Take a look at the two pictures below. The first is Tianamen Square. Your clue is that this is now an iconic photo from that standoff which you’ve likely seen before. Of course, if more mature leadership doesn’t prevail in the White House, the second, from just outside LaFayette Square, could also become iconic.

Source: Retrieved from https://vimeo.com/126732527; Photo by Jeff Widener
Source: Retrieved from Bloomberg.com, June 4, 2020

As the protests at Tianamen Square were building in the Spring of 1989 I was getting ready for summer camp. In June I was at camp. No, not as a camper but as the director of the summer youth camping program. It was a Quaker camp and, as Quakers tend to be, we were very conscious of what was happening in the world, even while we were retreating from it at summer camp. Of course, in 1989 we didn’t have Smartphones nor did we have much access to the internet so we couldn’t stay connected 24/7/365. We did, however, have access to the daily news. We followed the protests and standoff in China with grave interest. Our interest turned to horror as the massacre began on June 4th.

It touched all of us – directors, counselors, staff, and youth. To process what we had witnessed, we decided to have an activity in which counselors and youth together would create posters and artwork to symbolized our care and concern for the protesters and solidarity with them.

I wonder…would any of us then ever have believed we’d be at a place today, in 2020, when we are holding our breath and hoping we don’t have our own LaFayette Square massacre? I wonder, too, what will we remember and memoralize about this day on future June Fourths?


View the Webinar: Tenacity, Humility, and Collaborative Leadership

On June 2nd I joined Liz Weaver for a conversation in a Tamarack Institute webinar. If you were not able to be a part of the webinar live (it was over subscribed!), you can still view it here. Be sure to check out the other webinar resources from Tamarack Institute. Co-CEOs Liz Weaver, Paul Born, and their staff have been terrific partners with Tenacious Change LLC over the past few years and I feel honored to have been able to do this webinar with them. I love their work and their thinking! If you haven’t met them before, now is the time!


stories of covid-19

Hope Crenshaw, PhD leads Teen Health Mississippi in Jackson. On March 13 & 14, as the country was beginning to go into “lockdown” because of COVID-19, I was with Hope, her Board of Directors, and staff in Jackson and we were working on a new strategy plan for the organization. As we met we had no idea how severely COVID-19 would impact everyone and everything.

One of the things that leaders do in the midst in crisis is consider how their mission fits with the need of the moment. As Hope and her team saw COVID-19 roll into Mississippi they began to think about the needs of the youth they serve and develop a plan to help.

They quickly recognized that the impact of the pandemic on youth was not a priority for planners. Yet they knew that closures would mean that many youth would lose their seasonal and part-time jobs. For these young people the jobs meant they could save for college, help out their family, or even just simply eat. Though Teen Health Mississippi is an organization with the mission to provide youth with full, complete, and honest sex education, they knew the lack of income might also put some young people at sexual risk.

In response Teen Health Mississippi started the COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund for youth. Their goal is to award at least $100,000 in emergency relief to Mississippi youth. To date they have received nearly 4,000 applications for help and they’ve awarded over $7,000 in assistance to 125 of the neediest youth. As they consider the applications, here is what they are learning about the youth who are applying:

  • 63% are experiencing food insecurty
  • 41% are experiencing homelessess
  • 32% lack the proper technology for distance learning to stay in school

I know the needs are great at this time everywhere. You may already be doing a lot in your community to help meet the needs created by COVID-19 and to help right the wrongs of racial injustice. Still, I ask that you consider helping Teen Health Mississippi if you are able. In 2020 the State of Mississippi remains the poorest of these United States. For this reason, their need may be even greater than the rest of the country.

I have had the honor of working with Hope, her staff, and her board for over 2 years now. I know them very well. I can recommend them and this cause to you without reservation. Clemencia and I are planning to make a contribution to this fund to help them get to their $100,000 goal. It won’t be as much as we’d like to do, but it will be something and it will help. Thank you for your consideration.

To learn more about Teen Health Mississippi, visit its website, of course, but also learn more about the fund:


A clarification

A few weeks back I invited you and other readers to this blog with the promise that it would not be a partisan space. It may not always seem that way because I have been pretty outspoken, especially in the midst of the protests, against the presidency of Donald Trump. Let me explain: I do not consider criticizing Trump to be a partisan act, even though he identifies as a Republican (well, at least right now…he has changed his party affiliation five times since 1987).

There is a big difference in speaking out against the presidency of Trump and against or for any political party. History is going to report that Trump was not a Republican but a self-absorbed demogogue who would align himself with any party so long as he thought there was a personal benefit. He’d be a Democrat today if he thought it would have a greater benefit to him.

The realization that Trump is not a Republican is a fact that many Republicans are coming to, such as those in the Lincoln Project and Republicans Voters Against Trump, which launched its first national ad last week.

Why do I speak harshly about Trump at all? Why not just ignore him? Well, I’ve tried doing that. Unfortunately my conscience won’t let me. The line I use to describe my consultancy, Tenacious Change LLC, is this: Animating people, organizations, and communities to lead change for the greater good. This is a mission anchored in a clear ethical and moral understanding of our purpose in this world. It is to work for the greater good of all and that also requires us to stand for the greater good. To do anything less is to live an incongruent, divided life. Therefore, when I see the lawlessness of the president and the harm that is being done to so many by Trump, it is no longer ethical or moral for me to remain silent.

I mentioned in a blog last week that I have a diverse group of friends and, yes, that means politically as well. In my circle of friends, colleagues, clients, and collaborators most identify as either Republicans or Democrats but some have different political leanings from these. I hold ideas and viewpoints in common with each of them and I care about each person. I must confess though that I care a bit more for my Republican friends at this moment because I believe many of them are suffering deeply over Trump.

To be clear, when I write about Trump, I’m not writing about all Republicans. I know the differences among the Republicans. I know there are those who are just as appalled and disgusted by Trump as I am. I know there are those who follow him because he is an accomplished liar and they’ve been truly deceived into following. I know there are those who mistakenly yet truly believe he represents Republican values. I know there are those which are merely his “toadies” and who are following him to get whatever promises he has made to them. I know there are those who feign followership because they know they can use his inexperience and incompetence to their advantage.

I also know all of this may seem like splitting hairs to some of my readers. However, I can see a clear distinction and will do my best to continue to make that distinction in this space.


Chickenman – Episode 48

Uh, oh, Chickenman struggles to regain his memory after a big bump on the head. Even worse, the Police Commissioner is trying to help him. If it seems that only Ms. Helfinger has a clue about anyting in this series, you are right.


Stay safe, be well, keep calm, keep washing your hands, keep wearing you mask, and keep justice, peace, and health in your heart.

Tom

June 3, 2020 – Other Voices

Today is Wednesday, June 3 and this is Repeat Day. Today is Wednesday, June 3 and this is Repeat Day.

other voices

Today I’m bringing other voices into The Daily Drivel. However, what they have to say is not drivelous. I appreciate their thinking, the clarity of their speech, the beauty of their voices, and their prespectives.

The first voice is that of my son, Jake. Yesterday, at exactly the same time I was writing my blog about him, he was writing in Facebook. I reached out to him early yesterday evening to review my blog before I posted it. He approved of what I had written and, as you will see below, it was aligned with what he also had written. I have also asked and received his permission to share his posting to Facebook. Here’s what he wrote:

The second voice is that of Stephen Colbert, the host of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert on CBS. Colbert stands in the long, honored tradition of the court jester who could deliver bad news to the king with impunity. The mantle of the jester rests today on the shoulders of many stand up comedians, including Colbert. Colbert’s monologue on Monday, June 1st was speaking truth to power in a more serious way than is typical for him. It is 12 minutes worth watching if you haven’t seen it.

The next voices are musical. I have selected them because they are songs that I have always associated with healing, compassion, love, and unity. All are in short supply at the moment, but we can’t blame the pandemic on that.

I will forever appreciate the performance delivered by John Legend in the Easter 2018 live performance of Jesus Christ Superstar. It was one of the most powerful and beautiful performances on any stage I’ve ever seen. If you’ve not seen it before, take time to find it and watch it now. It is relevant to these times. However, the voice of John Legend comes with a different message today. His rendition of the Simon & Garfunkel song Bridge Over Troubled Water is like a healing balm. You hear it in his voice and in the voices of the audience who join him on the chorus.

At the risk of redundancy, the next voice is Chris Mann singing the same tune. Mann’s COVID-19 song parodies have been featured here already but this is no parody. It is a beautiful a capella version which appears to have been posted just today by Mann. Don’t be distracted by the (too many) images of Mann in this video because the music is incredible. Just listen, you don’t have to watch.

The day after Barack Obama was inaugurated as the 44th President of the United States I was at Dulles International Airport to catch a flight. There were throngs of people there who were going back home after having attended that historic event.

I joined a long line of people trying to buy coffee and so did a small woman who was right behind me. I knew it was going to be a while so I decided to do what I always do: strike up a conversation. The two people ahead of me were friends and already chatting. I didn’t want to interrupt. The woman behind me appeared to be alone and she smiled back when I smiled at her. I remember it seemed to me she was dressed too casually for an older woman – sweat pants, sweatshirt, and a baseball cap – who exuded a certain fine dignity and style. Still, she seemed a likely candidate so I started a conversation with her.

We talked for about five minutes and then I realized something was familiar about her. When she realized that I was recognizing her she stopped the conversation. She leaned toward me, fixed her eyes on mine, and said, “Yes, you know me.” I leaned toward her and said, in barely a whisper (in case I was wrong), “Dionne Warwick?” She nodded. For the next 25 minutes we had the most wonderful conversation.

The next musical voice is that of Ms. Dionne Warwick. This video was filmed in March 29, 2019, ten years after that serendipitous conversation at Dulles. She is older now but her music is timeless. This is one of my favorites from her songbook. When the song was written in the early 60’s it was first offered to her by the songwriters, but she turned it down. Eventually she did record it twice though. First on an album. Then, in 1996, she recorded it as a single.

It is also a timely song. Some may feel the sentiment may be a little sappy but remember that it was originally recorded in the midst of the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights Movement. Those were not sappy times.

Marvin Gaye‘s is the next voice singing Abraham, Martin, & John, a song that was made famous by Dion in 1968. It is a tribute to the memory and work of Abraham Lincoln, Dr. Martin Luther King, John F. Kennedy, and Bobby Kennedy and Gaye’s rendition is powerful. These men had a powerful impact on our country. They were each imperfect people – a fact which Mr. Trump should take comfort in – but they usually were still able to put the country and the greater good before themselves – a fact Mr. Trump should allow to convict to his soul.

The final voice belongs to that of Pete Seeger, the legendary folk singer. Though Seeger did not write This Land is Your Land (it was written by his contemporary Woody Guthrie) he probably did as much to popularize it. A little known fact about Seeger, except in Quaker circles, is that he was good friends with Friends and we, therefore, lay a bit of claim to him.

There are two things I really like about this song. First, it’s origin story. Guthrie wrote it as a critical response to Irving Berlin’s nationalistic anthem, God Bless America. You’ve got to wonder what he might have written had he had to endure endless renditions of God Bless the U.S.A.

Second, its possibilities. Frankly, I am not a fan of the musicality of our national anthem. It is hard to sing and the music is lousy. Seriously, can you ever think of any rendition of the Star Spangled Banner that didn’t make you want to check your phone or go to the kitchen for more salsa? I didn’t think so. Me neither. (Do you know how risky it is to hold this view and live so close to Baltimore where it was penned?) However, This Land is Your Land is a wonderful candidate to be our national anthem. The music is fun and it is immensely singable, right? Maybe that is why it is one of the first songs taught in grade school music class. The only thing standing in the song’s way of being our national anthem is it’s aspirational message of unity and inclusion. Uh oh. That could be a problem, huh?

This Land is Your Land is also in the long, proud tradition of protest songs. Maybe it is a good option for today’s protesters who still want to raise their voices. Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie would be proud!

(P.S. If you aren’t really sure this is a protest song, be sure to read Woody Guthrie’s original 1940 lyrics in Wikipedia. Actually, this version incorporate a number of those original lyrics. Listen carefully to Seeger’s call and response, you didn’t learn this version in grade school!

Chickenman – Episode 47

The final voice belongs to Chickenman but not because he has anything important to say. Besides, today he has amnesia and can’t remember what to say. It’s because we still need to find reasons to smile and laugh in the midst of everything else that is happening.

Take time and care to laugh as well as cry; pray for hope as well as justice; speak in whispers as well as shouts; listen to music as well as speeches; and sit in peace as well as march for peace. All are okay. The balance keeps us healthy, it keeps us sane in an insane world.


Stay safe, be well, keep calm, keep washing your hands, keep wearing your mask, and keep remembering to stay in balance.

Tom

June 1, 2020 – Another Leadership Moment Lost

Welcome to The Daily Drivel!

Today is not only June 1st, it is Dare Day! Here’s a fun and interesting dare for any day – I dare you to think about somebody you’d like to know better and then ask them this question: “Tell me one story from your life that helps me understand better who you are today and how you got here.”


another leadership moment lost

We all need to be ready for those moments when our leadership is on the line and the fate or fortune of others depends on what we do.

…I take leadership to signify the act of making a difference.

Michael Useem, The Leadership Moment (1998)

Last night we watched another leadership moment come…and go…again. We were watching our local 11:00 PM news as it covered the protests and riots outside the White House, barely 20 miles from our home. We saw protesters and police, fires and rioters in an area of Washington we know well, only blocks from where I used to commute into work each day.

Posted on Facebook by MKW

The protests in Washington, as those in New York City, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Los Angelese, Miami, and a many other cities were against the brutal inhumanity that murdered George Floyd (be sure to watch this video of the timeline of Mr. Floyd’s death compiled from security and cell phone video). George Floyd died on May 25th – one week ago – at the hands of police in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Early that same day, the day Mr. Floyd died, I wrote an open letter to the President of the United States. In that letter, with reference to the pandemic, I asked him to be his best self for the sake of the country. It would not be fair to say he ignored me because I’m quite sure he never saw my letter. I would have been pleased if he had but I my expectations are realistic. However, sometimes things just need to be said.

At the same time, I did not expect the brutal death of Mr. Floyd and the extraordinary crisis upon extraordinary crisis in which we are now living. If any President were ever a real leader, these crises were leadership moments which could not be allowed to pass. But they did pass the current President of the United States.

The President has not only ignored or been unhelpful in healing the country wracked with the deaths of over 100,000+ people from COVID-19, he has done the same in the death of George Floyd. He has played golf on one of his golf courses, traveled to Florida to watch a rocket launch, and he has hidden in his underground bunker, he has berated governors for not “dominating” the protesters, and he has preened for a photo opportunity in front of a church he rarely attends, holding up a Bible so new looking one wonders if it has ever been opened or read. The church, a block from the White House, had to be cleared of protesters by Federal authories usings rubber bullets and tear gas to make a path for the President to have his photo op. However, he has not tried bringing people together, he has not tried comforting the grieving, he has not tried binding the wounds, and he has not tried to put out the fires of the pandemic and the racism he has fueled. He has missed, again and again, the leadership moment. He has failed and he continues to fail.


What’s Your Message Now?

CBS Sunday Morning had a very interesting segment on advertising this last Sunday. Many nonprofits do not actually “advertise” but they do “promote” their services. This segment looked at the ways advertising has changed since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. I found this to be a relevant and thought-provoking segment to recommend to nonprofit leaders and their organizations. Give it a look!


truth be told with winthrop dykstra-Baum

Winthrop Dykstra-Baum here with “Truth Be Told.” Today I’m interviewing, again, Tom Klaus.

  • Me: Could you move away from me just a bit, Winthrop? When I agreed to do this interview with you, you said you’d be wearing a mask and keeping at least six feet from me.
  • Winthrop: Yes, but that was before I started taking hydroxycholriquine and now there is no danger.
  • Me: Um, that’s not true, Winthrop. You could still be a carrier and, besides, the best science says that hydroxycholoriquine could be dangerous for you.
  • Winthrop: Well, this is my show and I can do what I like.
  • Me: It might be your show, Winthrop, but if you aren’t going to mask up and keep a safe distance, I’m going to ask you to leave.
  • Winthrop: Fine! (Frustratedly putting on a mask). Happy now?
  • Me: Yes, now if you’ll take about two steps back, please.
  • Winthrop (stepping back): Satisfied?
  • Me: Yes, much better. Now, go ahead.
  • Winthrop: I’ll try but I can hardly breathe under this ridiculous mask. (Pause) I understand you are no longer writing “Stories of COVID-19 and Sheltering-In-Place.” Is that right?
  • Me: Yes, that is true, Winnie.
  • Winthrop: That would be, “Winthrop,” please.
  • Me: My apologies…yes, that is true Winthrop. I’ll still be including some stories of COVID-19 but I’m changing the focus a bit of the new blog, The Daily Drivel.
  • Winthrop: The Daily Drivel?” Already it sounds more realistic and accurate.
  • Me: I’m not sure how you mean that, Winthrop.
  • Winthrop: I mean that “Stories of COVID-19,” frankly, from a journalistic perspective, was pretty lousy. At least this blog says that right up front. What guarantee do we have that this new blog is going to uphold the highest journalistic standards, like I do?
  • Me: It isn’t journalism, Winthrop. It is more like a personal journal and you and others are invited to read it. I don’t make any claims to be a journalist. I like to write, I have a sense of humor, I have a life, I have opinions, and I like to write about them in this blog.
  • Winthrop: So it isn’t journalism, yet you still expect people to take it seriously?
  • Me: Well, you claim to be a journalist, Winthrop, but not everybody takes you seriously. I mean, seriously, any decent journalist knows you don’t take hyroxycholoriquine to prevent COVID-19. There is just no science to back it up.
  • Winthrop: This isn’t about me, you are the interview subject. You can stop dodging my question anytime you like.
  • Me: I’m not dodging your question. In fact I’ll answer it right now. I expect people to take The Daily Drivel for what it is…a place to begin or end the day, to hang out, get a smile, read a rant or two, and, on occasion, even learn something new.
  • Winthrop: “Even learn something new.” There it is, Truth Be Told! You expect people to learn something new hence you are covertly trying to pass this off as real journalism!
  • Me: Really, Winthrop, is that what you think? I’m making no claims of real journalism – just real drivel. You see things when they aren’t there, Winthrop, just to be able to shout “Truth Be Told!” in people’s faces. Are you sure the hydroxychoriquine isn’t getting to you?
  • Winthrop: No, I’m fine, but, wait…I need to wrap this…it is time for my next dose.

Chickenman – episode 45

Chickenman enjoys a dinner at one of his favorite Midland City restaurants.


Stay safe, be well, keep calm, keep washing your hands, and keep wearing your mask.

Tom

Day 72 – Stories of COVID-19 and Sheltering-In-Place

At about noon there was a knock on our door. I looked through the peephole and didn’t see anyone. I assumed it was a delivery left in front of the door as it is usually done these days. I opened the door and there they were – Bert and Ernie sitting there looking up at me.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020 Live to Blog from the Laundry Room

Keeping Social Separation
Keeping Social Separation in the Time of COVID-19 – #alonetogether

Thank you for allowing me to stray from the drivel track yesterday. I had to get it off my chest. I’ve been thinking a lot about character and ethics recently – for reasons I’ll explain below. Now, back to the drivel.


Idiocy Abounds!

When we last heard from Bert Left and Ernie Right, they were refusing to come in off the deck. There has already been so much loss and sadness in our world that I had been waiting for the right moment to tell you that Bert and Ernie had been lost. Last Friday morning I went to the deck to try to coax them back onto my feet but they were gone. There had been a strong breeze all Thursday and well into the night. I assumed they had been blown off the deck and were lying about somewhere in the Maryland National Memorial Cemetery, about a 100 yards from our house. I didn’t want to trespass over the holiday weekend but decided I’d go hunting for them today.

But I didn’t have to. At about noon there was a knock on our door. I looked through the peephole and didn’t see anyone. I assumed it was a delivery left in front of the door as it is usually done these days. I opened the door and there they were – Bert and Ernie sitting there looking up at me.

  • Ernie: Hey, bonehead! It’s about time you opened the door.
  • Me: Bert! Ernie! I thought you had been lost! How’d you get here?
  • Ernie: Nah, we ain’t lost. We know exactly where we are.
  • Bert: The Uber driver dropped us up here. Nice lady! But you should give us a key, you know.
  • Me: Uber driver?!? What were you doing in an Uber?
  • Bert: We had a little trip.
  • Ernie: Yeah, we got tired of just hanging on the deck and we definitely did not want to get back on your smelly feet.
  • Bert: So we went on a little trip.
  • Me: Oh really? How’d you get off the deck?
  • Bert: We just wiggled out of the clips and the wind carried us gently to the ground. Then we called an Uber.
  • Ernie: And the Uber took us to Ocean City, baby!
  • Me: Wait…you’re telling me you went to Ocean City? To be the beach? When did this happen?
  • Ernie: Real early Friday morning. We had all weekend at Ocean City!
  • Bert: Yeah, all weekend, bonehead, and it was great. You should’ve seen all the gorgeous yoga and tennis socks over there! Hey, Ernie, what was that cute little striped number’s name again?
  • Ernie: You mean Chloe? Or was that Maria? No, wait, it was Keisha, yeah, that’s right…Keisha! Oh man, she was somethin’ bonehead, but she wasn’t your type, you like wool socks.
  • Me: Are you guys telling me you spent the whole weekend on the beach?
  • Bert: Yeah, what’s it to you, bonehead?
  • Me: What’s it to me? You’ve got to be kidding! What’s it to me? Tell me something, did either of you geniuses wear masks and keep six feet apart from people?
  • Ernie (giggles): Hey, Bert, did you wear a mask and keep your distance from Keisha?
  • Bert (giggles back): Oh, yeah, Ernie I stayed just as far away from her as you stayed from Yvette.
  • Bert and Ernie erupt in laughter.
  • Me: Okay, I get it. So you did the same thing alot of other Stupid People did over the holiday right?
  • Bert: C’mon man, you’re really too uptight about this thing. I mean, jeez, it’s not a big deal. Look Mr. Trump doesn’t wear a mask and he’s always getting close to people.
  • Me: I really don’t care what Mr. Trump does because he doesn’t live here. You do. And now you can’t come back in the house until you quarantine for 14 days.
  • Ernie: What? What are you talking about? Where are we going to stay?
  • Me: I don’t know, but I can’t bring you into the house just to take you to the deck. You’d probably just wiggle free again.
  • Bert: Hey, that’s not fair!
  • Me: You know, I’m getting really tired of you two complaining that things aren’t fair for you. What’s fair for me and Clemencia? We are doing everything we can to stay safe and avoid infection. Then you two pull this crazy stunt. You are no different than some of our neighbors who don’t wear masks. You are the same as all those other people we saw in the news who went to parties and the beaches who didn’t wear masks and didn’t keep a distance. You are selfish and self-centered. And now, you leave me no choice.
  • Ernie: What do you mean no choice?
  • Me (lowering a plastic bag to the floor): Get in the bag. You’ve ruined it. I have not choice now but to wash you.
  • Bert: No you can’t do that! We are living beings! We are you!
  • Me: No, you aren’t me. I’m not the brightest bulb in the chandelier but I’m not stupid. You were safe here. You blew it. Get in the bag.
  • Ernie: No way! You can’t do this!
  • Me: Yes, I can and I will. You now pose a risk to us. In the bag. And if you don’t get in it willingly, I’ll nudge you in with my shoe.

By 1:00 PM Bert Left and Ernie Right were transported from the washing machine to the dryer. They were good friends to me and I miss them already. I’m very sad, though, for their stupidity. They were, too, in the end, apologizing profusely to me. Still, they had to be washed and disinfected. To be clear, I did not spray them with Lysol nor soak them in Clorox. They just needed a good washing. In fact, I think they appreciated it. I swear I heard Ernie say to Bert during the wash, “Hey, Bert, this ain’t so bad. In fact, it is little bit like that roller coaster we rode on last Saturday.”

If the opportunity arises for them to return, they’ve promised me they will. The next time, though, I hope they will be a little nicer to me and bit more humble. But we’ll see. For now, rest in peace in the sock drawer, Bert and Ernie – March 16, 2020 to May 26, 2020. Aged -I mean really aged! – 72 days. They will be missed but their stench – and attitudes – will not.


Pondering Character

Character and ethics have been on my mind a lot during the pandemic. I’ve been reading a couple of books and finishing up a long-over due project, which probably explains why.

One book I’m reading is a textbook entitled Ethical Leadership: A Primer. It is a college level book that examines and compares a variety of ethical theories. It is not the light reading I do at night before bed…but it is very interesting.

The other book I’ve been reading in a rather meditative way is David Brooks’ The Road to Character. It is a great book for reflective reading because the book is a reflection by Brooks on what he has learned about character. Brooks is a New York Times bestselling author, a writer for the New York Times, and a regular commentator on the PBS News Hours on Fridays. When I attend Quaker Meeting I sometimes need meditative reading material to help focus my mind and quiet my spirit. The Road to Character has been very good for this purpose.

The other thing that has been causing me to ponder character and ethics is work I’ve done recently to finish a project I started over two years ago. It was the WWJD Redux Project. I decided to self-fund a study to understand more clearly how people view the leadership of Donald Trump in light of the ethical and moral lapses he has been accused of. The study was accepted for presentation at the 20th Global Conference of the International Leadership Association meeting in West Palm Beach, Florida in October of that year. I had promised, as I was doing the study, that I would send the results to everyone who participated. However, that promise got away from me in the busyness and business of life. Over the past few weeks I shot a video of that presentation and am now am making good on the promise. This link, WWJD Redux Project, and the one above, take you to the project page on the Tenacious Change LLC website where you can find more information. If you are interested in watching the video presentation (its roughly 29 minutes in length), you can watch it on that page or below on the Tenacious Change LLC YouTube channel.

If you take time to watch the video and learn about the study, I’d be interested in hearing what you think. It is still relevant to our time…perhaps even more so in the midst of this pandemic.


A View of COVID-19

This image was taken from the website of the Johns Hopkins project that is tracking COVID-19. The view is of “Cumulative Confirmed Cases” worldwide. There is an old expression that seems appropriate here…let’s say it together: “A picture is worth a thousand words.”


The Adventures of Chickenman

Episode 40 – Chickenman has followed the Teddy Bear into a party in the hotel, only to discover he is at a costume party hosted by the Teddy Bear. The Teddy Bear is, in fact, Scarfce O’Banyon, a highly respected Midland City dentist. When it was time to unmask, though, Chickenman found himself in a difficult position. But could he just fly the coop? Or just fly?


Stay safe, be well, keep calm, keep washing your face, keep wearing your mask, and, please keep being smarter than Bert and Ernie.

Tom

Day 61 – Stories of COVID-19 and Sheltering-In-Place

In barely a month, during the worst days of the pandemic so far, there has been a 10% drop in the number of Americans who said they are likely to get the COVID-19 vaccination once it becomes available.

Friday, May 15, 2020 – Live to Blog Amidst of a Lot of Noise

Besides the political and societal noise about COVID-19, we are also dealing with a lot of actual noise today in our house. Rather than face thousands of dollars of repairs to keep our HVAC system limping along, we decided to take a deep breath and replace it. The installers are here today. They are making good progress and some great noise! All is normal.


Will a Vaccine Really Matter?

Tweets don’t usually disturb me. Until today. It disturbs me for two reasons. First, I tend to trust the source. Second, the content is frightening.

The tweet came from David Brooks, the New York Times columnist who is often identified as a conservative and a Republican. I first started following him on the PBS News Hour where he squares off each Friday with Mark Shields, a progressive Democrat. Over the years I have enjoyed their thoughtful and thought provoking debates. They remind me that civil discourse, and even agreement, is still possible if people are willing and able. Brooks’ The Road to Character is one of those books that I’m quick to recommend to people and, of course, I recommend it to you. When David Brooks speaks, I tend to pay attention. This morning I paid attention to his Tweet:

The graphic he shared is scary. Look at it closely. In barely a month, during the worst days of the pandemic so far, there has been a 10% drop in the number of Americans who said they are likely to get the COVID-19 vaccination once it becomes available. Responses to Brook’s Tweet included the usual rants and snarky comments but there was one that stood out to me because of its analysis.

What @lbbayer, and respondents, are revealing is the lack of trust many people have in “current leaders” generally and in Donald Trump specifically. No surprise there. Part of our great partisan divide in the U.S. is the lack, even absence, of trust that people in one party feel toward leaders put forth by the other. Regardless of who started the fight, in the end, all will lose. The leaders will lose because all will have drawn the ire of the people. The people will lose because of failed leadership.

There are two things our leaders do not understand, or, if they do, they don’t care about at all…which is even more frightening.

First, leadership is not about being ahead, or “the head,” of people. It is about walking alongside them without concern for what is in it for self. Consider what Lao Tzu wrote millenials ago:

Second, trust is fundamental in motivating people to embrace change. Stephen Covey wrote “Trust is the glue that holds everything together.” He is also credited with the concept that change happens at the speed of trust. In the midst of this pandemic, until American’s can trust their leaders to make decisions in the best interests of we the people as whole (and not special interests), communicate transparently and honestly, and act with integrity, we will not make much progress against COVID-19.

We not only have a pandemic of COVID-19, we have a pandemic of mistrust.

Recently I’ve heard economists, scientists, and public health people agree on a single point: the economy will not come back until we bring the virus under control. This is because most people are too afraid to go back to work, patronize restaurants, theaters, bars, shops, stores, and other businesses until they feel it is really safe to go out again. Though we remain under stay-at-home orders here in Prince George’s County until June 1, we expect to be avoiding public places for a very long time to come.

Our country and society has been dealt a devastating blow in terms of both health and economy. It is important right now that we be able to believe our leaders and trust them. Our capacity to recover depends on it. Unfortunately, our leaders do not appear to have the moral courage or capacity to do the one thing they must do: together sow truth to let the seeds of trust grow.


Why Wait? Have Heapin’ Bowlful of Some Good News!


The Adventures of Chickenman

Now that Chickenman has been completely dissolved by the Chicken Dissolver, what will it mean for crime in Midland City?


Stay safe, be well, keep calm, keep washing your hands, keep wearing your mask, and keep demanding the truth of fact and science.

Tom