Within minutes of the AP, CNN, MSNBC, NPR, and, yes, even Fox News, calling the election for Biden and declaring him to be the President-Elect, we could hear this song being sung somewhere in the neighborhood outside our home (not sung as well, however, but with lots of heart):
We are only a few days from the Presidential election in the U.S. Joe Biden has a stable lead over Donald Trump that is outside the margin of error (which is very good thing for those of us who have had enough of Trump and Trumpism). However, we need to stay steady in our resolve to vote and get others to vote who are similarly tired of the way things are under Trump. Yesterday a friend in the U.S. sent me this comment from Facebook made by a Canadian: “Living just North of the United States these last four years has been like living in an apartment above a meth lab.” Well said, eh?
These last few days are going to be tough. We are going to hear a lot of different things on the news and via social media. Some of it is going to make us smile, some of it will enrage us, some of it will make us cry…in other words, it is going the same as every other day since November 8, 2016. Okay, maybe they will be a little tougher because the collective anxiety of the country is rising.
Nate Silver, the data nerd behind the polling website FiveThirtyEight. wrote a really excellent blog piece this last week titled 8 Tips to Stay Sane in the Final 15 Days of the Campaign. Take a look at his blog and breathe a bit easier…but do not stop voting, campaigning, calling, encouraging, and gently pushing others to vote as well. I will not go into the details of how FiveThirtyEight calculates everthing but there are two things I want to highlight.
First, Silver and his cohort of other data nerds run 40,000 computer simulations on possible outcomes of the Presidential Election. In 88% of those, Biden wins.
Second, FiveThirtyEight continuously calculates the average of polls in the U.S. so when you see, for example, that Biden is leading Trump by 9.7%, that is an average of those polls. Now, it is also important to note that FiveThirtyEight has assessed the polls for bias, rigor, method, etc., etc. When you filter the polls, you find those that have a C or higher grade, actually give Biden a larger lead.
Silver’s blog is really interesting because he explains some of this in greater detail. He also cautions, though, that there are limits to statistcal modeling. This means that while Trump has only a 13% chance of winning, he only needed a 30% chance of winning in 2016 to pull it off.
So, let’s stay calm AND let’s keep focused on finishing strong!
In Other News…well, COVID-19 News Anyway
Last week we hit new daily high in the number of COVID-19 cases. We are nearly back up to the same level of confirmed infections as we were in the height of the pandemic in the Spring.
We learning that something now in the U.S. that we learned last March from Masks4All – masks work. Recent research is showing there is a correlation between the number of people who report wearing masks and the number of people who know someone COVID-19 symptoms by geography. Check out the striking graphic within the article. Those who are less inclined to wear masks know more people with COVID-19 symptoms.
Over time, we learn more about the Coronavirus. Sometimes we forget its full name, right? It is the NOVEL Coronavirus which means we never saw it before, had no best practices related to it, and have to learn about it as we go. So, as a result what we know today may be different from what we new yesterday. So, remember how the medical experts have been saying that social interaction with someone who is a carrier of the virus should be less than 15 minutes? Turns out that is 15 minutes over a 24 hour period…not 15 minutes, then take a bathroom break, then 15 minutes more.
In a bit of good news, turns out a 14-year-old may have discovered a potential COVID-19 treatment at home...in her free time…while sheltering in place. Sure makes me feel like I’ve a sloth during the pandemic.
In Other Scary News…
Trump now has the ability to replace civil servants with loyalists. Does this mean Dr. Anthony Fauci is about to be terminated? Stand by!
In Other Infuriating News…
Just as I was putting this blog to bed I got a text from a good friend from my native state of Iowa. He and his spouse tested positive for COVID-19 today and both are showing symptoms. By age and underlying health conditions, both were at risk for contracting the virus and now both are at risk of complications.
The couple has done everything they can do to avoid infection…masking up, social distancing, and even staying away from community activities, including their church where they have been been very active. We are talking very small town Iowa here. Community and church activities are nearly unavoidable but they have been avoiding them when possible, and when it wasn’t, masking and distancing on their own. They were also trying to shelter in place until the derecho that blew threw Iowa in late Summer destroyed their home. They have been in the process of rebuilding it but they have been camping out at a borrowed home in the area.
How could this happen?!? Because Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds is an idiot and has been in lockstep with the Grand Master of Idiots from day one. Add to that, too many people in Iowa who have been following her idiotic lead by not masking up or keeping distance. Just as the legacy of Trump will be the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Americans, Reynolds legacy will be the deaths of thousands of Iowans.
Four months ago, while my adopted home state of Maryland was struggling to breathe under the weight of COVID-19, Iowa was still largley untouched. Today, according to the Johns Hopkins COVID-19 tracker, Iowa is now catching up. There are over 117,000 confirmed cases in Iowa (not counting my two friends yet) to Maryland’s 141,000+. In terms of deaths, Maryland has registered 4,100+ deaths to Iowa’s 1600+ but it may be only a matter of time.
That’s what it was back in May when COVID-19 was pummeling Maryland and it was still “fake news” to Governor Reynolds…no, wait, it is STILL “fake news” to her because it is to the Grand Master Idiot as well.
Tonight I’m angry that my friends are sick. I’m worried sick about them. This did not have to be! They did the right things, so how did it happen? Because there is a pervasive fallacy that masking protects the wearer. That’s not even half true. In reality, masking protects everyone from you and from me! You and I cannot know for sure that we are not asymptomatic carriers.
Wearing a mask, keeping distance, and washing hands is an act of compassion and caring. It shows our character, our values, and our true patriotism because we understand that, really, we are all in this together. Is that too much to ask? Or is idiocy preferred? We’ll know soon enough now.
Beau of the Fifth Column
My friend K.D. introduced me to Beau’s YouTube talks. I’ve watch several now and I must say, I’m pretty impressed. A pretty thoughtful guy though I don’t think Beau and I would agree about everything. Still, I think I could have a very interesting, useful, and respectful conversation with him. With the holidays and family gatherings coming up – hopefully more virtual than in person, please – Beau’s got some pretty solid advice in this video. Check it out!
The View from Jeff
Jeff continues to align his drawings this month with prompts from Inktober.
Recently a friend recommended that I make myself available to Help A Reporter Out (HARO). This is a site where reporters go to find people with specific expertise for stories they are working on. The friend that recommended it to me is a former journalist and someone whose integrity and wisdom I trust. I have been thinking about it, until…
I got a rather annoying call from the Badger News Network and a reporter with a vaguely familiar voice and manner.
- Reporter: Dr. Klaus?
- Me: Yes? This is Tom.
- Reporter: My name is Windy and I’m the Senior Political Correspondent for the Badger News Network.
- Me: Badger News Network? Is that new? This is the first I’ve heard of it.
- Windy (the Reporter): You haven’t, sir? I’m surprised. We are well known. Perhaps you’ve heard our slogan? “When you are the news, you’ll be Badgered?”
- Me: No, I haven’t heard the slogan but it does sound…well…ominous.
- Windy: Well, we do make folks in the swamp a bit nervous, sir.
- Me: Uh huh…I’m sure. What can I do for you.
- Windy: Sir, I’m wondering if you could tell me how you feel about President Trump’s victory over COVID-19?
- Me: Victory? When did he defeat it? The last I heard – a few minutes ago – our daily cases are going up again and most states are in the midst of a spike. Seems to me like it is still going strong.
- Windy: No, sir. President Trump defeated it. In fact, you know, he had COVID-19, he overcame it, nearly died, and now is doing great. He’s probably immune!
- Me: Wait a minute…you’re kidding me right? We have no idea what was really going on with him and COVID-19 and we still don’t know that he isn’t asymptomatic and still infecting people.
- Windy: No, sir, I’m not kidding you. President Trump defeated COVID-19 globally (it is just about gone, in fact) and he defeated it personally…nearly rising from the dead.
- Me: This is nuts. I can only think of one reporter that would come up with such a crazy interpretation of the facts…wait a minute…what did you say your name is?
- Windy: Windy sir.
- Me: How is that spelled?
- Windy: “W-I-N-D,” sir.
- Me: You mean “Windy” like big gust of air or like “Winthrop Dykstra”?
- Windy: Silence…lots of silence.
- Me: Did you hear me…you mean “Windy” like…
- Windy: I heard you, sir.
- Me: Then what is it.
- Windy: (Sigh) It’s like “Winthrop Dykstra.”
- Me: Ha! I know you! You are Winthrop Dykstra-Baum!
- Windy: More silence…lots of more silence.
- Me: You are, aren’t you? You are my old nemesis Winthrop Dykstra-Baum, winner of the “Tinfoil Stetson” from Kursgesadt for your groundbreaking story of conspiracy theorists who do not still live in their parents’ basements with a business of hob ferrets.
- Windy: (In a hoarsey whisper): Yes, it’s me.
- Me: Winthrop, what are you doing calling me?
- Win D.: (formerly Windy): I didn’t know who else to call. Nobody else picks up when I call.
- Me: Are you really surprised, Winthrop? Are your really surprised? Look at who you are working for now and what you trying to get me to believe.
- Win D.: Look, times are tough. I had to take a pay cut to work with Badger but they are reimbursing my payments for Obamacare…until President Trump is successful in removing it and replacing it with something better.
- Me: Winthrop, can you hear yourself? Trump doesn’t have a plan to replace it and you know it. You and a lot of folks are going to be in trouble if he does get rid of the ACA, especially now that COVID-19 is heating up again.
- Win D.: Well, I’m glad you mentioned that. Did you hear that President Trump has defeated COVID-19 once and for all? How does that news make you feel?
- Me: Good-bye, Winthrop. (Click)
The View from Jeff
This. Makes. Me. So. Angry.
National Public Radio and news outlets throughout the United States and world reported this number today. What is the number? Why is it significant?
You will remember that Trump and his minions, in 2017, decided it was a good idea to deter the flow of undocumented people from Latin America countries south of the U.S./Mexico border by kidnapping their children. (Thank you, cowardly lawyers and Trump sycophants Jeff Sessions and Rod Rosenstein for making it “legal” for the U.S. to get into the kidnapping and human trafficking business.). In 2018 the ACLU sued and a court ordered the reunification of children with their families. However, there were about 1,000 families which were not covered by that order.
Of those approximately 1,000 families, there are 545 children whose parents still cannot be found according to the U.S. Justice Department and the ACLU. NBC reports that some of the parents who have been found elected to leave their children in the U.S. with family members or sponsors for fear of their child’s safety back in their home country. Yet parents of 545 children still cannot be found. Look at that number again: 545.
There is little news that I have a physical reaction to these days. Sadly, my tolerance for the inhumanity, cruelty, stupidity, and evil of the Trump administration has grown some and I’m less likely to get sick to my stomach when I hear about the latest act of barbarism. Not today though. I was made physically ill by this news.
I am struggling to reel in my rant at this point. I am so outraged, so angry. However, as respectfully and calmly as I can, I want pose a question to my friends who are thinking of voting for Trump because he is “pro-life” and “pro-family.,” Can you please tell me how “losing” these parents, likely making each of the 545 children orphans, is either “pro-life” or “pro-family?” Really. I’m not baiting you here. I’m asking.
Many Latin American families I know (and I am part of one) deeply love their children and are committed to their safety, well-being, and sense of family. From what I know and have observed, that is “baked in” to the culture.
For any child who is missing their parents and has no idea what became of them the hurt must be nearly unbearable. As a parent, this news makes me sick to my stomach, but it is my heart that hurts. Any parent who has known the pain of separation from a child knows that hurt. For many of us the hurt is temporary. That is not likely the case for these parents and children. They may never be with one another again.
Shame on you Donald Trump! Shame on you Jeff Sessions! Shame on you Rod Rosenstein! Shame on all of you cowards who suck up to such stupidity and evil each day!
And shame on you, my friends, if you dare give any more support to such evil.
There is little in the news that makes me laugh these days. Occasionally, though, I’m surprised. Yesterday morning was one of those occasions. I read a headline from The Washington Post that did it for me. Then it made me pause and think, “Hmmm, aren’t we all?” I think you’ll know what I mean when you read the headline below:
Honestly…aren’t we all?
To read the full article, just click on the headline above or click here.
Reading this fun, but very believable, headline made we wonder, “Hey, what other interesting headlines and stories are there out in the world today?” I visited the United Press International’s “Odd News” section to find out what I’ve been missing. Apparently there is a lot of “odd news” about animals:
Danish Zoo’s 41 Year Old Penguin Declared World’s Oldest – Not suprisingly the penguin’s name is Olde, which is Danish for “grandmother.”
Horse Skeleton Siezed at Florida Mail Sorting Facility – That’s just what we need! More ballots delayed by an influx of horse skeletons in the mail system.
Three Llamas Escape from Truck on Oregon Highway – Seriously, the articles says one of the llama’s was given medication to “ease her mama llama trauma.”
Aggressive Cougar Follows Man on Utah Trail for 6 Minutes – This is a pretty interesting video but, why was the guy shooting a video of a cougar that obviously wasn’t messing around?
French Couple Trying to Buy Savannah Cat get Tiger Cub, Instead – Good thing they weren’t being followed by a cougar; they probably would have thought it was a dog just trying to be friendly.
Beaver on the Loose after New Mexico Zoo Escape – Yes, Busy the Beaver is on the loose. And why is this a story?
A Musical Treat from the Late Late Show with James Corden
The View from Jeff
First a big, big shout out to my friend Jeff Logan for submitting his doctoral dissertation to his committee. Next up…defense! I’m proud to say that I was there on Day One of Jeff’s doctoral journey and I have been rooting for him ever since. This week’s cartoon from Jeff celebrates that achievement, with all the anxiety that comes with the accomplishment.
One Last Thing…
If you have gone through all the Netflix, Disney+, Amazon Prime, and Hulu shows that have been recommended as “must watch,” here’s one more. It is from the Discovery Channel and it is Dodgeball Thunderdome. Really. A reality TV dodgeball competition loosely based on the hit movie comedy, Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story.
I occasionally enjoy watching American Ninja Warrior because it features people who are truly outstanding amateur athletes competing on an amazing obstacle course (and, honestly, because I love how the announcer growls out, “American Ninja Warrior!” at every opportunity). Dodgeball Thunderdome is nothing like that. It combines an obstacle course with flying red and blue dodgeballs. Getting hit by the red dodgeballs (which sometimes explode red powder) drives the score up against competitors and the blue dodgeballs…well…they just hurt…a little. Add to all of this competitors who are not athletes and wise-cracking commentators. What do you get? A truly chuckle-worthy, and occasionally laugh-out-loud, show that is highly distracting during these challenging times. Check out the trailer and then tune in:
One More Last Thing…
Thanks to my Colombian spouse, I have become a big fan of Carlos Vives. Vives nearly single-handedly revived a form of Colombian folk music known as villenato. We have been to three of his live concerts and, honestly, I’ve never attended better live musical events. There is no warm up act and his shows go nonstop for two and a half to three hours. The music is all live and extraordinary. Originally a television star, Vives also creates a theatrical experience in his shows. If you’ve not heard him before, or even heard of him, I wanted to make sure you had a change to experience some of his music. Enjoy!
This week we watched the 33rd Hispanic Heritage Awards on PBS. I usually avoid award shows like…well…the coronavirus. However, being married to a proud Colombian who has made amazing contributions to her adopted country, it seemed appropriate (and wise) to set aside my disdain for award shows and tune in. Besides, it was only an hour long. Any award show, no matter how bad, can usually be endured for sixty minutes.
This year the awards went to Jessica Alba, Selena Gomez, Bad Bunny, Linda Rondstadt, and the majority of the 3 million farmworkers who are Hispanic and Latino who have continued to put food on our tables during the pandemic. There was also a powerful tribute to John Lewis whose work in civil rights also benefitted Latinos and Hispanics. I was moved by the rendition of the National Anthem performed by the all women’s mariachi group Flor de Toloache, whos NPR Tiny Desk Concert you can see below.
The tribute to farm workers was powerful. It was also a humbling reminder of the privilege I enjoy, even at those times when I feel under appreciated and overlooked for everything I think I do.
The tribute to Linda Ronstadt was one of my favorite segments because I have always been a fan of her music and because the tribute featured one of my favorite music groups, The Mavericks, performing several of her hits with various female singers in the lead. Ronstadt no longer performs due to progress supranuclear palsy. The video below features The Mavericks but it is not a Linda Ronstadt song. It is my favorite song by the group and it is an amazing song to dance to to (yes, it is a cha cha…kind of a fast cha cha, but great fun!).
I feel appreciative today after watching the show. If you have about 55 minutes, I recommend you watch the Hispanic Heritage Awards. I think it will inspire you and remind you, as it did me, how much richer and better we are as a country because of those who have come here (as my ancestors did in the late 1800’s) believing in the promise of the United States of America.
Was that a debate?
Trump’s COVID-19 diagnosis.
“Road trip” to wave to his fans outside the hospital in Bethesda.
Weird photo op on his return to the White House (yes, he was breathing heavily after climbing the steps…because he is still sick!).
One last thing…here is something you may have missed in the news. It is footage of Trump and a couple of his advisors engaging with some of the people outside the White House to witness his return from the hospital. Really, it is worth the two minutes it takes to watch it.
The View from Jeff
Jeff Logan is celebrating Inktober, which is really lucky for us! During Inktober artists commit to doing a drawing each day of the month based on a prompt. Today features of Jeff’s Inktober drawings based on the prompt, “Bulky.” You can follow Jeff throughout Inktober at his Instagram page.
After listening to George Lakey’s webinar, What to Do if There is a Coup?, I found myself checking out some of his other videos and his books. I wrote about this in my last blog “Suspension” and shared a couple of other brief videos. In looking over the books he has written or contributed to, one in particular caught my attention because it speaks to the nature of my work today.
Grassroots and Nonprofit Leadership: A Guide for Organizations in Changing Times was co-authored by Lakey with Berit Lakey, Rod Napier, and Janet Robinson in 1995. It was published a second time in 2016. Though the book is 25 years old at this point, the content is timeless and particularly meaningful in the moment in American history. In the book the authors made this point about social movements:
Before there is a social movement around a certain injustice, the body politic seems to be asleep.Lakey, Lakey, Napier, & Robinson, 1995, p. 17
Social movements require an awakening. There has been a lot happening in the past week that should be shaking us from our slumber. So I’m wondering…are we awake yet?
The White Evangelical and Trump Puzzle
To be clear, I am still in the midst of exploring the oddest of couples – White Evangelicals and Donald Trump. However, I thought I would invite you into that exploration with me by sharing some of the sources I am using.
Recently I have been digesting Michael Gerson’s article, The Last Temptation, in The Atlantic from April 2018. Gerson writes very thoughtfully about the mismatch from the perspective of one who has deep roots and credentials in evangelicalism and politics. Michael Gerson grew up as an evangelical, even attending Wheaton College, which is sometimes know as “the Harvard of evangelical Protestantism.” He was recruited by Karl Rove to work on the George W. Bush campaign and before that he was a senior policy advisor at The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank in Washington, DC. If you have not read the piece by Gerson (now a columnist for the Washington Post), I highly recommend it.
This afternoon, while taking my five mile power walk around the neighborhood, I found myself listening to an intriguing podcast on the history of evangelicalism. The podcast is Throughline a weekly history podcast and the episode I listened to was The Evangelical Vote. It is an hour and four minutes in length – well, not quite, because the last few minutes is a promo for a new limited series NPR podcast.
At the risk of giving away too much, I will simply repeat something the hosts of the show use as a teaser: evangelicals entered American politics in the 1970’s because of a court ruling…but it was not the court decision you think it was. That was a enough to hook me into the show…and I was not disappointed!
In the podcast you will frequently hear the voice of Randall Balmer. He has spent most of his career studying evangelicalism, writing about it, and even having some of his work turned into PBS documentaries. Today he continues to research and teach but he is also a priest in the Episcopal Church (United States). For some, these facts may not qualify Balmer as an expert on evangelicalism but I have no doubt. I got to know and spend time with Randall Balmer in the early 1990s and I know we share a common religious heritage in evangelicalism.
Though he was born in Chicago, Illinois, Balmer was a preacher’s kid in Des Moines, Iowa. His father was the pastor of the Westchester Evangelical Free Church, just across the street from Hoover High School. Balmer, who is about 6 months younger than me, went directly to college from high school, attending Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (an Evangelical Free seminary), Princeton University, and Union Theological Seminary – completing all of his degrees and his first documentary before I was able to finish my undergraduate degree.
When I met Balmer in the early 1990s, his first documentary series, Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory, had already aired on PBS. I was part of a bi-partisan group of Democrats and Republicans who had come together as “Iowans for Democracy” in Des Moines. One of those taking an interest in our efforts was a prominent Republican, Mary Louise Smith, who was also a social worker, feminist, and staunch advocate of the Equal Rights Amendment. What made her so prominent as a Republican with those credentials, you may wonder? In 1976 Gerald Ford named her the be the first female chair of the Republican National Committee. As Iowans for Democracy, we were drawn together by our mutual concern that the Republican party in Iowa was in danger of being taken over by evangelical fundamentalists and dominionists with strong leanings toward theocracy. That sounded a bit crazy in the early 1990s; it does not seem as far fetched today.
Iowans for Democracy wanted to deepen its understanding of the evangelical movement in the United States and its growing affinity for the Republican party. We learned that a local boy (Randall Balmer) was rising as an authority on evangelicalism and we wondered if we could convince him to come home and meet with us. He did. At the time, Balmer was teaching at Barnard College.
Ballmer met with Iowans for Democracy and it was my responsibility to host him. His presentation to the group was compelling, personal, and powerful. In the time we spent together in personal conversation I came to appreciate the depth of his knowledge. We also talked about being in the evangelical movement as youth. I came to understand how deeply we shared a similar evangelical experience.
We stayed in touch very briefly after that but then life happened and we went our separate ways. Our connection was enough, though, that I can say with confidence you need to hear what Randall Ballmer has to say on this podcast.
The View from Jeff
I have decided to engage in a bit of suspension. I do not mean suspension in the musical or chemical sense, nor do I mean it in the sense of being prevented from playing a sport or stopping something. I mean it in the sense that Edgar Schein uses it as a technique for dialogue. I drew upon Schein’s work on suspension for my dissertation several years ago. I described Schein’s concept of suspension in this way:
Through the technique of suspension, individuals first listen to themselves in order to become aware of their perceptions and misperceptions of others, conscious of their own thought process by which the perceptions are created, and then aware of the effect of these perceptions and process on how and when they choose to engage the other.Klaus, T. W. (2013). Leadership in an intractable conflict over public school sexuality education in the United States: A constructivist grounded theory study. Eastern University. ProQuest UMI Number: 3665017, p. 197.
Wow! Could that sentence have been any longer? You got to love academia!
The “noise” of the past six months has been nearly unbearable. It was noisy before the pandemic, to be sure, but it has been far worse since. Now, as we are approaching the November 3rd election, the noise is increasing. The announcement of the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg last night, September 18, will undoubtedly raise the decibel level as the political parties jockey over the appointment of her replacement.
This week I participated in two Zoom events that have encouraged my reflection during this period of suspension.
One was a meeting with others who have formed a community of practice around teaching followership as a part of our work in leadership development. What we all have in common is that we each have been trained by Ira Chaleff in the delivery of his Courageous Follower material in workshop, training, and classroom settings. It was interesting to learn some new techniques for teaching followership and to have my thinking expanded on the use of the material. Next week, in fact, I will be doing a Courageous Follower training for a public agency in New York – via Zoom of course, and hope to use a couple of the ideas I picked up in the meeting.
The other Zoom event was last night and it was a 90 presentation and conversation with George Lakey, a sociologist and fellow Quaker, who has been at the forefront of social change through nonviolent direct action for many years. His presentation last night focused on the question “What to do if there is coup?” around the November 3rd election. I received late notice about the presentation (as in yesterday afternoon). So I was surprised to learn that over 700 people in 34 states were in the Zoom webinar. It was an interesting presentation. In it Lakey called on people to reach out to the elected officials now with the request (well…okay…demand) that they refuse to accept the results of the presidential election until every vote is counted.
In addition, he asked people to go to ChooseDemocracy.us to take the pledge to engage in nonviolent direct action if it appears a coup is being attempted.
It seems so strange to me that we would have to be seriously concerned about a coup in the United States. However, I have been in three such discussions with different people over the past week. Obviously, we have taken our freedom and democracy for granted. It is far more fragile than we ever imagined.
Though George Lakey and I run in the same Quaker circles (those are pretty small circles, after all), I did not know as much about his work as I should have. Today I did a bit more research and came up with two brief videos that provided a deeper introduction to him as a person and his work in nonviolence. I have decided to include them here. The first is a 15-minute lecture he did for a class at Swarthmore College where he taught for many years. It is an introduction to nonviolent action.
The second is a bit more personal as it is from the QuakerSpeak series that highlights individuals within the Religious Society of Friends as they discuss key ideas in the faith and practice of Quakers. This video is less than a year old and it came out at the same time as one of Lakey’s most recent books, How We Win: A Guide to Nonviolent Direct Action Campaigning. This video is about 8 minutes in length. By the way, in this video you will hear Lakey refer to a man by the name of George Fox. He lived in 17th Century England and began a reformation movement within the Anglican Church which became the Quakers. He was a contemporary of Roger Williams, another Brit, who established Rhode Island and founded the Baptist movement.
Both of these Zoom events this week supported my need for a bit of suspension. They also produced the unexpected benefit of bringing some sense and calm to the noise that has dominated for so long. I hope you find these to do the same for you this weekend.
The View from Jeff
Elections say more about the electorate than the candidate. Since casting my first presidential vote in 1972 I have become more convinced of this over time. If I had any doubt left, the U.S. presidential election campaign of 2020 has erased it.
The American people know who Donald Trump and Joe Biden are. I am not talking about “know” as in name recognition. That is a given. We know about them as people too. We have a 47+ year record of public service on Biden. In the past 10 days alone one news story, two new books by Michael Cohen and Peter Strzok, and Trump’s own words on the record reveal a stark contrast in the character of Trump compared to that of Biden.
But wait..these “revelations” about Trump are not really news because We the People already knew it. We told the Pew Research Center that we understood the difference between Trump and Biden relative to character nearly three months ago.
From June 16 to 22, 2020 the Pew Research Center conducted a survey as part of its American Trends Panel research. This particular survey focused on assessing how a random sample of adults in the U.S. viewed the personal traits of Trump and Biden and their positions on major issues.
On the major issues facing American’s today, Trump edged out Biden on only one issue…barely: “Make good decisions about economic policy.” We the People give Biden the advantage on each of the other five major issues: “effectively handle law enforcement and criminal justice issues;” “make good decisions about foreign policy;” “handle the public health impact of the coronavirus outbreak;” “effectively handle race relations;” and “bring the country closer together.”
This is useful information to be sure and it does seem like a pretty clear consensus that Biden could do a better job than Trump. But does it matter? Probably not because the issues seem to be trumped (no pun intended) by questions of character.
So, what about their personal traits and matters of character?
We the People told the Pew Research Center we perceived Trump to be more “energetic” than Biden by a wide margin and that we barely saw him as more “courageous” than Biden.
However, on the next four factors: “honest;” “cares about the needs of ordinary people;” “a good role model;” and “even-tempered” Biden has wide advantages…very wide advantages.
Here is what Pew’s research tells me: We the People did not need Mary Trump, Michael Cohen, Peter Strzok, or Trump himself to tell us about Donald J. Trump’s absence of virtuous character. We already knew it and we have known it for a long time. You know, it was on full display on “The Apprentice.” True confession…I saw one (and only one) episode, though I detest “reality” TV. Except I love “American Ninja Warrior” which is awesome because it is real people doing real things that require real skills. Oddly, the title has nothing to do with the show itself though.
So the election is about character? Yes, but not about the character of the candidates.
Where Trump and Biden stand on the issues and the nature of their character would be really, really important – if the election were about them. But it is not about them. It is about We the People.
Where the character of the candidates is concerned it is a very clear choice. Though both men are human with plenty of faults we know that Biden is essentially of virtuous character and Trump is far from it. Yes, we understand who they are and what they stand for – both on the issues and in their character. The choice is so clear, in fact, that on November 3rd the election is more a test of our character than of the candidates.
What is the character of We the People? Are we drawn to the more virtuous leader or the one who exhibits little, if any, virtue? Do we stand with the leader whose career has attempted to achieve the greater good for all or the one who has been, and continues to be, only concerned for himself and his own wealth? What do we honor? What do we value?
This election is a test of our character. As always, what we do speaks louder than what we say and it will make plain our virtue, or lack of it. When we choose between Trump and Biden we will be making a statement about our own character. Our own virtue. Our own tendency toward the greater good or toward self-interest because this is the choice the two men represent.
My hope for the future of our country, the United States of America, rests in a belief that a consensus of We the People still choose for the greater good. I have staked my life’s work on this belief and it is the founding principle of my business: to animate and equip people, organizations, and communities to lead change for the greater good.
I do not believe my faith in We the People is misplaced…but I am worried.
This week a friend recommended a movie to us on the National Geographic channel, 9/11: Control the Skies. It is about the amazing effort Canadian air traffic controllers in Gander, Newfoundland to quickly and safely land 224 transcontinental passenger jets in the hours after the 9/11 attacks. We were so taken by the documentary. We tried to remember more clearly how the people of Gander (population of about 10,000 at that time) welcomed and comfortable stranded passengers that nearly doubled their population. This led us to a second film, the docudrama, Diverted. We watched that film last night and were moved by the deep caring, generosity, and character of the people of Gander. It has now gone on our “bucket list” of places we need to go when travel is allowed again.
We were reminded by these two films of what it means to be people of character. Under the ego and thumb of Trump we have been fractured, divided, broken, berated, misled, put a risk, placed in harms way, and, well, to put it plainly, killed. By Election Day well over 200,000 of us will have died because of the COVID-19 pandemic which we know did not have to be this deadly. (Just last night we learned that Trump is now trying to “cook the data” from the CDC MMWR reports to make him look better in light of the staggering COVID-19 statistics.) Others have died as a result of state sanctioned brutality and murder. I worry that, if we are not prevented from voting, too many have been brutalized into submission and compliance. I fear that too many will simply “go along to get along” or just stay away from the polls.
We can do neither.
Still, the election will reveal our character. When we vote this Fall it will be a statement of what we stand for. We must choose wisely for, as in every election, democracy hangs in the balance. In my lifetime this has never been more true.
The Meaning of a Life
When actor Chadwick Boseman, who portrayed Black Panther in the wildly popularly movie of the same name, died of cancer, it had a powerful impact on the lives of many people. PBS recently had a piece on its website that helps us understand more clearly why Boseman’s brief life was so meaningful and his death such a loss. It is a sweet article and a brief read. I hope you will take time to check it out.
Brittlestar is a YouTube star from Canada. I’ve featured a couple of his videos in this blog and will be inserting more, including today. In real life Brittlestar is Stewart Reynolds. He has done voice over work and video campaigns for a variety of companies. Among YouTube producers who are over 50 years old, he is ranked #14 in the world (but #37808 among a YouTube stars). So, you wonder what it is like living next door to America right now? Brittlestar has some thoughts on that.
The View from Jeff
What did Trump know about the Coronavirus? It was the “biggest national security threat“ of his presidency and far worse than anyone imagined.
When did he know it? January 28, 2020
Why did he not speak up then?
“I wanted to always play it down,” Mr. Trump told Mr. Woodward on March 19. “I still like playing it down, because I don’t want to create a panic.”The New York Times, September 9, 2020
When did Trump finally speak the truth about the virus to the American people, including all of those who have pinned their hope on him? Today is September 10, 2020 and we are still waiting.
I had only one nerve left and Trump has finally gotten on it. That’s all I can handle today. More over the weekend.
In the meantime, in case you run into Trump in the grocery store…