A picture is worth a thousand words.

Some pictures tell thousands of stories.  

Yesterday I experienced a profound, overwhelming and visceral grief while visiting an outdoor art installation here in DC. 

Suzanne Brennan Firstenberg’s installation “In America How Could This Happen…” plants a small white flag for every person who has died of Covid-19 in the US.

Relatives can write names of loved ones on the flag, or Firstenberg will do it for you.

Walking this awful field in the twilight yesterday I cried and cried for people I never met and their families who I will never know. Flags of multiple family members who died are planted together. It is a devastating physical representation of the ongoing pandemic.

My husband and I stopped to thank the artist as she was diligently walking her installation, re-staking fallen flags and picking up trash that visitors have left. She was grateful that we stopped to visit. She shared how some of the people who have been denied the rituals of grieving are finding some solace by planting a flag and honoring all who died.

We thanked her again.

Art is one of the super powers of civilization. It has the ability to transcend, and to unify, and to speak even more than those thousand words about our humanity.

If you can, visit this art installation before November 30 and let the dead speak.

picture of number of dead from covid-19
The artist updates the number every morning

flag for Kenneth bridewellflag for Terry bridwell

grandpa norman

If we were living in normal times I would’ve been writing about current events on my blog as a way of processing and inviting conversation. Instead I’ve been deliberately silent.

I stayed silent because so many people are strongly and poignantly expressing the collective horror, sadness and outrage that I also feel over the murder of George Floyd and the countless other black men and women dying from injustice.

Because I respect the need to center Black voices in the ongoing struggle against racism, I have retweeted, reposted and amplified to my admittedly small circle.

I am doing what I can, where I can, when I can and I know I can do better. I committed long ago to challenge my biases, to engage other white people around race, to work to dismantle systemic oppression, and to broaden the conversation about DEI.

What’s prompting me to write now is the wave of despair I feel witnessing relentless Calling Out against allies because they are not devoting 100% of their attention to anti-racism 100% of the time.

There is legitimate and undisputed need for anti-black racism to remain in the public awareness through news, social media and active protest.  American citizens habitually lose interest and look away when a tragedy dominates the news cycle for “too long”. So we know that it’s essential that people don’t move on when nothing has yet changed.

But what is gained by Calling Out or shaming an ally for posting on Insta or Twitter about something significant in their life not connected to racism?

I’m not talking about influencers taking a #BLM selfie for product placement, or celebrities making tone-deaf, self-serving public statements, I’m talking about people who have committed to being non-performative advocates and allies willing to own all of their flaws & mistakes along the way.

I know that allyship is in the eye of the beholder, but I fear that so much calling out & attacking will lead to shame and inaction.

It’s a big leap for some folks to even realize that all Black people are not aligned on how white allies should engage.

  • One person says “Remember to check on your Black friends and co-workers” and another person says “Stop performing caring and leave us alone!”.
  • One co-worker says “Stand up for me and speak out”, and another colleague says “Don’t presume to save me or speak for me”.

The conflicting messages are, in fact, the first part of the learning. Feeling uncertainty and discomfort about doing or saying the wrong thing is baseline for personal growth.

Calling someone out is easy on Twitter/Insta/FaceBook. Calling someone In is harder and takes more time. It’s that same immediacy that causes us to withhold the grace for others mistakes that we often have in person.

Our society appears to be increasingly susceptible to polarization and absolutes rather than nuance. This is nowhere more apparent than on the internet where “with us or against us” is now signaled by a persons willingness to wear a mask during a pandemic.

The calls for justice for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and others, criminal justice reform, and defunding police/refunding the community have caused some people on social media to adopt a “with us or against us” attitude toward posting.

Some folks are viewing any deviation from anti-racist content on social media as grounds for attacking the sincerity of the supposed ally’s commitment to anti-racism. That requirement moves allyship from an ongoing process of learning about and taking action against oppression (my definition) to an impossible place of never messing up and never posting about anything other than racism.

That feels like defeat to me.

I know I can’t live up to that measure on social media, in my work or in my life. I don’t abandon my allyship because of fatigue or because as a white cis-gender woman I have the privilege of ignoring racism. But I reserve the right to have the fullness of life – the sorrow and the joy, the horror and the beauty, the serious and the frivolous.

I am single minded in my devotion to working to make the world more compassionate, equitable and just. I am just as single minded in my commitment to my ongoing learning about my own biases, privileges, and blind spots.

Enjoying a cat video or a beautiful garden doesn’t diminish my commitment to Black Lives Matter. Posting on Twitter about PRIDE, or disability rights or Women in STEM doesn’t diminish my commitment anti-racism. Things may slow me down, life events might interfere, but my dedication doesn’t change.

I was thinking of the Emma Goldman quote “If I can’t dance I don’t want to be part of your revolution” as I scrolled through various attacks and subsequent mea culpas social media. We have a framed print by the activist artist Ricardo Levins Morales in our house to remind us of the fullness of life.

We have another print included below that illustrates a quote by the labor activist Rose Schneiderman that I read daily. It is my prayer for the world – that we will all have the right to life, and the sun, and music and art. That we all have bread and roses.

But first we need to find faith in each other and a little grace.

Ricardo Levins Morales illustrates a quote by Rose Schneiderman

 

 

I had an interesting conversation with a Bernie Sanders supporter recently and was treated to a vehement, negative rant about President Obama’s endorsement of Biden.

This person is under 25 and said they will, in fact, vote for Joe Biden despite their deep disappointment and utter lack of faith in the “traditional” political system. That good old practical, incremental political change being peddled by the folks in power is a bitter pill that some are refusing to swallow.

But the open anger with Obama’s message startled me.

I have rarely heard anyone under 25 (in my somewhat limited circle) openly criticize Obama, let alone exhibit such disgust and disappointment with his message. 

Apparently Obama’s choice to only endorse Biden when it was apparent he had the delegates to be the Democratic nominee made some young folks lose respect for him. 

I talked about what I thought the strategy around Obama’s choice of timing meant. How endorsing Biden early would cause people to accuse Obama of trying to influence the race. Or how endorsing anyone other than Biden would automatically sink Biden because it would signal a lack of confidence from his boss.

We went through a few more scenarios and explanations but nothing shook their opinion. The bottom line was that Obama lost respect because the endorsement didn’t feel true. The timing was so strategic and calculated that his endorsement had lost all authenticity.

It no longer mattered. 

When I think of the “leadership moments” so many are experiencing with the Covid-19 pandemic, I can see how choices to focus on controlling the message, the brand, or “the optics” can lead to a loss of authenticity.  Too much time spent plotting strategy like its a chess game can destroy years of social capital and good will.

In addition to the strategy and planning necessary to make decisions and respond to this emergency, it’s clear authenticity and servant leadership are going to be equally important to those impacted.

How will you be an authentic servant leader during this constantly evolving crisis? 

Often people think these kinds of questions are only for those with broad authority like the politicians, industrialists, and corporate executives. But even those without authority have opportunities to lead in some “realm of influence”, even if it’s only ourselves, or with others in our home. 

We have some good examples of servant leadership from politicians (Mike DeWine, Governor of Ohio comes to mind), business owners like Chef José Andrés, and an ongoing litany of groups and individual citizens stepping up when and where they can. 

Those examples of everyday people, celebrities, and local store owners remind us that even in the midst of a pandemic, with chaos and high, (high!) anxiety about the future, we still own our actions. 

It will be interesting to see if Barack Obama can recover the trust he lost and how, if at all, the Biden campaign will incorporate Sanders campaign slogan “Not me. Us” which is an unambiguous call for authentic servant leadership.  

And finally, a Public Service Announcement you may have heard before.

Long ago I decided to openly share my political leanings on my blog and business website.

Mainly because folks who disagree with the work I do are going to assume I’m a bleeding heart liberal  (do people still say that?), or an “elitist”, or a Commie, or a Socialist, or whatever pejorative is au Courant. It’s simpler to be clear.

If you’ve worked with me as a coach, or participated in one of my workshops, you’ve heard some version of my core beliefs:

  • We are all good people doing the best we can – and we can do better.
  • Assume ignorance before malice.
  • To know the good is to do the good.
  • The common good is worth individual commitment.

These are beliefs that inform my thinking and my actions. The language may change depending on the audience, but the guiding principle is static.

Maybe its 6 weeks of isolation, or maybe its my over-dosing on the news, but I am struggling damn hard today to live my values.

The Covid-19 pandemic has intensified behaviors that once upon a time in our society would have been unthinkable. The one that’s getting to me today is the appropriation of the language of civil rights struggles to promote a fringe, anti-quarantine agenda.

It is twisted and cruel.

Some may call it framing or spin, but I fully believe “words create worlds” to paraphrase David Cooperider.  So calling “Stay-at-home rules” a “Lockdown Order” makes space for all kinds of outrage and false equivalence.

Citizens unhappy about actions meant to protect the majority – to which they belong – are posturing as if their civil rights are being trampled. I want to know:

  • Who is marginalized?
  • Who is disenfranchised?
  • Who is being sacrificed because “we” are more important than “them”?

There’s a big difference between believing you are marginalized or disenfranchised, and demonstrated evidence that you, in fact, historically and currently, have fewer rights and less power.

Anti-quarantine rallies have appropriated phrases like “My body, my choice” to support not wearing a mask. The same “choice” that they would withhold for a women’s personal reproduction decisions.

When I say “My body, my choice” I mean I will fight for everyone’s right to make their own reproductive decisions and I won’t interfere with your choice.  Appropriated that phrase means “My choice will be your choice too.”

Anti-quarantine folks equate their “struggle against injustice” and loss of their liberty to shop, dine out, and watch sports, to Rosa Parks’ fight for integration and civil rights after slavery and Jim Crow.

Even though public safety is a common good, not evidence of oppression, anti-quarantine folks are falsely equating pandemic safety measures to actual genocide – to Hitler putting “Jews on trains”.

I support Free Speech because I value my rights enough to fight for your right to express your views even when I find them morally reprehensible. Like the statement about Hitler.

Today I can feel myself struggling to find my balance and grace in the face of the appropriated language and the many inflammatory, falsely equivalent headlines.

So I am reminding myself right now, out loud and in front of you,  “I am a good person doing the best I can, and I know I can do better.”

I know we can all do better.

FDR Memorial, Washington DC

My family has been isolating here in DC since March 12th.

I’m grateful that we’re healthy and able to live our social-distance lives without some of the more serious stresses being experienced by the poor, the disenfranchised, the service workers, the health care workers and the first responders.

Sometimes it’s hard to remember it’s not a competition. We can all put our suffering in perspective on a scale from near death to absolute luxury, but it doesn’t change the fact that each of us are suffering.

Yeah, yeah, first world problems and all that, but shaming folks for feeling lousy about their own personal circumstances doesn’t actually DO anything productive. Except possibly let the shame-er (is that a word?) do a little virtue signaling and feel self-righteous about their social awareness.

In my privileged, bougie life during Week 1 of isolation I did the following:

  • Stared at the bedroom ceiling in paralyzing grief. I do not recommend this as an alternative to sleeping.
    • The grief was and is a combination of the empathy over the struggles my clients are experiencing, my own loss of clients & income from March – September 2020, and the anticipation of what this world event means to a whole generation of young people.
  • Had 1-2 glasses of wine every single evening while telling my husband this is an absolutely acceptable coping mechanism for both of us.
  • Took 4 naps. This may not be a big deal for others but I haven’t napped since the first trimester I was pregnant with my daughter 22 years ago. Since I am not pregnant I’m going to file the napping under depressed escapism.
  • Spent 68% more time reading news on my devices (yes multiple) according to those highly annoying reports they give you each week.
  • Read 7 magazines on the library app Libby.
  • Took a long walk every day with the kid to notice flowers, cute dogs, and interesting architecture.
  • Purchased Fellowship of the Ring movie (extended version)
  • Read good two novels, abandoned one mediocre book.
  • Took turns sharing my office with my husband so we could each make phone & video calls in privacy.
  • Baked bread.

Week 2 had a bit more structure

  • Decided to give away coaching to anyone who needs it (pay-what-you-can). Because being of use to others is more important than money right now.
  • Stared at the computer screen for several scheduled hours a day NOT writing the book I’m working on.
  • Flipped through 3 cooking magazines on the library app.
  • Reached out to clients, family & friends to see how everyone is doing.
  • Read one good novel and abandoned 4 more that the library recommended but were too uninspired to continue.
  • Baked some more bread.
  • Started to do yoga in the mornings with the kid (who is herself adapting to college online)
  • Downloaded three self-help books from the library and started plotting out my much needed self-improvement.
  • Purchased Two Towers movie (extended version)
  • Removed my essentials and gave my husband my office as he is on video calls nonstop at this point. The dining room table is now work-from-home central for both me and the college student.
  • Started converting my professional development workshops and trainings to Webinar format. I’ve resisted this for years for a variety of reasons but that’s another blog post.
  • Scheduled some video appointments with my therapist (Yay me!)

Now we are heading into Week 3 and I am setting my intentions in the hope it will keep me accountable. In week 3 I will:

  1. Write at least 250 words a day. A modest and therefore achievable goal.
  2. Bake the biscotti I have been craving and not judge myself for eating it with my mid-morning coffee.
  3. Create a daily schedule EVERY DAY! and then use it. Several days in the last few weeks are a complete blur which is disturbing.
  4. Do 30 minutes of yoga or other exercise.
  5. Finish the really good book I discovered so I can start the next book in the series.
  6. Resist the urge to check NYT, WaPo, BBC, Reuters, Twitter and FB every hour. Yes resist is a loose goal because I don’t know what my tolerance for this is yet.
  7. Practice using loving kindness when the urge to judge or give in to outrage overwhelms me. Especially when indulging in #5 above.
  8. Find one good thing every day to reflect on before I (hopefully) sleep.
  9. Take melatonin every night because the majority opinion is that its not addictive and what can possibly be bad about being addicted to getting full 6 hours of sleep anyway?
  10. And finally, – maybe I should make this #1? – I will forgive myself if I do not execute on any of my intentions for Week 3.

I hope you and yours are healthy and treating yourself with gentleness.

Hit me up if you want a video chat or need some coaching. That is a serious offer.

an isolated beach in Spain
A beautiful, isolated beach visited last year

 

 

 

 

Anti-Semitism is on the rise. The series of attacks and incidents taking place almost daily over the last several months have been a surprising wake up call for folks who don’t normally pay attention to such things.

I work hard to pay attention by following statistics about hate crimes and white supremacists through the DOJ, SPLC and ADL websites. I also read both extreme left and extreme right rhetoric on Twitter, and as much objective & non-mainstream news as I can manage.

Some days this is hard to take.

I had a really hard day recently when my kid sent me an extemporaneous essay she wrote after talking to her grandmother. My daughter is Jewish like her grandmother and the rest of her father’s family.  She gave me permission to post her essay on my blog.

________________________________________________________________________________

My grandmother asked me to stop wearing my star of David necklace when I traveled. She said “you never know when someone might be crazy, might hate you”. I wanted to tell her don’t be silly.

I wanted to say that growing up as an American Jew in the aftermath of the Holocaust, she inherited fear that is no longer relevant. And remind her that although the Ku Klux Klan had burned crosses on her college campus and her college roommate had asked to see her horns, that was fifty years ago. I wanted to remind her of the strength of the Jewish community where I grew up, where I live now, around the world.

But then I thought about having pennies thrown at me growing up, back when I didn’t even know what that meant. I remembered boys in school, people I considered friends, saying the Holocaust hadn’t happened and laughing at the expression on my face. I remembered literally being fetishized by multiple men who thought my religion made me sexually exotic. I remembered the faces of my students who told me kids at their school didn’t like them because they were Jewish. I remembered Pittsburgh. I remembered Nuremburg. I remembered the shiver of fear I felt when someone wearing military fatigues stepped inside the synagogue on Yom Kippur, and my family’s shaky, relieved laughter after services when we realized that every one of us had had the same reaction.

 I can’t dismiss what my grandmother said. And I can’t write off how I sometimes hesitate before I tell people I’m a Jewish Studies major. I don’t want this hesitancy. Judaism is the thing that I feel most passionate about, that helps inspire me and order my life. It’s given me a community [at my university], and connects me to a worldwide family that stretches back 2,000 years. I don’t want to be afraid for myself or anyone in my global community. We have gone through much before, but I fear that we have much left still to endure.

I know it’s important to keep ourselves safe at this time, but it feels just as important to shout from the rooftops – I’m Jewish, I’m proud, I’m human.

I am afraid to wear my Magen David. But I’m also afraid to hide it.

_________________________________________________________________________

Magen David translates literally as “Shield” rather than “Star” of David. And while it pisses me off that a piece of religious jewelry (and a boatload of empowered bigotry) could make my child vulnerable in the world, I am glad she is fierce enough to carry her shield.

Much remains the same since I wrote this post back in 2014, and some are actually worse. One thing that is better (and worse) is a new Tamir Rice Safety Handbook created by the ACLU of Ohio in collaboration with Samaria Rice, the mother of Tamir Rice.

The better is that Samaria Rice can help publicize a tool that may keep other children from being killed. The worse is that we need a guide for black and brown children to navigate interactions with law enforcement.

My version of the old “two steps forward, one step back” is to think of social progress like a spiral. I can’t always see how the twists and turns move us forward but I believe in the value of the outcome and so I keep on keepin’ on.

And I hope you do too.

ORIGINAL POST: Now What?, November 25, 2014

I knew the Ferguson grand jury would not indict officer Wilson. I’m not cynical, just familiar with history.

I knew I would feel like shit hearing the outcome, but I wouldn’t have predicted the sadness. I naturally lean toward anger & outrage in the face of our ongoing social & political injustice.

Closer to home, Tamir Rice, the 12 year old boy from my old neighborhood who was killed by a police officer on November 22 for having a toy gun, deepens my sadness and amplifies the questions.

  • How will we change the value we place on black lives in this country?
  • How will we change the perception that black skin is to be feared – the assumption that drives and justifies a violent response from police?
  • How will we grant black teenagers the benefit of youthful stupidity – a privilege widely enjoyed by white teenagers?

The biggest question, the one that is currently making me sad is – what do we do now?

I just taught a workshop the other day about dealing with difficult situations by recognizing your habitual responses and learning about different potential choices. Deciding how to respond rather than just reacting.

So how will we respond to our deeply flawed and biased society? What do we address first? The legal system? Gun culture? Institutional racism? The fact that citizens are brainwashed into thinking that they have no power to change the system?

If I had my druthers I’d start with eliminating folks feelings of collective helplessness so we can get to collective action.

We need to do more.

I need to do more.

For the first time since the slaughter of the children at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, hearing news made me cry.

Make no mistake there has been a nonstop parade of horrifying and repugnant behavior since 2012, but for whatever reason, the mass shooting in El Paso brought me to tears.

Later that same day I was having a discussion with a prospective client about how I facilitate discussions about diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). They wanted implicit bias training but were worried about “blame and shame” – that I would be “too angry” or make their participants feel bad about racism.

This is a legitimate fear. Most discussions of “isms” will feel risky to somebody in the room.

In this case, talking about bias felt so risky to the client that they put off hiring a DEI consultant for two years following their decision to “offer education on the topic”.

As I explained how I work, I realized that I should probably need to include some description of my values and belief system on my website and in my proposals.

I need to be explicit about the change theories I ascribe to, and the evidence based research I utilize. These are the bits and pieces that help folks see the rigorous underpinnings that support my DEI work.

In the meantime, I told this prospective client that I don’t believe in “blame and shame”. My workshops, facilitation and coaching are always centered on individual growth. People shut down and dig their heels in when they are attacked. I don’t like when it’s done to me so I don’t make a habit of doing it to others.

That said, what I do instead is invite folks to be uncomfortable.

Think of it like when you go to the beach, or to the pool on a cool day. Some folks creep into the water slowly, some dive in and get it over with quickly, and others stop when the water reaches their ankles.

But they are all in the water.

Getting in that water – those discussions of racism, sexism, xenophobia and so on – is a choice for most people. And if you don’t know how to swim it can be scary, even life-threatening.

What I do when I facilitate is invite you to be uncomfortable.

I invite you to be brave and get in the water with me. To be cold, to flail and to tread water. To hold your breath and go all the way under.

To learn to swim.

I never throw anyone in the deep end by themselves. That’s not my style. I am right there with you in the deep or the shallow. You can trust me. I won’t let you drown.

Now more than ever we need to understand our role in shaping the society we live in.

We need to commit to the actions and behaviors that will make our “good intentions” reality.

We can do better.

If you work with me for more than five minutes you’ll know that’s one of my signature phrases. I use it to remind myself to start where people are to help them move forward. It keeps me in a place of hope and out of that cozy place of judgement.

“We can do better. We are all good people doing the best we can, and we can do better.”

Watching the students who survived the school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School become activists has both been beautiful and heartening. Seeing their grief and outrage evolve into a national movement that is shifting thinking and promoting action makes me feel hopeful for the future of our democracy.

Last week I read a blog post about those students that shook me up. It wasn’t the nasty vitriol accusing the students of being crisis actors or “deep state operatives”, whatever that means. It was a point of view that I hadn’t even considered. And it made me feel ashamed of myself.

Ashamed that I was guilty of exactly what the writer described.

Ashamed because I could see I had a blindspot.

Shame is something that we not only generally avoid experiencing, but we try not to talk about it either.  But shame is a really useful feeling that helps us to understand when we are wrong, or when we act wrong.

I mulled over this vague feeling of shame in the days after I  read the blog post. I might still be mulling except I happened to have a conversation this week that helped me put my finger on it. We were talking about how blindspots are part of implicit bias which reminded me that my discomfort – my shame at my behavior – meant learning.

I am glad to now have perspective that I was previously blind to. I’ll try to keep shining a light on my blind spot in the future as well as trying to remember to dig around occasionally and see what I’m missing. We are all only human.

I invite you to read the blog here.

Why It Hurts When the World Loves Everyone but Us

 

It seems like every day now we see another example of people protesting and shutting down speakers when they don’t agree with their message. On campuses and other public venues, and now the controversy at the City Club.

Free speech, in my humble opinion, is the foundation of our civil liberties and its protection takes constant vigilance and tremendous fortitude. I write about it frequently. There is nothing anyone can say that will shake my conviction on that point. When we attempt to prohibit or block public hate speech we are throwing oil on a slippery slope to restricted civil liberties.

However. Private institutions like the City Club (and citizens) can choose who they *invite* to speak.

I would stand next to someone like Corey Lewandowski to protect his right to express his opinions in public – none of which I agreee with – but I would never invite him into my house. I disagree with the decision of the City Club to invite Lewandowski to speak because they are not required to provide a forum for his speech. The controversy itself only serves to amplify and legitmitize his message.

The problem I see is that conservative groups don’t seem to have the same desire to be exposed to contrary opinions. There are no headlines about liberals invited to conservative campuses or events to stimulate conversation only to be shut down by protests.

And that’s the real shame.

To be crystal clear so that my opinion is not misconstrued. I do not condone hate speech I support protecting free speech.

It’s complicated.

It’s messy.

And it’s American.

A post on the Facebook group Pantsuit Nation made me cry this morning. It was by a young woman of color working as a Staff Assistant in the U.S. Congress sharing her exhaustion and despair.

I stopped writing about politics on this blog six months ago for a couple of reasons.

First, the sheer volume of blog worthy political activity seemed to quadruple over night. The constant churning of the news cycle meant I was still ruminating the implications of some development when the next one dropped center stage. I could never make it as a journalist with a deadline. Props to those who do!

The second reason I stopped writing about politics was my kid. My strong, compassionate, deeply political, social activist daughter teeters on the edge of an existential crisis because she sees the potential for disaster in her future.

Current events now make previously far-fetched outcomes frighteningly possible in the USA. Things like authoritarianism, populism, decreased civil rights for women and minorities. (Frankly I don’t understand how anyone watches “The Handmaid’s Tale.”) And always the spectre of nuclear war.

As US politics is currently dominated by white men of the generation prior to mine, my daughter has a very real fear that she may not have a chance to do the work in the world that she is driven to do.

The woman in the post this morning wrote, “But I can’t leave this [work] … To leave would be disrespectful to the communities that supported my journey into politics.”

Yes, please stay. We need you. Each generation relies on the next to fix our mistakes.

As I cried tI added some words of encouragement to the 7,000+ comments already on her post. Maybe the outpouring of love and caring from strangers will help.

I think what all the young people dedicated to public service – this woman, my daughter – need right now are trail maintainers not trailblazers. People dedicated to chopping brush, moving aside storm-tossed obstacles, and placing fresh markers so they can see the path.

Ranting in outrage about injustices, or analyzing political maneuvers, feels to me like creating obstacles rather than removing them, so no political rants from me for the foreseeable future.

There is other work to do.

 

In my current love/hate relationship with social media its easy to forget why I liked it in the first place.

Facebook was a great solace during the three years when my office was isolated and I could go entire days not speaking to anyone except by email. Have I mentioned I’m an extrovert?

Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Insta linked me to the outside world. And Pandora.

One big benefit of working alone in an almost empty building was that I could play music as loud as I liked – electronica & jazz for writing workshops, grants or  PowerPoints,  classic rock & funk for collating binders.

Social media connected me with folks I’d never meet in person (friends of friends, journalists, activists etc.) and more importantly created a much larger circle of information. I know we all live in our bubble of self-selected media, but having FB friends outside of my regular friend group continues to introduce information I might otherwise ignore or miss.

For instance, a Native artist I follow  introduced me to Indian Country Media so I learned of the DAPL protest actions long before it surfaced in the New York Times. Social media introduced me to, among other things, emergencies and issues affecting women of color, the LGBTQ community, Black Americans and native peoples.

I’ve read perspectives that I agreed and disagreed with from Libertarians, Bernie progressives, Christians, Jews, Muslims, and international citizens, activists and journalists.

So it’s not all bad.

However.

Since the election I have decided that social media and journalism has to be balanced with conversations In Real Life (IRL).

I’ve started reaching out to old friends and acquaintances to schedule chats over coffee, phone, or Skype. I’ve started reaching out to make new acquaintances and friends to meet and chat. Did I mention I’m a shy extrovert who doesn’t make friends easily?

It’s hard to be the initiator all the time (no one likes rejection), and time is as limited as ever, but committing to In Real Life is helping me feel hopeful in a way that liking folks social media posts isn’t.

Hearing opinions and updates accompanied by voice and body language puts me back in the “I – Thou” that I know I need.

So hit me up for a coffee date or drink.

Meanwhile, this brilliant animation my inspire you to join me IRL.

 

When I tell the story of my career path I often use the image of a mosaic.

I sometimes use the words “Once upon a time…” to help bridge the distance between the idea of “job” and “career path” for audiences who may be more comfortable with one word and not the other.

At one point in my life I had jobs in what is now called “the gig economy”, scraping by in the nonprofit world doing what I loved. To make that possible I also worked cash registers, served fast food, cleaned houses, sold advertising and hustled for free lance.

When I was a child I loved books, and school, and my teachers so I thought I would also be a teacher.

As a young adult I imagined my life would always include the arts (Once upon a time I was an actor & director…), or arts management (I spent years at Cleveland Public Theatre & then founded and ran Red Hen Productions, Feminist Theatre…), or some creativity (play and story writing…), outside of this peripatetic blog.

Then I imagined I would spend my life in the academy reading, writing, discussing and teaching philosophy. (That’s a longer story…)

I was lucky to find my true vocation (coaching & facilitating change) and now devote most of my time and energy to working with people and organizations who do good in the world.

Because I was a citizen of the USA and worked at liberal (or tolerant) organizations, I always had the freedom (within reason) to be politically active without fearing repercussions or retaliation.

Now, as someone who is self-employed, my job is my career.

That means I have thought long and hard about what repercussions my opinions and political activity will have on my ability to get work. I know that I am a small fish in a small pond, and maybe (hopefully!) I am being paranoid, but the world seems to be titling toward those who take names and make lists.

Years ago, while canvassing for domestic partner registration, I spoke with an elderly Jewish man who said “I will never vote for this! It is a terrible idea! Lists make it too easy for them to find you.”

Thinking of this Jewish man, and with conscious choice, I have decided to resume writing about my politics on this blog. It is part of the mosaic of who I am and will only become more so if we continue our drift toward despotism. (Please watch this crystal clear 10 minute explanation of despotism if you think my use of that phrase is hyperbolic.)

And, as an American citizen, I believe political engagement really is my job.

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I started this blog as an outlet for my musings, insights and irritations. Using the old adage that you should be willing to see everything you write on the front page of the New York Times, I am usually circumspect about how I present my opinions.

This blog is linked on my business website so I have slowly reduced my political rants so as not to alienate any potential clients.

Given that I have woken to the disturbing development of a Trump presidency I have decided to make a few things clear.

I am an extremely progressive liberal person. I believe in protecting the constitution and all the rights it affords American citizens.

  • I support free, nonjudgemental access to abortion.
  • I support equal rights,  safety and marriage equality for LGBT people.
  • I support and believe in safety net programs for healthcare, food, shelter and retirement for our vulnerable citizens.
  • I support free speech and a free press.
  • I support worker protections like EEO/AA, workers comp, unions,  and all other anti-discrimination laws.
  • I believe that sexism, racism, xenophobia, and other biases, institutional, cultural or implicit, need to be defeated through education.
  • I believe you should pay your taxes to support the collective good like schools, infrastructure, police & fire services, and trash removal.
  • I could go on but you get the idea.

Now. If you believe that my beliefs are incompatible with yours please do not hire me to consult or coach for you. I am perfectly capable of – and indeed enjoy – working with people whose opinions differ from mine but I am not willing to pretend that my beliefs are something they are not.

I work actively to make the world a better place according to my values and I hope you do to. Maybe we can do it together.

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I often write about free speech on this blog. It is one of my core values and its a gut-check reminder that civil liberties only work if they are guaranteed for all citizens. Once again a smart, thoughtful friend of mine has written something that I think it’s important to share.

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by Jason Jaffery

There is a pivotal moment in the Warren Beatty film “Bulworth” when the homeless man played by Amiri Baraka shouts at Beatty’s politician character, Sen. Jay Bulworth – “Bulworth! You got to be a spirit! You can’t be no ghost.”

Invariably when I find myself involved with a question where someone’s rights are being denied this quote pops into my head. This year, during this presidential election, more than any other time during my nearly 25-year career as a civil libertarian, an activist and a non-profit leader, this quote has become a guiding principle.

Much ink has been spilled on why this presidential election matters so distinctly. I agree with all the reasons articulated for why Donald Trump is so monumentally unfit for the presidency.  But I’ll add an additional reason why I believe Trump is a danger.

Trump either doesn’t understand the U.S Constitution, or doesn’t care about its meaning. Most likely both.

As we consider the ongoing experiment of participatory democracy, the success of that experiment is predicated on our civil society adhering to an articulated set of shared norms and values.

This means that, however much we might disagree on issues like abortion, LGBT rights, free speech or racial justice, we can at least agree that there is a process for deciding what laws apply, and a higher wisdom that we can refer to when the path towards those decisions gets muddled.

The Constitution is that guide, and for whatever murk might exist in its words that require interpretation by the judiciary, it is the glue that holds our democracy together.

Donald Trump has weakened that glue.

Trump’s casual disregard for the principles inherent in the Constitution strikes a deep chill in me.

His disregard for constitutional principles – that a free press should be protected from punishment and retribution; that a woman making reproductive health choices should be free from punishment and retribution; that free and fair elections are possible and should not be subject to manipulation – has and will continue to have far reaching consequences.

Trump’s disregard has caused tremendous damage to the country, and our collective confidence in the protections afforded by the Constitution. No matter the outcome of next week’s election, hard work and allegiance to core American values are what will help us survive as a republic.

Which leads me back to the quote with which I began.

In the face of a crisis like Trump, and the overwhelming shift that is occurring in our society, it is understandable to freeze. The level of stress induced by Trump’s behavior, and the behavior he has inspired in his countless supporters, is truly overwhelming. Many friends and associates have expressed a feeling of helplessness and despair.

But we are not helpless. We can act. In fact, we must. Because to act is to be a spirit, not a ghost.

This election and what it has wrought should be a national call to service. Each of us can and should be a spirit. Participate – be present, be visible.

Whatever action we take—calling on friends and family to make sure they have a plan to vote; knocking on a stranger’s door to provide early voting times and locations; serving as a legal, trained poll observer to ensure everyone’s voting rights are protected – is a spirited act.

As is making a contribution to the candidate who is committed to protecting to Constitution, and whom we can hold accountable if and when her administration makes choices with which we disagree.

I have done all of the above and hope you will too. It is our right, and our duty as Americans, to be a spirit not a ghost, at every opportunity—from this moment until the election, and every day afterwards.

Be a spirit, not a ghost.

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