July 8, 2020 – Hard Truths

hard truths

Next week Mary L. Trump speaks some hard truth. On July 14th her book about her uncle, Donald Trump, comes out. Reporting by the New York Times, the Washington Post, and others reveals that it will be the story of her uncle as an incredibly wounded, psychologically damaged and impaired person, whose psychopathology is endangering us all.

This should not really be a surprise to anyone who has, even a little, objectively observed Trump prior to his presidency and since assuming the office in 2017. It is a very dangerous book for Donald Trump because Mary tells hard truth about him that helps us understand some of the other hard truths others have been sharing in their “tell all” books. What gives this book some greater credibility over the others is that 1) Mary was an insider in the Trump clan and 2) she is a clinical psychologist.

Honestly, I won’t giddily read the book looking for salicious, condemning new bits of information about Donald Trump. We already know as much as we need to know about Trump to make a clear headed judgment about his fitness for leadership.

I expect to feel pity and sadness for both Donald Trump and Mary Trump as I read the book.

Both are victims of a highly dysfunctional family and have come through many Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). I know. That sounds very judgmental, doesn’t it? It is an assessment I can fairly and compassionately make because I also come from a highly dysfunctional family and have a number of ACEs, too. A bit of “It takes one to know one,” plus I was also trained as a therapist and worked with numerous clients who had experienced early childhood trauma.

Donald Trump uses bravado, hubris, and mistruth to feel like a worthy person. I expect this book will make that clearer than ever. Mary Trump is also deeply wounded. She strikes me as a person who needs to write this book as part of her own healing and recovery. It is also an attempt to save others.

I can empathize with both. Like Donald Trump I have felt incredibly insecure and have resorted to the same strategies. I have also been wounded like Mary Trump and felt a need to stake my claim to recovery and save others.

If Your Parent Drinks Too Much was my “tell-all” book in the 1980’s. It didn’t sell nearly as many copies as Mary Trump’s book will, but it did okay. It was nominated for a national book award, won a minor book award, and was translated into German and published in Europe. I didn’t write it as a tell-all book, but that was the impact it had on my family, particularly my sisters.

The book focused on lessons learned from growing up with a severely alcoholic father and a chronically angry mother who resented the presence of her children because they “trapped” her in a marriage she did not want. I did not intentionally tell stories on my family though there were many that could be told. When my sisters read the book, they read between the lines. They saw things in the book that reminded them of things they thought they had forgotten and which they had never discussed with anyone, including among themselves.

Years later I would learn that on a few occasions my sisters would meet up for a weekend to talk about what they had read and then compare their own stories. Even more years later the four of us sat together in a nursing home where my middle sister was waiting to die. On that day we talked for hours, for the first and only time in our lives, by ourselves. Our parents had passed years before and, now, we could freely talk. We finally had the safety to speak the hard truth each of us had hidden. We weeped together, affirmed our love for one another, and healed a little bit more.

Stories like those I told, and which I believe Mary Trump will tell, can make a difference because they speak hard truths which are also often hidden from view. They can be so hard, in fact, that they can be hidden from our conscious self as well. Mary Trump’s book may give Donald Trump the same opportunity it gives her – to heal. I won’t be voting for Trump in the Fall, but I will be hoping he allows this book to move him to experience the healing he so badly needs, and which we all need for him to experience.


a moment of sweetness

This Tweet appeared in my feed recently. It features a serendipitous experience for a young girl in a park. I won’t give the story away but I hope you will take a minute to watch it. I think it will make you smile.


chickenman – episode 78

The Police Commissioner orders the arrest of his own brother, a rum runner. This episode features some great one line zingers from Ms. Helfinger!


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

Tom

July 6, 2020 – An Untold Grief

in the words of frederick douglass

On July 5, 1852 Frederick Douglass delivered a speech in Rochester, New York titled What to the Slave is the Fourth of July? This year National Public Radio gathered several descendants of Frederick Douglass and asked them to read excerpts of his famous speech. Below the video you can download an abridged version of the speech.

Yesterday, in Rochester, New York, on July 5, 2020, a statue of Douglass commemorating the speech was ripped off its pedestal.

The problem with statues is that they are never an adequate representation of the person they are intended to memorialize. A statue tends to hide the facts of the person’s life and words – whether good, bad, or just plain ugly. Words must be tested by deeds over time, but they are still a better memorial than any inanimate object.


An untold Grief

An untold grief hangs in the air. We inhale it even as we try to avoid inhaling the Novel Coranavirus. There is no mask known to protect us from it. It surrounds us, it permeates us, and it defines us in this moment. A grief that cannot be expressed with words – an untold grief – is the most painful of all.

The untold grief is not the same for everyone.

  • For some it is the grief of both individual and systemtic oppression and victimization at the hands of the majority.
  • For some it is the grief of losing a loved one to an endless war in far off lands, especially now that it seems a bounty may have been placed on their lives while our country’s leaders failed to notice or whose silence was complicity.
  • For some it is the grief of losing someone to COVID-19 compounded by the grief of not being allowed to be present and to say good-bye.
  • For some it is the grief of so many losses during the pandemic – a social life, a job or career, simple human contact.
  • For some it is the grief of watching the American ideals of freedom, justice, and equality subverted by their perverse articulation by Trump.

Lincoln affirmed the ideals of America — freedom, justice, equality for all — and the personal ideals of honesty, integrity, command of facts, common sense and service to a greater good.

Dan Rodricks, American Ideal: What We Were Told, What We Learned, Why We Vote, November 5, 2018
The Scream, by Edvard Munch, 1893

While the origins and causes of our untold grief may be different, it is a collective grief that can only be expressed in a collective scream. I believe this is what I was hearing throughout the holiday weekend. I could hear it over the very few celebrations I witnessed around our home, the fireworks, the flyovers, and the hateful rhetoric of Trump. Our collective scream is low and barely audible but it is growing. Soon it will be a deafening roar and there will be no way to silence it, placate it, or ignore it.

What will that sound like? What will it mean? I wish I knew. Do you know?


the view from jeff

Jeff Explains: Had a bunch of online meetings and classes today. Didn’t feel like wearing my designated zoom shirt… but also didn’t want to iron a new shirt. I remember my Grandpa had a few of those fake turtleneck units that you tuck under your shirt!! Wish I had a couple myself.

chickenman – episode 76

Chickenman offers assistance to a swimmer, who is en route to Paris, on his Trans-Atlantic flight.


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 29, 2020 – Trauma & Organizational Culture

Today is Monday, June 29, 2020 and Hug Holiday Day. This day is designed to encourage people to give hugs to others who need them. It was obviously created before the COVID-19 pandemic. Hugs are great, but not for now. Save the real hug for after we get through the pandemic. Instead, mark the day by giving virtual hugs to people who need them. You can do this by giving them a call, sending them a note, or planning a Zoom meeting with them…unless they are totally exhausted from Zooming already. In which case, give them a hug by NOT inviting them to Zoom.


traumatic disruption and organizational culture

How does an organizational trauma impact it’s culture? This is the focus of another segment of my nearly hour long interview with Lamar Roth, Director of Human Resources at Excel Industries. In the brief conversation below, we talk about how the culture of Excel Industries was impacted by two major traumas. The first was in February 2016 when a gunman entered Excel Industries and began shooting his co-workers. Four employees, including the gunman, died.

The second began in March of this year when the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States. In the full interview Lamar talks about ways the two traumas are similar and how they are different. He also describes how the lessons learned in the active shooter experience informed and helped prepare the company to deal with the pandemic.

This 6 minute, 54 second video focuses on the impact of traumatic disruption on the culture of Excel Industries. The full 56-minute video, Leading Through Traumatic and Disruptive Events: A Conversation with Lamar Roth, includes many more insights and recommendations for organizations also dealing with COVID-19.


who will we be?

The word “existential” is defined as “concerned with existence, especially human existence.” Hence, it refers to how we are to be as humans. Who are we? Who will we become?

In barely four months we will have to answer these questions. The next general election on November 3rd is shaping up to be about more than a choice between two old White guys sitting in the Oval Office. The question we have to answer, first as individuals and then as a country, is far more existential than that. Our vote will be an expression of who we wish to be and what we want the country to become.

Okay, that’s it for now. I thought I had a fully baked thought to share on this today, but I don’t. It is still half baked so I’m going to come back to it, I hope, in the future. In the meantime, I’m going to sit with my thoughts about what I want our country to become. I invite you to do the same.


some days, it’s all just too much

I’m realizing that I’m feeling incredibly overwhelmed at the moment. The news today has been devastating. Is it possible that Trump’s love affair with Putin really has caused him to hide his eyes from seeing that American soldiers have died in Afghanistan with a Russian bounty on their heads? Add to this that COVID-19 still has the U.S. in its grip.

Today we have rounded the corner on 125,000 deaths from COVID-19 in the U.S. and we are headed toward 130,000 in a few days. If nothing changes in the behavior of Americans, the death toll could be at nearly 180,000 by October 1. Even worse, if Stupid people and Ignorant policies win the day, that projection rises to a higher level. At this point, the U.S., which has prided itself in setting an example for the world on all things (not that we are arrogant or anything) is now an example of what NOT to do with regard to COVID-19. To make matters worse, word comes today that the Novel Coronavirus has mutated and scientists are rushing to figure out what the “G variant” means for us.

One bit of good news, Pence has finally said that wearing a mask is a good idea. Seems too little, too late but at least he said it and he occasionally wears one. For Trump, the only hope is a bit of advice from Randy Rainbow.


chickenman – episode 72

Chickenman attempts to fly to Europe. You can only imagine how that turns out. Yes, that’s right.


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 23, 2020 – False Alarm or An Alert?

Today is June 23, 2020 and International Fairy (or Faery) Day. This is a day set aside by some to honor fairies, the best known of which in the US, is the Tooth Fairy. The website Historic-UK.com has an interesting article on the origin of fairies you might enjoy as part of your International Fairy Day celebration! By the way, did you know that Tooth Fairy is related to Chickenman?


false alarm? no. an alert to implicit bias

The FBI concluded that there was no noose left in the garage of NASCAR’s only Black driver, Bubba Wallace, at the Talledega Superspeedway last weekend. Except that there was (see photo below). However, according to the FBI, it has been there since at least last October. NASCAR says that it could not have been known that Wallace’s car would have been assigned that garage prior to the race.

Source: CNN.com

Let’s think through this a minute…

  • There is no evidence that a noose was intentionally left in Wallace’s garage prior to this past weekend’s GEICO 500. Got it! No intention, therefore, no explicit hate crime.
  • Still, someone tied the garage door pull in the photo above in such a way to make it appear very much as a noose and the FBI’s report actually characterized the knot as a noose. Got it! So there was a noose.
  • The garage assignment system at NASCAR appears to be random therefore it couldn’t have been known in advance that Wallace would be assigned that garage. Got it! No ill intent on NASCAR’s part.

So what can we conclude from the facts? NASCAR still has a long, long way to go to become anti-racist. I assume before and after speedway events the Talledega Speedway work crews prepare, clean, and inspect garages. Why wasn’t the noose noticed and reported during one of these routine actions? Even better, why wasn’t it untied or simply cut off by a worker? The answers seem pretty clear: NASCAR, like so many other White American institutions is blinded by it own implicit bias. The racism has been so much a part of its culture that it doesn’t see when it is being racist. I applaud NASCAR for the strides it has made, including the show of support for Wallace prior to Monday’s race. However, those are only first steps in a sports culture that still has serious problems with racism.

It is reasonable to expect that any individual or organization, like NASCAR, that is growing in its understanding of racism in America learns of the powerful negative symbolism of the noose. I hope NASCAR is experiencing those growing pains now. Even more, I hope it is making their facilities both noose and Confederate flag free zones. If they don’t, I expect we’ll see a few nooses show up in the stands at the next NASCAR race.

Unfortunately, Bubba Wallace is catching grief over all of this. In a CNN interview he reported that some people were questioning his character and integrity over the incident. What seems to be missing by some people are the facts. Wallace did not discover the noose nor did he report the noose. He learned about it from the president of NASCAR Steve Phelps in a personal meeting that Phelps called.

Some reporting has downplayed the incident by describing the noose as just a garage door pull. However, the FBI’s report described the knot as a noose and the photo above clearly shows the pull cord tied as a noose.

Still, Wallace is catching the grief over the incident. Among other things, there is a constant flow on Twitter from about the whole thing being a hoax. The only problem with that are the facts but, of course, Stupid people don’t let facts get in the way. Wallace himself did a pretty good job of stating just the facts last night on CNN:

“It was a noose,” Wallace said. “Whether tied in 2019 or whatever, it was a noose. So, it wasn’t directed at me but somebody tied a noose. That’s what I’m saying.”

Bubba Wallace with Don Lemon, June 23, 2020, on CNN.

The arc of change is a slow. Let’s see if NASCAR has the courage to stay on it.


leading through traumatic and disruptive events: A Conversation with Lamar Roth

Join Lamar Roth MA, SHRM-SCP and me for a conversation on leading an organization through a period of trauma and disruption. In this video production from Tenacious Change LLC, Lamar and I explore what it means to be a resilient organization in the face of sudden, deadly disruption. We talk about the lessons learned by Lamar and Excel Industries and how they might apply to nonprofit and public agency leaders and their organizations. We begin our conversation with a very specific disruption.

As Lamar Roth was leaving his office for the day on February 25, 2016, Police Chief Doug Schroeder abruptly pulled up and stopped behind Lamar’s pickup truck, blocking him from leaving. As Lamar was about to ask him why he was parked behind him, Schroeder reached into the backseat of his patrol car, pulled out a rifle, and strode without speaking to the door at Excel Industries. The same door Lamar had only moments before exited.

Then Lamar heard the gunfire from inside the building.

Over the next several minutes a gunman would fire randomly at the more than 400 people in the lawnmower plant using a semi-automatic assault rifle and an automatic pistol. By the time Chief Schroeder was able to confront the gunman and stop the shooting, two community members and twelve Excel employees were wounded. Four employees, including the gunman who was also an employee, were dead.

Lamar Roth was then, and still is, the Director of Human Resources at Excel Industries in Hesston, Kansas. Lamar and the company’s attorney carried much of the load in helping the company recover in the shooting’s aftermath.

Lamar has discovered work in the time of COVID-19 is a lot like work in the days, weeks, and months following the shootings. In fact, the lessons learned from that traumatic event in 2016 are helping him navigate the traumatic period of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The six-minute excerpt below is from the full 56 minute conversation. The entire conversation is available here at the Tenacious Change LLC YouTube channel.

Watch the full 56 minute interview on Tenacious Change LLC’s YouTube channel at Leading Through Traumatic and Disruptive Events: A Conversation with Lamar Roth.

Chickenman – Episode 67

The Fabulous Feathered Weekend Warrior has made an arrest. He has brought in the Hummer for prosecution. All is good in Midland City again…or is it?


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 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