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 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

June 12, 2020 – Who is Antifa?

Today is Friday, June 12, 2020 also known as National Jerky Day. Yes, it is a day to celebrate that chewy, severe-halitosis-creating tasty treat of dried meat. It is a fairly new “holiday,” created in 2012 by the Jack Links Beef Jerky company which is in full celebration mode. Interesting factoid: Jerky is an ancient food that has been around for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. However, it was not until 1996 that it became a space food for astronauts. Finally, the astronauts have something they wash down with all that Tang.


who is antifa? (or, do you really know what your grannies are up to?)

The Washington Post had a fascinating article this week that I’ve been reflecting on for two days now. It is titled Know the Signs: How to Tell if Your Grandparent has Become an Antifa Agent. I’ve been studying the signs very carefully and have finally arrived at this conclusion: I must be an Antifa agent. I thought I qualified simply because I’m anti-fascist but that doesn’t matter much according to list of tell-tale signs.

For a while I thought I was the lone Antifa agent in our house then I saw this:

Gathers with loose-knit, disorderly group of figures you have never met to play “mah-jongg,” governed by mysterious “rule cards” issued annually from a nebulous central authority.

Alexandra Petri, The Washington Post, June 10, 2020

Now I know Clemencia’s secret identity too!


A Haircut!

Today I got my first professional haircut since February 21. That’s it. Just wanted to let you know. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know I tried cutting my own hair in late March with a cordless hair clipper and a handheld mirror. What a stupid idea! I won’t say never again, but before I try that stunt again I’m going to have to be more desperate than I was at that time.


Chickenman – episode 56

The Police Commissioner sends the “emergency chicken” to summon the Winged Warrior to help save the world from the big, bad Diabolical.


News from back home

“Back home” for me is Iowa…you know, one of the mostly square states on a map of the U.S. found in the middle of the country and which appears mostly green when you actually fly over it? Somehow I started receiving the digital version of The Burlington Hawk Eye which was the newspaper I grew up reading. For the past several months I’ve been trying to read the paper to keep up with news from there. Plus I’ve always loved the Sunday comics section of the paper.

In today’s Hawk Eye there were two articles which illustrate so well the juxtaposition of ideologies in Iowa today. The first is an article about a move by the majority party (Republicans) in the Iowa Senate to restrict the use of mail-in ballots for the Presidential election in November.

I know. When we talk politics in Iowa you think of the notoriously racist Steve King who, thankfully, lost and won’t be on the ballot for the Republicans next Fall. And, of course, you think about the terribly botched Democratic caucuses last January. However, Iowa also holds primaries. Now, unfortunately, you may have a third befuddling faux pas to add to the list.

In preparation for the June 2nd primary, Secretary of State Paul Pate (Republican) mailed absentee ballot request forms to all registered voters in the state in an effort to keep voters and poll workers safe in the midst of the pandemic. Please note, he did not send them absentee ballots, only the request forms, which they would still have to complete, find a stamp, and mail back. Pate’s good work resulted in a record-setting 80% of all votes cast were by absentee ballot.

“My goal was to protect Iowa voters and poll workers while finding ways to conduct a clean and fair election,” Pate, a Republican, said in a statement sent to the Des Moines Register last week. “… I stand by my decisions.”

Paul Pate, Iowa Secretary of State

For this, Mr. Pate deserves a medal for keeping democracy alive in the midst of a public health crisis. So what did he get for his effort?

The Republican legislature decided to pass a law that now prevents him from sending any absentee ballot for the November election unless voters first request it on their own initiative. But wait…there’s more…the bill prevents county auditors from decreasing the number of polling places by more than 35% which some counties did to decrease the risk of spreading COVID-19. And even more…this bill was a 30 page amendment attached to a bill that was only one page in length. Ironically, I could find no evidence in the story that Republicans raised an objection to the most obvious drawback of proactively sending request forms to all voters: the cost of postage. Hey, aren’t they supposed to be the fiscally responsible ones?

Democrats in the Iowa Legislature are now accusing the Republicans of trying to suppress the vote. If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck…

One step forward: getting rid of Steve King. Two steps back: Make it more difficult for people to vote.

On the other hand, there is Kennedy Mitchum, a May 2020 graduate of Drake University (one of my alma maters). When she saw the video of George Floyd’s murder she was compelled to act on a matter that had been bothering her for sometime. As a public relations major, with special studies in law, politics, and society, she had been in numerous debates with other students where Merriam-Webster’s definition of racism had been used to defend negative behaviors.

Believing the dictionary did not have a significantly robust definition of racism, she wrote the editor. Her goal was to encourage Merriam-Webster to expand its current defintion of racism to include systemic elements of racism that oppress minorities.

“I just stated my claim that it’s not just prejudice, it’s prejudice mixed with power,” she said.

Kennedy Mitchum

She very quickly received a response from editor Alex Chambers, triggering several email exchanges. In the end Merriam-Webster agreed that the expansion of the definition was needed. Mr. Chambers indicated to Ms. Mitchum that a revision of the definition for “racism,” based on her feedback, will be forthcoming in the next few months.

Thank you, Kennedy, for two steps forward. You did both Missouri (your home state) and Iowa proud! (To learn more about Kennedy, check out this CNN story.)


PRIVILEGE ILLUSTRATED

A blogger I follow daily is Seth Godin, an entrepreneur, author, and former dot.com executive. In fact, Godin inspired me to try this daily blog thing. His blogs are usually very short and quite pithy, unlike mine which tend to be long and drivelous.

You can sign up to follow his blog by following the link below the quote. And, of course, you can also sign up to follow this blog where it is says Follow Blog Via Email in the upper right hand corner of this page. 🙂 If you sign up for Seth’s blog and mine, we’ll both send you an email to let you know we’ve posted a blog.

Seth Godin’s blog this morning got my attention for how it explains and illustrates the concept of privilege.

I didn’t spend any time yesterday worrying about being eaten by a grizzly bear. Or that I would get cholera from the water in my house.

Over time, we’ve built layers of insulation between ourselves and the world.

Shoes make it easier to walk around. We can put one foot in front of the other without constantly scanning for rocks or rusty nails.

This invisible insulation is a form of civilization.

And when it’s unevenly available, it becomes privilege. Just as invisible sometimes, but to make things better, we need to look at it and realize that it’s there and do something.

If other people have shoes, it doesn’t make your shoes less functional. But if they don’t have shoes, then everything else they contribute (to you, to me, to everyone) is going to be different.

We’ve done a shameful job of offering insulation to far too many people. Access to health care. Clean water. Good schools. Freedom of fear from state violence. And the benefit of the doubt, which is easy to overlook. Because it all adds up, every day, for generations.

It’s almost impossible to make a list of all the things I didn’t have to worry about yesterday. We need to work overtime to make that true for more people.

Seth Godin, June 12, 2020 – Invisible Insulation

The Passing of the Shakespeare Lady

Earlier today we registered nearly 115,000 deaths from COVID-19 in the United States. Many news outlets tell us about the famous people who have died of the disease. Some even try to make us aware of the not-so-famous who were still important to their families and colleagues.

Today I read the obiturary of a woman who died from complications of COVID-19 who was one of those marginalized members of our society. I won’t repeat the story here because I think you will want to read it for yourself. As with most obituaries, it is a quick read: Margaret Holloway, the ‘Shakespeare Lady’ of New Haven, Dies at 68.


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 11, 2020 – Speaking of Creepy Things…

Today is Thursday, June 11, 2020, also known as, National Corn on the Cob Day. There is no more fitting day for a guy from Iowa than this one! June seems a bit early for a celebration of corn on the cob (it usually isn’t ready for picking and eating until August). Still, any day is a good day for corn on the cob when you can get it…especially if it is fresh picked.


in praise of corn on the cob and small family farms

The ugliest worm in the world…especially if you’ve got to pick it off the tomato plant to get to the tomato.

As a kid, I don’t think I ever ate corn on the cob that wasn’t fresh picked from the garden. It was a staple in our family garden and a wonderful summer treat. We had a very large garden. It was a lot of work but it yielded most of our vegetables for the winter once they were canned. I remember there were lots of tomato plants, cabbage, rows of leafy lettuce, potatoes, carrots, green beans, rhubarb, and strawberries. Unfortunately, I also remember tomato worms. They still creep me out.

In those days my family rarely went to grocery stores, except to get flour, sugar, spices, and coffee. Our hogs, cattle, chickens, geese, goats, sheep, and garden provided everything else.

That is what it was like to live on a small Midwestern family farm in that era. We produced enough to feed ourselves and any extra was shared with neighbors. In the case of eggs and cream, they could be sold for a little extra cash.

The shifting of the U.S. economy from agrarian to industrial meant a lot of changes. Farms were industrialized too with the introduction of corporate farming. Small family farms couldn’t compete. As a result many disappeared and others became part of a corporate farm. A few, with a little help from some pretty big loans, simply became corporate farms.

Our journey to the grocery store yesterday, for the first time since March, was striking because of the absence of many items. As the pandemic wears on, my fear is that we will continue to see a growing shortage of groceries and an escalation in price. Part of the shortage is related to over-production on coroporate farms. The “just in time” corporate supply chain of farm to table is dependent on that chain remaining unbroken. When it breaks, as it did this Spring, the corporate farms can suddenly have too much product on their hands that they can’t move even if they could sell it. As a result, they end up dumping milk, euthanizing animals, and plowing under fields of vegetables and fruit. At the same time, thousands, if not millions, across the country are food insecure and going hungry.

It is unlikely that small family farms could have managed to meet the demand brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic any better than the corporate farms of today. However, small family farming operates under a different spirit that says we’ll not only feed ourselves, but we’ll make sure our neighbors have food too. This “can do” spirit seems absent in corporate farming except in a few exceptional cases.

Can we see a few more of those exceptional corporate farmers step up, please? People, including children, are getting hungry out here.


speaking of creepy things…

TravelFuntu! just appeared in my Twitter feed today with an absolutely irresistible promise, The Most Terrifying Images Captured by A Drone. When you navigate to the site, you find a slightly different title that has a mild calming effect, Scary Images Captured by Drone. Twitter did oversell the images but they are scary, especially as you consider what was happening in may of the photos that people in them just didn’t see. I also found the photos mesmerizing and meditative. You’ll do a lot of scrolling to see each of the photos but it is worth it. Let me know what you think.


Chickenman – Episode 55

Chickenman is duped into joining a protest against the Midland City Library, conveniently located across the street from the Police Commissioner’s office.


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 9, 2020 – Now, What’s Next?

Today is Tuesday, June 9, 2020 and truly one of my favorite days – Strawberry Rhubarb Pie Day! Strawberry Rhubarb pie is the perfect blend of tart and sweet. Today is also the anniversary of the debut of Donald Duck in 1934. Donald Duck is one of my least favorite of the Disney characters. Maybe because he is just mostly tart.


chickenman – episode 53

Chickenman makes an appearance on the Wallace Helium radio show…no relation to Winthrop Dykstra-Baum.


now, what’s next?

As I’m writing this the funeral service for George Floyd is being broadcast live from a church in Houston, Texas. In fact, it is being carried by all major broadcast networks and a few cable networks too. I am glad that so many are joining in the memorial and celebration of his life. I’m glad for Mr. Floyd that his body is finally being allowed to join his spirit in the afterlife.

Now that Mr. Floyd is being allowed to rest in peace, what’s next?

In 1978 a little Friends Church in rural Iowa was gracious enough to give a 24-year-old with, only and just barely, a high school education, the opportunity to serve as minister to the church. The people of that church were wonderfully patient and incredibly forgiving of me. They taught me far more about friendship, patience, grace and myself than I ever taught them about anything.

In that role I preached sermons on Sunday, visited members and attenders throughout the week, and performed weddings and funerals in between. One thing I learned about doing weddings was that I did not prefer them.

One thing I learned about funerals was that I was comfortable in the presence of death and grief. Was that because I had worked as a teen in cemeteries with my dad as a groundskeeper and grave digger? Maybe but who knows? Whatever the reason, I preferred funerals over weddings.

Serving that little church for three years I was honored to be with several people at the time of death. Each time it felt as though I was in a very sacred place with the person and their loved ones. It was not scary, it was not horrible, it just was. I know. Not every death is like that, but I wish every death were.

For George Floyd the time of death was scary, horrible, and shouldn’t have ever been. I wish I could unsee the last moments of Mr. Floyd’s life, but I cannot. It was nothing like anything I’ve ever seen before in real time, up close. I cannot unsee it and I should never unsee it.

Just a few minutes ago in the service for Mr. Floyd, Rev. Mary White offered a prayer in the funeral service. One line of that prayer grabbed me. I won’t get it exactly right here but the gist of it was this: “When George cried out for his mama, every mama heard his cry.” Truth. It explains, in part, why this man’s death is so different and why the response to it has been so overwhelming and powerful.

Another thing I learned about funerals is that they are for the living, not the dead. Mr. Floyd is out of his pain now and has moved into the presence of his God and his mother again. Funerals recognize and embrace the pain of those left behind. They provide a means for those left behind to release their grief and to finally release their loved one. Sometimes the death of a loved one results in a change for individual survivors.

At the individual level, the loss of a loved one can profoundly change us. We may become more attentive to our own health, we may turn more intentionally to spiritual things, we may make profound changes in our relationships, or we may “step up” in ways that we never did before. As an individual, I’ve experienced change as a result of loss. I’ve also witnessed individual change like this in others.

I am less convinced that the death of one person, no matter how horrific, will change whole groups, including communities, states, and nations. When it comes to Mr. Floyd’s death and the meaning it could have to our society and world, I want to be convinced and have my doubt erased.

The death of George Floyd changes our country and our world only if it also changes us as individuals. As Rev. White noted, when George Floyd cried out to his mama, it changed mama’s everywhere. It also changed a few papas…including me.

Have enough mamas and papas, brothers and sisters, aunties and uncles, sons and daughters been changed? Please, God, let it be so that the answer “Now, what’s next?” becomes plain for all to see. Then George Floyd will have truly changed the world.

The George Floyd mural outside Cup Foods at Chicago Ave and E 38th St in Minneapolis, Minnesota – Photo by Lorie Shaull

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

Tom