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

Let’s All Get into Good Trouble

Last Sunday I had intended to join Meeting for Worship via Zoom at our Quaker Meeting. Prior to connecting though I was watching Face the Nation on CBS. Just as I was about to “tune in” to our Quaker meeting, Face the Nation moderator, Margaret Brennan, announced the show would be moving to a special report on John Lewis’ final crossing of the Edmund Pettus Bridge. I kept the television tuned to CBS.

For the next 75 minutes I watched as John Lewis made his final crossing of the Edmund Pettus Bridge. It began this past Sunday at Brown Chapel AME Church in Selma, just as it did on “Bloody Sunday,” March 7, 1965. This time, though, John Lewis’ body rode in a casket on a caisson pulled by two horses. After brief remarks from a legislator and a minister and a song, his casket was loaded onto the caisson by a U.S. military honor guard – which seemed odd for Lewis, a man who stood for nonviolence. Then the caisson made its way the 10 blocks to the Edmond Pettus Bridge. As it crossed the bridge the driver stopped the caisson at several points, stood, and kept silence in honor of John Lewis and the meaning of his walk across the bridge in 1965.

On the other side of the bridge, the casket carrying John Lewis was met by members of the Alabama State Police, just as it was on March 7, 1965. This time, though, they stood at attention and saluted Mr. Lewis. In 1965 it was members of the Alabama State Police that beat him so badly that he suffered a concussion. His casket was transferred from the caisson and placed in a hearse. From there the Alabama State Police provided safe passage and an honor guard to Montgomery where Mr. Lewis is to lie in state before having the same honor at the U.S. Capitol yesterday and today.

On March 7, 1965 I was 10 years, soon to turn 11. I still remember seeing the news reports featuring film of the marchers being attacked. I did not fully understand what it was all about at that age. Still, as I watched the film, I got the kind of knot in my stomach and sick feeling that comes from seeing something you know instinctively is so horrible and so wrong. It’s the same knot and feeling I got as I watched the video of George Floyd being murdered.

I didn’t realize how much the film of Bloody Sunday impacted me until many years later when I was working in Montgomery, Alabama. I remember driving out of the Montgomery Regional Airport on to Selma Highway (U.S. Route 80). To visit the scene of Bloody Sunday, all I had to do was turn left toward Selma. I had the time, opportunity, and inclination to visit the site. In the end, though, I remembered that film, the horror it triggered in me, and the traumatic memories of my 10-year-old’s fear won out. It is something I still regret.

Let’s get in good trouble

Earlier this month, on July 3rd, John Lewis: Good Trouble, was released. It is a documentary of his life and his work. It focuses on a core philosophy of Mr. Lewis, the idea of getting into “good trouble,” the kind of trouble that brings about change for the greater good.

On July 23 The Brookings Institution published a piece by Rashawn Ray that reminds us of the last time John Lewis led a commemorative walk across the Edmund Pettus Bridge on March 1, 2020. At that time, Lewis said in a speech: “Get in good trouble, necessary trouble, and redeem the soul of America.”

Ray’s article articulates five ways we can get in “good trouble.” This seems to be the time to cause a bit of “good trouble.” In fact, since 1965, I’m not sure there has been a better time. Here are Ray’s five lessons from John Lewis, with just a bit of commentary from me.

  1. Vote, always. In a pandemic or not, in primary or a general election, in local races or national races, whether you “love” the choices or not.
  2. You are never too young to make a difference. I‘m guessing John Lewis would also say that you are never too old to make a difference, too.
  3. Speak truth to power. Power doesn’t usually want to hear the truth, so don’t expect the powerful to come to you to hear your truth. Take it to them…again, and again, and again until they hear it.
  4. Become a racial equity broker. It isn’t enough to not be racist or even be anti-racists. Both of those things can be accomplished within oneself. To be a racial equity broker is to go beyond advocacy to take on the work of changing policies, practices, and protocols that inhibit racial equity.
  5. Never give up. Change at any level – personal, family, community, and societal – requires tenacity. Only the most tenacious will bring about change. They may not always live to see it, but it would not happen without them.

So, what do you say? Wanna get into some trouble…some “good trouble”? We’ve got time between now and November 3rd to find some and do it.


chickenman – Episode 84

Chickenman is finally contacted in his flight across the Atlantic but a debate ensues with Ms. Helfinger about who will pay for the collect charges.


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 26, 2020 – The Conundrum of Forgiveness

Today is June 26, 2020. This is also celebrated as Forgiveness Day – a day to forgive and to be forgiven. How can one day be so impractical and at the same time so practical?

after the rain

Late yesterday afternoon we had a fierce thunderstorm. I don’t know if I just wasn’t paying attention or if it really did sneak up on us, but I didn’t see it coming. One moment all seemed to be just fine out side, the next minute it was raining so hard that it was difficult to see across the street.

Throughout the storm I continued to work. When it had stopped raining our telephone rang. Our neighbors Neil and Jan called to tell us to look out the window. When I did, this is what I saw.

I don’t recall ever having see a complete rainbow in my life, let along a double complete rainbow. The double rainbow is a bit easier to see in the picture below. Notice the intensity of the colors of the inside rainbow.

I ran from window to window and window to deck to get a better angle to take pictures. All the while I was rushing about hoping it wouldn’t dissipate too quickly. I needn’t have worried. It was such an intense rainbow that it was visible for close to 30 minutes. Extraordinary!


the conundrum of forgiveness

The conudrum of forgivess is this: it is never about the other person, it is always about us. The capacity and will to both seek forgiveness and forgive others is what makes us decent, fully-human people. No matter the hurt we feel or the hurt we cause, granting or seeking forgiveness sets us free.

I’ve had the experience of doing both though I’ve more often had to seek forgiveness than grant it. Asking forgiveness is one of the most humbling things I’ve ever had to do. If you are familiar with the 12 Steps of Alchoholics Anonymous, and similar 12 Step groups, you know that the act of asking forgiveness is critical. In fact, beginning with the Fourth Step, seven of the 12 Steps are all about seeking forgiveness.

In the 1980’s I regularly attended Adult Children of Alcoholics and we used the 12 Steps in our own healing and recovery work, too. Addiction requires at least two people: the addict and a person who enables the addiction. Sometimes the enabler is the whole family. It took me a while to fully see and understand my own contribution to my father’s alcoholism. While I was not to blame, I helped enable the conditions that allowed him to feed his addiction until it grew beyond control. Enablers are not to blame for the addiction; but they do have responsibility for either supporting it (even unconsciously) or addressing it intentionally through what Al-Anon calls “detaching with love.” Many may see the line between feeling responsible and feeling a sense of blame to be very thin. I assure you, it is not.

When we carry blame, we also feel shame and powerlessness. It hangs on us like a backpack full of rocks. We can never seem to wriggle free from the bag, no matter what we do.

The mindshift from blame to responsibility is actually quite freeing. When we have been able to make that shift, we find that responsibility opens us to options we never had under the oppression of blame. Among the options that appear are giving and receiving forgiveness.

The 12 Steps, particularly Steps 4 through 10, help us embrace our responsibility. I can remember working Steps 8 & 9. It was excruciatingly difficult because it meant I had to seek forgiveness from people I had hurt in my wildly chaotic quest to fix my father’s addiction.

One person I approached for forgiveness and with whom I needed to make amends was the former minister of our church. As a young and upcoming preacher, who left the Methodist tradition to become a Baptist, I was invited to speak at the community Easter Service in my hometown. I used that opportunity to unleash the whole of Baptist hellfire on my former minister in a highly public attack while he sat only feet away. Why? Because I believed he had failed my father and my family.

Still, he extended grace to me that day, years later, when I sought him out to ask his forgiveness. I got the impression that he had largely forgotten it and had dismissed the bad behavior as pure hubris. Nonetheless, that day he took two of the big rocks out of my backpack – anger and loathing.

The act of forgiving, though, is a different kind of challenge. Sometimes the offense is so small that it takes little effort to forgive. Other times it takes every single ounce of humanity we possess to do it. For me, the most powerful model of forgiveness came from a man I stood in line with once at a Chinese take-out restaurant in Des Moines, Iowa. I knew of him by his reputation and I wanted to meet him. But I was still too burdened by my hidden shame to walk up to him and introduce myself. I regret having lost that opportunity.

His name is Ako Abdul-Samad, but this Wikipedia page does not really tell his story. Today he serves in the Iowa House of Representatives and recently he has been personally involved in keeping peace in Des Moines among the people who are protesting the death of George Floyd. He has even physically stood between police and protesters.

A more complete story, including his remarkable act of grace and forgiveness, is recalled in this article, written in 2016 but recently updated. In brief, Ako’s son was shot by another young man and died. Because it was a gang related shooting and Ako knew the shooter would not be safe from retaliation from his son’s gang, he took the young man into his own home. As he planned his own son’s funeral, he offered shelter and protection to the young man who killed his own child. Read the full story yourself, please. It is more real in Ako’s words.

Over the years as I’ve recalled Ako’s story from time to time, I’ve wondered how forgiveness and forgetfulness fit together. “Forgive and forget” is something we are all told at one time another. It seems impossible because it doesn’t seem wise. If I forget the harm done to me, what prevents me from getting hurt again? For this reason forgetting seems to be an irrational companion to forgiving.

Still, do we ever really forgive without forgetting? The answer is not simple. There is an elegant but complex dance that forgiveness and forgetfulness does within our soul.

Sometimes we can forgive and forget when the offense is slight and we have no permanent damage or scar. If this is the case, then we sometimes wonder if forgiveness is really needed at all, “no harm, no foul,” we say to ourselves.

Sometimes we can forgive and forget because we are so full of grace and faith in humanity that it is impossible for us to keep account of our hurts. This is rare indeed and if you are one of these unique people, you might consider applying for sainthood.

Sometimes we first have to forgive so we can begin to lose the memories of the pain. The act of forgiveness releases the valve that holds the memories in place. This takes great patience because some pain can leave deep impressions on our memory.

Sometimes we forgive and lose the memories of the pain but not the memories of the actions leading up to them. In these cases we are graceful and also wiser but sadder. The wisdom allows us to remain aware of potential danger. The sadness is because we grieve the loss of relationship that comes with such mistrust.

Forgiveness and forgetfulness are a mystery and inexplicably woven together. For this reason each of us have to discern for ourselves whom we need to forgive, from whom we need to seek forgiveness, and how much of our own hurt we can afford to forget. This work of discernment is also known as the Fourth Step in the 12 Step program: “Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.”

Happy Forgiveness Day!


chickenman – episode 70

Benton Harbor (Chickenman) has another costume malfunction as he tries to prepare to apprehend a shoplifter. Gladys, a colleague at the shoe store, learns his secret identity.


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 22, 2020 – The Arc of Change

Today is June 22, 2020 and National Onion Ring Day. It only seems logical, doesn’t it, that tomorrow would be National Breath Mint day? Well, it isn’t, but enjoy the onion rings anyway.


the arc of change

I had a conversation via Zoom this afternoon with my friend Michael, a Black man who lives in Philadelphia. We got acquainted through a mutual friend, also from Philadelphia. Since that introduction, several years have passed and Michael and I have stayed in touch regularly.

Today our conversation turned to the events in the country since the murder of George Floyd. I asked Michael how he assessed things today. “I don’t really think anything is going to change,” was his response. I told Michael that I hoped he was wrong but I feared he was right.

My fears seemed to be justified by the news today. Bubba Wallace, the only Black driver in NASCAR, found that someone had hung a noose in his racecar’s stall at the Talledega Superspeedway in Alabama. Wallace had played a significant role in convincing NASCAR to ban Confederate flags at its races. Wallace was to have competed in yesterday’s GEICO 500. The race was postponed until today because of storms and rain.

The bad weather, however, did not deter some NASCAR fans from defying the rules. A parade of fans carried Confederate flags outside the gates and a small airplane flew over the track with the confederate flag and a banner with the words “Defund NASCAR” trailing. Confederate flag fliers are annoying, but those who leave nooses may have broken the law. Earlier today the Civil Rights Division of the Federal Department of Justice launched an investigation into the incident.

NASCAR drivers, crews, and owners walk and stand in support of Bubba Wallace. Source: Fox Sports.

While I write this blog I have the television above my computer tuned to the local Fox affiliate carrying the GEICO 500 at Talledega today. Before the invocation, a long time tradition in auto racing, someone painted on the infield #I Stand With Bubba. Then everyone – racers, crews, owners – lined up behind Bubba Wallace’s car and walked behind him down the pit road for the invocation and National Anthem. Even “The King” Richard Petty of Petty Motorsports was there to support his driver. Richard Petty is the winningest driver in NASCAR history. He is also a long-time Republican who appeared on stage with Trump at one of his campaign rallies in 2016. Petty, at 82 years old, is at high risk of COVID-19 but decided he wanted to be in Talledega today to stand with his driver. Petty’s actions remind us that doing the right thing should always transcend politics.

Richard Petty tweeted his support for Bubba Wallace only hours before the start of today’s rain postponed GEICO 500 in Alabama.

My friend Michael’s pessimism, the noose in Bubba’s garage, and the confederate flag flying fans at Talledega remind me that the arc of change is slow. However slow it is, it cannot stop. Each of us can contribute to the change by doing everything we can to continue the conversation and keep it alive. That, my friend, is why you are seeing so much about this issue in this blog. I want to do everything I can to see the change through.


chickenman – Episode 66

Chickenman finally tracks down the Hummer and makes the arrest. But, is this the only Hummer?


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 21, 2020 – This Normal Dad Doesn’t Want All the Old Normal Anymore

Today is June 21, 2020. Happy Father’s Day!

this normal dad doesn’t want all the old normal anymore

The context in which I often think about “old normal” vs the “new normal” is how life was before COVID-19. Father’s Day was normal in the sense that my son and I got together. We played golf early this morning, had brunch afterward, and I got one of the sweetest Father’s Day cards from him that I’ve ever received.

At the same time, nothing about our Father’s Day get together was normal. We arrived at the golf course in separate cars. We both wore masks. We couldn’t ride in the same golf cart because we needed to maintain at least six feet of distance during the game. At the end of the game we drove separately to a diner that has only recently reopened and is following the distancing and face mask rules.

What really wasn’t normal was that we said good-bye six feet apart. I still hug him and tell him I love him each time we part after a visit, but, of course, today I could only tell him I love him. When it comes to Father’s Day and some of the traditions that build and sustain relationships with those we love and care about, I want the old normal again.

Source: BeWellPBC, Juneteenth Newsletter

However, there is another old normal that I don’t want anymore. It is what became normal for so many of us White people in the U.S. That is the normal created by racial bias which, in turn, has created the conditions of prejudice, threat of violence, and actual violence under which so many nonwhite non-Anglo people in the United States live. This image, which appeared in a client’s newsletter, reminded me about that old normal. Like the sign says, that is the normal I don’t want to go back to either.

Earlier this week my friend Bruce re-posted a video on Facebook which powerfully illustrated that old normal. I also re-posted it and you can also see it here. In an earlier blog post, I had written that I could only know vicariously what my spouse, a non-white, non-Anglo woman, experiences. I have seen her experience much of what you see in that video. I have sometimes been with her when it has happened to her and, yet, my own sense of what is “normal” as a White person prevents me from seeing it clearly. The vicarious experience is not the same as experiencing it personally. If you are a White person, please keep that in mind as you watch that brief video.

Todd Winn, Retired Marine, The Washington Post, June 18, 2020

There is a story about a retired Marine that appeared in The Washington Post that gives us a glimpse of the “new normal” as it relates to race. The Marine squeezed into his old dress uniform, put a piece of black duct tape across his mouth with the words “I can’t breathe” on it, and then stood at attention in front of the statehouse in Utah for three hours as a personal protest. The day he did this it was over 100 degrees in Salt Lake City. His shoes melted as he stood in the sun. He held a sign listing the name of the Black men and women who had recently died as a result of police brutality. His motivation for staging his protest in this way is a powerful reminder of why people choose to serve this country – whether in the military, in emergency services, or in civil service. It is worth reading to learn how Mr. Winn arrived at this form of protest.

Another glimpse of the new normal is seen in protests that continue throughout the country. The protests are comprised of very diverse groups of people. They are made diverse by race, age, sexual orientation, language, religion, and ability. Contrary to the propoganda put out by their detractors (e.g., Trump), the protests are mostly peaceful.

These are just two of the things I see that make me feel as if the “new normal” will be much better than the old for everyone. Of course, before we get there, some things have got to change from the direction they’ve been going for the past few years.

The good thing about being human beings is that we have the power of choice. We can choose what we want to be and we can even choose to be different than we have been, even if we’ve been pretty awful. We usher in the “new normal” when we choose inclusion over exclusion; equity over partiality; and justice over bias. For starters, that’s the new normal this dad wants.


the tulsa fizzle

Happily, Tulsa did not erupt into violence before, during, or after Trump’s rally there last night. It was, in fact, a pretty weak rally. My favorite photo of the rally comes from The Washington Post with this headline: “Trump rallies in red-state America — and faces a sea of empty blue seats.” The office tally in the 19,000 seat arena was 6,200. The outside overflow stage and megatrons were never used.

The Washington Post, June 21, 2020

One of the funniest stories to come out of the Tulsa event was that about the TikTok users who grabbed up thousands of tickets to the event they never planned to use. The idea for doing this came from Mary Jo Laupp, a woman from Fort Dodge in my native state of Iowa. Kudos Mary Jo!


chickenman – episode 65

Chickenman closes in on the Hummer. Or is he really?

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 20, 2020 – On Being Resilient

Today is June 20, 2020 and National Hollerin’ Contest Day. This, it seems, is a day in the spotlight for Spivey’s Corner, North Carolina where the contest takes place. The town of approximately 500 people swells to several thousand for the contest. Apparently hollerin’ is a lost art. You couldn’t prove that by my family. We grew up hollerin’ at hogs, cows, chickens, and each other. We are still a loud-talking family when we get together.

On Being resilient

Earlier today I finished editing a video interview I did on the subject of leading others through traumatic disruptive events…you know, like the pandemic? I used a new video editing software that is better than anything I’ve used before. As a result the video is far fancier than anything I’ve produced to date. It isn’t quite finished yet – it is in final review by the person I interviewed – but it will be ready for distribution in a few days. When it is ready, I’ll post it here and on social media.

Editing is an intensive iterative process. As a result you hear or see the same thing many times over. Though the word “resilience” was used only a couple of times, the video really was about resilience. More specifically, it was about how organizations recover and move forward in times of trauma and disruption. Of course, organizations are comprised of individuals so there is also an element of individual resilience too.

The interviewee shared a quote from Nelson Mandela that has stuck with me throughout the day.

Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.

Nelson Mandela

This describes what it means to be resilient as organizations or as individuals better than anything else which comes to mind today. Mandela’s statement is close to the dictionary definition of resilience – the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties.

Personally, I’ve had to be resilient because I’ve fallen down many times in my life. Each time I’ve gotten back up again but, honestly, I didn’t always want to. There were a few times when it was very tempting, even appealing, to stay on the ground. It really would have been easy to just stay down, too. Sometimes I did stay there for a while. For reasons I cannot fully explain or understand myself, I eventually did get back up.

These are tough times for everyone. A lot of people and organizations haven’t just fallen down, they’ve been knocked down. Sadly, not all of them will get back up – and it won’t be for lack of trying. To get back up, a person or organization has to have at least a foothold and maybe even hand to grab onto to pull themselves up. Already we see people and organizations who have neither and are down for the count.

The upheaval we are experiencing as a country was on full display last night again on our local news. When we turned on the 11:00 pm news we found the local station was covering a group of protesters in DC’s Judiciary Square who were working at pulling down a statue. The statue was of Albert Pike, the only Confederate general memorialized with an outdoor statue in Washington, DC. The protesters made short work of Pike’s statue. From the time we tuned in until the statue was pulled down was only about 30 minutes. Then the statue was set on fire.

The DC Metro Police watched the protesters at a distance, which seemed not only wise but also nonviolent and gracious. Once the protesters started the statue on fire, they dispersed, and the police moved in with fire extinguishers. No actual living persons were hurt in the evening’s activity.

Frankly, I am supportive of the protesters and the change they are trying to bring to the country. It is long overdue. I believe in nonviolent protest that does not harm people or property. I understand why the protesters are tearing down statues of Confederate generals and colonizers. I’m not sure whether this is the best way, though, to deal with them and what they stand for. I fear that their destruction results in the loss of an opportunity to repurpose them to correct the historical record. They could be put on display in a historical museum (the Smithsonian perhaps?) and a curriculum could be developed that tells the full truth about them. Still, I do understand why the protesters feel they need to come down.

I fear for even more upheaval tonight in Tulsa, Oklahoma when Trump rides into town – all hat and no cattle. This time, though, I fear it could turn violent. Tonight Trumpsters and protesters come together a day after Juneteenth, days after the murders of Rayshard Brooks and George Floyd, and at the start of the 100th year since the Tulsa Greenwood Massacre. Tulsa and Oklahoma is a hotspot for the COVID-19 pandemic and tonight it is also a hotspot for potential conflict. Of course, Trump has already struck the match by making threats against the protesters. It is my fervent prayer and hope that everybody gets out of Tulsa tonight safely.

It is also my hope that our country is resilient. I think it is. I’ve always believed that it is. Plus, there is abundant evidence of resilience in the lives of many individual Americans – of all races, ethnicities, nationalities, genders, sexual orientations, and abilities.

But, as a country, do we have hope that we can get back up again? Do we have the will? Perhaps more importantly, do we have the capacity and grace to give each other a foothold or a hand up? I’m less worried about the first two than the last. I fear that 2 out of 3 will not be sufficient.


The View from Jeff

Jeff explains: I may need to dust off my ironing skills with face to face restrictions being loosened in Alberta… up til now I have been rotating between three shirts a month (as long as I take them off for lunch and supper between meetings).

chickenman – episode 64

Before Chickenman can hammer the Hummer he has to contend with his mother and a stuck zipper in the Chicken Cave.


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 19, 2020 – Juneteenth & the Civil Rights Act of 1964

Today is June 19, 2020, also known as Juneteenth. In my June 18th blog (which got posted late due to a technical glitch) I wrote about Juneteenth, provided several links to excellent resources about the holiday and focused on the anthem which is associated with it, Lift Every Voice and Sing.

This date is also significant for something that happened 99 years later, on June 19, 1964. After a 54-day filibuster, the United States Senate passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by a vote of 73 to 27. The House passed the legislation by a vote of 290 to 130. President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 into law on July 2, 1964.

President Kennedy had pushed hard for the passage of the Civil Right Act in the Fall of 1963. When he died by assassination in November 1963, President Johnson took up the cause of its passage and moved quickly on it. On March 26, 1964 the Senate debated the bill. On that day Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X both showed up to watch the debate. The two men met for less than a minute. It was the first and only time the two would ever meet.

Despite the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 fifty-six years ago, there has not been the progress made that was hoped. Today, however, there is some hope that an inclusive, just, and equitable society will finally emerge.


stories of covid-19

There is no good news on the Novel Coronavirus front today.

We are approaching 120k in the number of COVID-19 deaths in the United States. Today, at this moment, we stand at 118,695 deaths. Over the weekend it is likely we’ll hit the mark. IHME is now projecting over 200,000 deaths by October 1.

Dr. Anthony Fauci told The Washington Post that we are still in the first wave of the pandemic. He explains it this way:

The one that we’ve been dealing with over the last few months has been what’s called “mitigation,” namely to, in a very dramatic way, separate the virus from people by the so-called “physical separation” of one person who might be infected from another. That’s the reason why we talk about the distances of physical separation, wearing of a mask, washing hands to interrupt that interaction between the virus and society that has been successful to help contain the onslaught which we’ve unfortunately experienced, which has been very severe, with now 120,000 deaths . . . in 2 million cases in the United States, which is extraordinary. That you would consider a wave.

How do you go from one wave and not have another wave going? Well, first of all, unfortunately for us, we still are in the first wave because even though there’s variability throughout the country, where some places like New York City are going very nicely down, staying down so that they can start to reopen, simultaneously, we’re seeing in certain states an increase in cases and even now an increase in some of the states of hospitalization. What that directly is related to is complicated. It’s a combination of testing more, but not explained completely by testing more, because some of the states really do have a real increase in the percent of the tests that are positive.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, The Washington Post, June 18, 2020

The World Health Organization is reporting that the pandemic has entered a “new and dangerous phase” and the pandemic appears to be accelerating. Yesterday (Thursday) 150,000 new cases were reported worldwide, a new one-day record. Almost half of the new cases are in the Americas.

Just ahead of Trump’s campaign rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma scheduled for tomorrow night, the state reported a surge in new Novel Coronavirus cases. Yesterday (Thursday) 450 new cases in a single day were reported, which outdistanced the previous one day total 259 by nearly 200. Tulsa had 82 new cases and Oklahoma City saw an increase of 80 cases.

Despite this and warnings from public health officials, Trump is forging ahead with the rally. In do so, he also adds fuel to the country’s other pandemic – racism and discrimination. There are protests planned for the rally and Trump has responded by saying that:

“Any protesters, anarchists, agitators, looters or lowlifes who are going to Oklahoma please understand, you will not be treated like you have been in New York, Seattle, or Minneapolis,” 

Trump, USA Today, June 19, 2020

When you read the full article, be sure to read the response to this threat by William Kristol, former editor of The Weekly Standard.

God help us all. God save us from the Stupid (having or showing a great lack of common sense) and the Ignorant (lacking knowledge, information, or awareness about a particular thing.)


salsa friday

One of our favorite performers is Carlos Vives, who, like Clemencia, is a native Colombian. Anytime he has been on tour in the DC area over the past several years, we’ve been in the audience. Of course, live shows may not be around for a while so we are becoming content with recorded music and music videos. Carlos Vives is best known for the revival of villanato, a nearly lost style of Colombian folk music. Don’t imagine it to be anything like American “roots” folk music. In this recent release, Vives is performing with Rubén Blades a very danceable salsa. Enjoy! It’s a great way to dance into the weekend!


chickenman – episode 63

The Hummer, the Crowned Prince of Wordless Silly Songs, is still on the loose. The Winged Warrior is hot on the trail…kind of…if he can only get into his chicken suit.


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 17, 2020 – Dave Chappelle’s 8:46

Today is Wednesday, June 17, and today is Eat Your Vegetables Day. You’ll remember, of course, yesterday was Fresh Veggies Day, so it only seems fitting. I’m happy to report that I am eating my veggies. Clemencia and I love homemade soup and she made a wonderful batch of fresh veggies soup this morning. Tasty indeed!


Chickenman – episode 61

Chickenman – whom we assume is still enroute to see his grandmother with a basket of food and copy of TV Guide – is being called upon to deal with The Hummer.


Dave chappelle – 8:46

I’m going to do something very different with today’s Daily Drivel. I’m going to rescue you from reading but ask that you take a few minutes to watch the video below.

Dave Chappelle is a comedian who is known for comedy which is also commentary on the current moment. His language can be offensive and very rough, so please be advised. His observations, though, are often spot on. He also has a gift for helping people see more clearly, which I believe he is exercising in this performance.

If you are unfamiliar with Chappelle and watch this video, you will see a very raw and brief show (under 30 minutes). You may, therefore, be surprised to know that he has made at least one decision on the basis of his personal ethics and principles. It was a decision that cost him in excess of $50 million dollars per year and also put his career at risk. In this video, you get a sense of the risks he takes with his material and the power of his commentary. You also learn in this video who it is that might have informed his moral and ethical compass.

Before you watch the video, though, I recommend you read this brief New York Times article about it. As the article points out, there are three key references in the video that it will be useful to have in advance for context.

This video was released on June 12, 2020 – five days ago. Already it has nearly 23 million views. It is going to have a whole lot more.

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 13, 2020 – Privilege Mixed with Power

Today is Saturday, June 12, 2020, Sewing Machine Day! Sewing machines originated in France in the 1830’s and were patented in the U.S. in 1846. Before sewing machines, all clothing was hand stitched. For this reason, they were an amazing, time-saving invention. If Clemencia’s mask-making is any indication, sewing machines have been getting much more use since late March than they’ve gotten in a long time.

Privilege Mixed with Power

Yesterday I wrote about Kennedy Mitchum, the recent Drake University graduate who convinced the editors at Merriam-Webster to change the definition of “racism” in their dictionary. She has been doing a lot of interviews since the story broke. You can watch or listen to several of them here: WBUR, KMOV, CNN, New York Times, The Guardian, BBC, Good Morning America, MSNBC, and more. I have included the interview from MSNBC in this post because it was the most exhaustive and substantive of those I’ve already listed.

The phrase that Kennedy used in her interview with The Des Moines Register (reprinted in The Burlington Hawk Eye) to define systemic racism is “privilege mixed with power.” I’ve been ruminating on that phrase ever since I first saw it yesterday.

It is an elegant definition that really packs a punch. At an individual level any person can feel a sense of privilege. We’ve all run into those folks, right? They are the ones who park in the handicap spaces without a tag or in the space in front of the store marked “do not park” because they “are only going to be there a moment.” They are the ones who use money to buy their kids’ education at a university with a “good name.” At the individual level, any person, regardless of race, ethnicity, status, religion, gender, etc. can demonstrate a sense of privilege.

However, unless they have power, they cannot make their privilege “the way we do things here” (institutionalization or enculturation). That is what makes systemic racism so dangerous. It is what makes Kennedy’s definition so important. Systemic racism is when people, on the basis of their race, have privilege and they also have the power to institutionalize their privilege. Hence, systemc racism is “privilege mixed with power.”

That brings us to the issue of white privilege. In American society it is very hard to deny white privilege. Actually, the evidence is so overwhelming it is rationally impossible, though that doesn’t prevent some people from trying. Historically, being white in America has not only meant privilege, it has also meant that we’ve had the power. What Kennedy’s definition does is remind us that that is a dangerous combination. As white people with privilege and power, we can create a system that prefers us over any other group. This is exactly what we have done. We’ve created a system, based on our white privilege and our positions of power, that prefers our race over any other in the country. Hence, systemic racism. We built the system, we own it, and it is badly broken. It is past time to tear it down.

Maggi, a regular reader from Pennsylvania, sent me an article from Sojourner’s magazine that I want to quote here and also encourage you to read. The article is an interview by Rev. Romal J. Tune (a black minister) of Father Richard Rohr (a white contemplative Franciscan). I was introduced to the work of Richard Rohr by a colleague in Florida a few months ago. Since that time I’ve been receiving his Daily Meditation from the Center for Action and Contemplation (this link will take you to a page where you can sign up for it as well). In this interview, Rev. Tune talks with Father Rohr about the issue of white privilege. The first quote I want to share is Rohr’s definition of white privilege:

White privilege is largely hidden from our eyes if we are white. Why? Because it is structural instead of psychological, and we tend to interpret most things in personal, individual, and psychological ways. Since we do not consciously have racist attitudes or overt racist behavior, we kindly judge ourselves to be open minded, egalitarian, “liberal,” and therefore surely not racist. Because we have never been on the other side, we largely do not recognize the structural access, the trust we think we deserve, the assumption that we always belong and do not have to earn our belonging, the “we set the tone” mood that we white folks live inside of — and take totally for granted and even naturally deserved. Only the outsider can spot all these attitudes in us. It is especially hidden in countries and all groupings where white people are the majority.

Father Richard Rohr

What it is important for us to take away from this definition is that we white folks cannot see our own white privilege, at least not to the degree that we can fully understand it. We need others, looking at us from the outside, to help us see what we cannot. This, of course, reminds me of the Johari Window.

Adapted from: Luft, J. & Ingham, H. (1955). “The Johari window, a graphic model of interpersonal awareness”. Proceedings of the Western Training Laboratory in Group Development. Los Angeles: University of California, Los Angeles.

The Johari Window helps us understand that there is an aspect of ourselves about which we are “blind.” We just cannot see it. We are dependent on others to help us see that which we cannot see. Ideally, we are self-aware enough to ask others to tell us what we don’t see. When we aren’t so self-aware, they may have to tell us for our own good what we are unwilling to see. This is the function of protests and movements – they help us see what we need to see but cannot or will not.

The “unknown” part of our lives are a bit more challenging for us to explore. Typically, it requires us to consider other’s observations of ourself alongside our own self-discovery. Rohr offers an insight about how that self-discovery can occur:

Some form of contemplative practice is the only way (apart from great love and great suffering) to rewire people’s minds and hearts. It is the only form of prayer that dips into the unconscious and changes people at deep levels — where all of the wounds, angers, and recognitions lie hidden. Prayer that is too verbal, too social, too external, too heady never changes people at the level where they really need to change. Only some form of prayer of quiet changes people for good and for others in any long term way. It sustains and deepens the short term wisdom we learn in great love and great suffering. Forgive me for making that an absolute statement, but I believe it from years of working with people.

Richard Rohr

Kennedy Mitchum’s elegant turn of phrase, “privilege mixed with power” has been a focal point of contemplation for me this week. It has helped me understand more clearly the meaning of systemic racism. It has helped me more clearly understand, too, how my white privilege has contributed to that system.


the view from jeff

Jeff explains: I am usually good with the WFA (work from anywhere) set up, so I took my gear with me on a quick run to see my parents after restrictions were loosened… but none of the usual spaces (university, coffee shops, etc) are set up for working out of.

chickenman – episode 57

Well…this is a stranger than usual episode of Chickenman. It finds him turning down the Police Commissioner’s cry for help to deliver a basket of food to his grandmother in the woods. A noble undertaking to be sure but…what…?


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