Accountability for American Carnage

When Donald J. Trump delivered his now famous “American Carnage” inauguration speech in 2017 we misunderstood it. We thought he was describing the United States as he saw it but he was really previewing the America he wanted. Last week, on January 6, 2021, we saw the spoiled fruit of Trump’s real vision for American carnage.

Of course, maybe we misunderstood because that was the first lie of his presidency. The recordings indicate he said, “This American carnage stops right here and stops right now.” Could it be that he simply changed one word – “starts” to “stops” – to tell us the greatest lie of all?

Like most Americans this week, my brain cells have been working over time to make sense of what we witnessed this week. In this post I’m going to do my best to convey what I’m coming up with so far. In this moment, as a country, we are still on information overload so I will not try to cite everything. I think of myself as a researcher and essayist, not a journalist. However, I do rely upon multiples of time-tested, trustworthy journalists and other researchers for the information that informs my thinking and writing.

The question that has been rolling over in my mind is this: What does accountability and justice look like in the wake of the attempted coup on the United States last week?

To answer this question there are three legal concepts we have to understand: free speech, sedition, and treason. For my sources I am relying on the National Constitution Center and Findlaw. Both sites translate the Constitution, constitutional interpretations, and law into more understandable language for legal dummies like me.

Let’s begin with the concept of free speech. This is what the Constitution says:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

First Amendment, Interactive Constitution, National Constitution Center, January 10, 2021

However, there are three situations in which restrictions can be placed on free speech. You can go to the link and read it for yourslef and I will briefly highlight them here. Government can Constitutionally restrict:

  1. Certain types of speech including: defamation, true threats, “fighting words,” obscenity, child pornography, and false commercial advertising
  2. A speaker who is in a special relationship to the government, such as an employee or elected official “even based on content, when their speech is incompatible with their status as public officials.”
  3. Speech under a less demanding standard of “reasonableness.”

Now let’s turn to sedition. Sedition is legally defined as a conspiracy between two or more people to:

To conspire to overthrow or destroy by force the government of the United States or to level war against them;

To oppose by force the authority of the United States government; to prevent, hinder, or delay by force the execution of any law of the United States; or

To take, seize, or possess by force any property of the United States contrary to the authority thereof.

FindLaw, Seditious Conspiracy and Federal Law: The Basics. January 10, 2021

Finally, as unbelievable as this all is, we need to clarify the meaning of treason and how it relates to sedition. In this case, I’m going to let FindLaw make the point again:

Sedition differs from treason (defined in Article III of the U.S. Constitution) in a fundamental way. While seditious conspiracy is generally defined as conduct or language inciting rebellion against the authority of a state, treason is the more serious offense of actively levying war against the United States or giving aid to its enemies. Another way of looking at it is that seditious conspiracy often occurs before an act of treason.

Findlaw, Free Speech, Sedition, and Treason. January 10, 2021

How are free speech, sedition, and treason relevant to the issue of accountability? Simply put: Certain free speech can result in siditious conspiracy and that conspiracy can lead to treasonous acts. Justice can only be done when there is accountability and we have to be willing to hold people accountable. This may be the biggest problem of all in this situation and begs the question: Are we willing to hold everyone accountable who has accountability? That, my friends, is a really, really big group of people. Let’s look at just a few (or many) of them.

Donald J. Trump

Regardless of why he does it, Trump is on record ad nauseum pushing the boundaries of free speech and potentially engaging in seditious conspiracy. If we are willing to hold him accountable, despite all the risks of agitating his easily agitated Trumpists base, it is the purview of the Congress and the courts to determine his to determine his culpability and penalty. For this reason, the House is moving swiftly to act. But we must be willing for him to be held accountable.

The Republican Party/GOP
Could this be the portrait of the Republican Party from the Trump Administration?

To be clear, in my family, social, and professional circles I associate with Americans who have diverse political views: Libertarian, Republican, Democrat, Independent, Green Party, Socialists, Monarchists, Anarchists, and, yes, even Trumpists. The Republicans I know are as appalled by Trump, his actions this past week, and his repeated failures as I am. However, it has to be said that the Republican Party has been, and continues to be in this moment, missing in action. This is a crucial time for the GOP.

The Republican Party is afraid of holding Trump accountable for fear of losing the Trumpists but it fails to understand the long game. Not all Trumpists are the hard core followers who attempted the coup at the U.S. Capitol last week and who came to DC with guns and explosives. Many just wanted the experience of protesting in Washington, not an invasion. We know that because of the number of people who have since abandoned Trump and the Trumpists. Some members of the GOP did it in the votes to certify the election of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris (e.g. Loeffler, Lankford, and Graham). As Foxs News and other outlets have reported there has been a flood of resignations since the Capitol invasion: cabinet members, senior staff, and lower level staffers did it by immediately resigning. At least one Trumpist rioter says showing up was the worst decision of his life and, as identities are exposed, arrests are made, and indictments come out, many other Trumpists may also have second thoughts.

If the GOP thinks the Trumpists are a valuable part of their constituency at this moment, they are wrong. The PBS NewsHour/Marist Poll shows that while the country is divided about removing Trump from office right now, the vast majority of Americans condemn the attempted coup on January 6th. The GOP does itself no favor now or in the future by failing to hold Trump and the Trumpists accountable. Doing so means it will lose even more support from the “average American” which is the real silent majority. We must be willing to hold the Republican Party accountable for its part.

The Democratic Party/Dems

In the spirit of transparency, I identify as a Democrat. However, I am not a “Proud Democrat” because I do not always agree with what the the Dems do. So why do I identify as a Democrat? Because the Dems, though sadly imperfect, align with my core value and belief in the greater good for all better than any of the other options…so far. That being said, the Dems are also accountable. The Dems are accountable because they have been complicit with the Republicans in creating the sharp political division that exists in this country. There have been many missed opportunities for the GOP and Dems to come together to govern for the greater good. They failed to do so because of outside interests, internal interests (aka politics), and, sometimes, just downright stubbornness. The intractability of their positions have resulted in a Congressional stalemate and national division it will take years to heal.

The Republican Party has been as partisan as possible during the periods it has controlled Congress over the past decade. The temptation for the Dems will be pay back. At least, that’s how it appears the game is played, and the game has been “on steroids” for the last generation or so.

The Dems have an opportunity to set a new standard of collaboration with Republicans. For the rational, non-Trumpists remaining in the GOP, collaboration will be especially important for helping establish the Republican Party again as an honorable, fair, and dependable opponent – not enemy. This, I believe, will be important for the healing of the country. For it to happen, though, we must be willing to hold the Democratic Party accountable for its part.

Individual Trumpist Legislators and other Trumpists

Accountability is already happening for this group but it is unclear how far it will go. Trumpist legislators (in both the House and the Senate) have unmasked themselves as Trumpists more than Republican. Major corporations are stepping back from financially supporting GOP Senators who objected to the certifcation of the 2020 election. It began with a trickle of three corporations early in the weekend, by Monday morning (today) there was a gush of corporations suspending support of Republicans who moved to de-certify the vote and even all political contributions. This trend is forecasted to grow and continue, especially toward others in the GOP if the Republican Party does not take steps to return the party to some semblance of what it used to be when it was really the Party of Lincoln.

How do we hold these lawless lawmakers accountable? You know the answer to that and it involves ballot boxes not bullets.

And what of the other Trumpists who were outside, then inside, the U.S. Capitol? It’s not looking very happy for them. There is a nationwide “manhunt” on for them. (Did they really not bother to consider that virtually everywhere in DC is in the view of surveillance cameras?) People have been arrested already from Hawai`i to Florida. Friends and family, who recognize their selfies and photos in social media, are calling the authorities.

Right now many of the charges may seem minor but there were five people who died. It appears the Capitol Police officer who died was struck on the head with a fire extinguisher by one of the Trumpist rioters. One day after storming the U.S. Capitol (by January 7th), there had already been 82 arrests. By the next day, January 8th, 13 had been charged in Federal Court and 40 more in Superior Court. The arrests and charges are growing and are expected to go into the hundreds. This does not even consider the number of people who are losing their careers and jobs as a result of this illegal action.

To add insult to injury for these folks, many of whom may have just been caught up in Trump’s rhetoric and the fever pitch of the Trumpist party atmosphere, their “fearless” leader betrayed them. He promised to march with them; instead he hid out at the White House. He said he supported them; then he denounced them on Twitter and described their behavior as “heinous.”

As sad and tragic as it is for these deceived Americans, we must be willing to hold Trumpists accountable.

The Media (as an entitty, both news and social)

In an age when the velocity of information is faster than our ability to fully comprehend it, two things must be true:

  • The Media – in all its forms – has to be responsible
  • We must be media-wise critical thinkers

The Media has to be committed to doing good research on its stories and to reporting its findings honestly. Overall, I believe much of mainstream media does this. Most media outlets will not release a story unless there are multiple sources. Ideally, those sources will go on record but that doesn’t always happen out of fear of retribution, especially during the Trump administration. For that reason, they need to have even more sources to ensure the credibility and consistency of the story. Using anonymous sources is not any cause for alarm as long as it is made verifiable through multiple sources who give the same story. We should not give a single second of consideration to the Media sources that fail in this most basis responsibility to truth and unbiased reporting.

Okay, look, everyone has a bias. When the Media is wise and honorable, it is upfront and clear about that bias so consumers can make informed decisions about whether to pay attention to it.

Social media has a particularly difficult challenge because it tries to provide an open forum for people to engage one another. That’s fine…but part of holding them accountable might be regular tutoring in the restrictions of free speech from the National Constitution Center. Also, I think it is a mistake for social media to be allowed to get into the “news business.” Most do not appear to have the expertise, infrastructure, or interest in vetting their stories as professional journalists. All of this to say that accountability does include regulation of the social media.

The Media, in all its forms, has the responsibility of shining a light on the most important issues, events, and figures of our day. Let’s be honest. Donald J. Trump has been important only because he has held the Office of the President of the United States. Period. Prior to his riding the escalator down Trump Tower in New York to announce his candidacy, he was thought of as unimportant if he was ever thought about at all. The Media treated him as a sideshow during his campaign but then, when he moved inside the big top, as the ringmaster, he had the spotlight. We can hold the Media accountable by urging them to avoid the next sideshow and stay focused on what really matters. I get it…they have to give the Office of the President their attention and it just so happened Trump was in that office. But now they have a choice. What matters is not Trump’s posts on social media, rants, conspiracy theories, temper tantrums, lies, etc. Media is accountable because it empowered Trump to become larger than life and more important than he ever was. Now they need to be held accountable for keeping the microphones and cameras off of him.

Now, what if the Media fails to be responsible and self and external regulation fails? What are we consumers to do? We have to be critical thinkers on our own. We have to recognize the valuable role Media plays in our society and, at the same time, scrutinize and evaluate what it tells us and call it out when it is gets the fact wrong and when it spews minformations, half-truth, conpsiracy theories, and other lies. We must be willing to the hold the Media accountable for honesty, integrity, and focusing on what really matters.

We the People

In the final analysis it is We the People – all of who live in the United States and its territories – who need to hold ourselves accountable for failing to:

  • Protect our fragile democracy from relentless attacks.
  • Live out the basic lessons we learned as children on how to play well with others…even those we disagree with (this is also known as “civility”).
  • Speak truth to power.
  • Build open, honest, and kind relationships with one another.
  • Listen thoughtfully, patiently, and seek to understand what is being said before we respond.
  • Assume and believe in the best intentions of all of us.
  • See and respond compassionately to the cries of any and all of us who feel marginalized and left behind – regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, age, status, faith, or political leanings – not just at this time of an unprecedented pandemic but always.
  • Follow the “Golden Rule” of treating others like, no, even better than, we would like to be treated.
  • Seek truth – not just the convenient kind that supports our ideology but the inconvenient truth that tests our ideology.
  • Research candidates and being clear on our most deeply held values and ideologies to ensure our candidates are in alignment.
  • Vote in every election in any legal way available to us to ensure that our voice is being heard and considered.
  • Call for accountability for all those I’ve mentioned here.

But, of course, we must be willing hold ourselves accountable. We are not without blame for what happened last week. We can and must do better in the future because our future depends on it. Will we?


Photo Credits:

Featured Photo – Shot Sign in Front of U.S. Capitol – csp55167745 © Can Stock Photo / focalpoint

Hear No Evil, See No Evil, Speak No Evil Owls – Peter Holmes on Pixabay

June 10, 2020 – What We Miss When Going Too Slow

Today is June 10, 2020. It is also National Ballpoint Pen Day. On June 20, 1943 two Hungarian brothers who immigrated to Argentina, Laslo and Georg Biro, filed a patent for the ballpoint pen. The ballpoint pen was first sold in the U.S. at Gimbel’s department store in 1945 and cost a whopping $12.50 each. Today that would be $190 but it still wouldn’t be enough to buy a Montblanc StarWalker Ballpoint Pen on Amazon.


What we miss when going too slow

We left the house today. Really…more than just walking the dogs. We got in the car and drove to a doctor’s appointment about 10 miles away. Then, we bought groceries…at 2 different stores!

Four months ago I would not have believed that a two-hour outing to get my eyes checked and buy a few groceries would be blogworthy. It felt like a trip to the moon. I nearly messed up paying at the grocery store because it has been so long since I’ve had to use one of those credit card readers. At first I inserted the card; but panicked and pulled it back out of the machine. For a moment I couldn’t remember if I should have swiped it or inserted it. Of course my confusion in turn confused the card reader and it gave me a “card error” message for about 30 seconds. To be clear, it was neither the card nor the reader’s error. It was mine.

But this is what we’ve come to, isn’t it? We gotten used to a different pace and we get excited by the little things now.

Another little thing that I get excited about now when I go out is bathrooms. Why you ask? (Of course you didn’t but I know you were thinking it.) Because public bathrooms are not nearly as plentiful as they used to be. Since the pandemic not every business is letting the public use its bathrooms. When you get into a business and find it has a bathroom you can use it is like finding, excuse the really bad pun, the pot o’ gold at the end of the rainbow.

These have been slower times during these months of self-isolation. Not less busy, but slower. The pace has opened up space to try some new things. I’ve been doing more reading, I’ve been learning to build websites on Google Sites, I’ve been learning video editing, and I’ve been learning to play ukelele.

Playing ukelele has been my dream since I met Taimane Gardner. At the time she was about 15 or 16 years old and she was playing on the street in front of my hotel in Honolulu. It was my first work trip to Hawai`i and I was walking around Waikiki Beach in the evening. As I was returning to my hotel, I heard her playing and decided to stop, watch, and listen for a bit. While she played, her mom and dad stood close by selling her first CD, Loco Princess (which I still have, by the way). Between songs I talked with her parents and during a break I got to talk with her. She began playing at age 5 and is often described as a ukelele virtuoso. At that time she told me she hoped to travel to the mainland to study at Julliard. That didn’t happen but her career seems to have taken off. I will never play like her, but, wow, what an inspiration!

During this time of self-isolation I’ve also been reminded of life before the conveniences we enjoy now, like cable, cell phones, internet, satellite radio, and social media. However, when I reflect on how much slower we lived before these things, I think maybe I didn’t so miss much. I mean…

  • I still watched more TV than I should have with only ABC, NBC, CBS, and PBS available over the air. (Our nearest TV station was 60+ miles away, which sometimes meant I’d have to go outside and turn the antenna by hand to get clear reception.)
  • I still got in trouble for spending too much time on our one family phone. (Rotary dial, no push buttons.)
  • I still got enough news about the Vietnam War from our local daily newspaper to feel depressed as I waited to turn 18 and be eligible for the draft. (My draft number? 364. Trump’s? Heel spurs.)
  • I still had one ear glued to the radio for my music. (Chicago’s WLS 890 AM and DJ Larry Lujack was a constant companion through my high school years in Southeast Iowa.)
  • I still saw enough cute cats and dogs living on a farm. (We always had a dog and way, way, way too many cats.)

On the other hand, I actually did miss a lot. We all did in those slower times. True, instantaneous news in a constantly online world can be irritating. However, it helps us see more things we missed when news moved slower.

Thanks to the velocity of news today, we were able learn quickly about the harrassment of Christian Cooper in Central Park in New York City by an entitled dog walker. We were able to learn about the murder of George Floyd before it could be covered up. We learned about, actually could see in real time, peaceful protester’s being pushed out of LaFayette Square to make way for Trump’s photo op. Unless we see and feel these outrages in real time and respond in real time, our efforts for change will always be too little, too late.

Sometimes we need a break from the rapid fire of information. Sometimes we need to step away from chaos, uncertainty, and the stress it can bring. Sometimes we need to go slow to disconnect for a little bit so we can maintain our sanity, perspective, and strength. At the same time we cannot allow our comfort in the slow periods to divorce us from the reality of our world and the part we need to play in making change.


Chickenman – Episode 54

The Winged Warrior seems to have fallen on hard times in Midland City. He is no longer as highly regarded as he once was. However, it turns out he has a fan club.


June 5, 2020 – Working Apart Together

Today, June 5th, is National Doughnut Day. However, it’s not really about the doughnut. It is a day that honors the women from the Salvation Army who served on the front lines of World War I. The Salvation Army “lassies” made home cooked meals, including doughnuts, for the soldiers fighting in Europe. The doughnuts were made in hot oil inside the metal helmets of the soldiers. The “lassies” were the only women who served on the front lines except for military personnel. So, as you run to Dunkin’ for that celebratory doughnut today, remember it’s not really about the doughnut.


Working together apart

Recently I helped out a friend who is a columnist on workplace management issues in a business journal. She had received a question from a reader about how to maintain esprit de corps on a team that pre-COVID-19 worked together face-to-face in the same space. Now, of course, post-COVID-19, they are trying to figure out how to work together apart. The question asked how to restore the sense of esprit de corps that now seemed missing. It was a really good question. I decided to share my response to it here because it applies to a wide variety of businesses and organizations facing similar issues at this time. I hope it is useful to you as well.

The “esprit de corps” of a team is an intangible part of team culture. It is, like so many other effective work processes and elements of culture, dependent on the relationships between team members. In the good ol’ “normal times” (pre-COVID-19) those relationships were established and tended to on a daily basis through real-time, in-person, same shared space interaction. Therefore, when you got into team meetings, there was not a need to do as much relationship building because it was being handled outside the meetings. The strengths of Zoom, WebEx, Google Meet, Skype, and the other virtual meeting utilities is that we can still have real-time, in person interactions. However, what is missing is the same sense of shared space and physical presence, as well as the opportunity and time to build and tend to relationships outside the meeting space. 

So, what can you do about that since the virtual work environment is likely here to stay for quite some time?

  1. Slow down – allow extra time in your meetings for people to simply hang and chat if they wish. For example, start meetings 15 minutes early for people to gather and chat and/or keep the virtual room open for 15 minutes after the meeting. My spouse, who teaches online Spanish courses to groups of adults, has found it amazingly effective to allow her students this time to connect with one another. She has seen friendships continue to grow and a clear sense of group cohesion emerge. Alternatively, build into your meeting schedule some semi-structured interaction (see items #3 and #4 below). 
  2. At the same time, be sensitive to the length of the actual work portion of the meeting and remain open to the possibility of disruptions. Remember that you may have employees working at home but now they are also childcare providers and substitute teachers. If children do intrude in the meeting, keep a sense of humor and be gentle. Avoid shaming anyone with comments, eyerolls, or body language. Make your actual business meetings as long as they need to be. Generally, I do not have meetings longer than 2 hours in length. I prefer to keep them much shorter if possible. If you can make the meetings easier and friendlier to attend for those employees who are managing caregiving or teaching at home, it will benefit the whole team. 
  3. Introduce a “conversation starter” for use in the hang out times, until people begin to feel comfortable connecting on their own in the virtual space. For example, I facilitate a weekly group comprised of people from Hawai`i to New York, Ontario to Southern California, who did not know one another until I brought them together. In the first meeting of the group I introduced this conversation starter, taken from the conversation game Vertellis: What was the best compliment you ever received? During the first two or three weeks I introduced the question, but then participants began to offer conversation starters. Now, we don’t really need them, but people still like to do them, so we have one each week. It is a simple way of getting to know one another better. 
  4. Release your inner silly person. These are extraordinary times. Everyone knows that everyone else on the video conference is sitting there in their pajama bottoms, golf shorts, and, god forbid, underwear anyway, right? In this small way, everyone has already released their inner silly person in secret. Let’s take it up a notch by doing something silly together: for example, have everyone wear the same colors on a call; have everyone show up wearing their favorite hat and briefly explain why it is; set aside time for people to share “knock knock” jokes in the chat area; have everyone bring their favorite coffee or tea mug and explain why it is their favorite; and, have everyone use an alias on the video conference – the name of a famous person they admire, an actor, a well-known person in your field, etc. Here’s one I have used in at least two different groups. I ask members go to the website Public Radio Name Generator and generate their own favorite public radio name. Once in the Zoom conference (which is my preferred platform) they change their names to their public radio names. We go by them for the duration of that meeting.

COVID-19 has been an unprecedented disruption to how we do business and work together. I do not believe it will be easy to move into the emerging new normal. We have to dare to be different. Several of my clients are reporting to me that they are actually beginning to feel energized as a result of the lockdowns. They are creating, innovating, and learning new ways of doing their pre-COVID-19 work that they never would have or could have considered before. Frankly, we will be sleepwalking into disaster if we simply try to apply the “best practices” and “the way we do things around here” from the past in the new normal to come. I hope these suggestions will help you not only create a greater sense of “esprit de corps” among your team but also create an upgraded culture of innovation.


devin stone commentary

I stumbled across this guy, Devin Stone, earlier today. I found myself fascinated by his YouTube commentary on the events that took place earlier this week at Lafayette Square in Washington, DC. After listening to it, I did some research. He is a trial attorney in DC and also has a company, Legal Eagle, that helps people survive law school. The commentary that caught my attention is below. It is about 18 minutes long but I found it really interesting and I hope you will as well.


for your reflection

With appreciation to Hope Crenshaw of Teen Health Mississippi for drawing my attention to this bit of poetry of hope. Learn more here about the poem and its the author, Leslie Dwight.


spanish classes filling up…but there is still space!

Clemencia Vargas, my spouse, is still receiving registrations for ¡Charlemos con Clemencia!, Spanish classes taught in the communicative style. Classes begin for the Summer session on June 15. About half the available seats filled up in less than a week but there is still room now. If you’ve been following this blog even sporadically over the past three months you’ve probably met Clemencia here already. Her website now includes some testimonials so you can get a sense of how her students feel about her classes. The Summer session will include students from Texas, Florida, Pennsylvania, and, of course, Maryland. If you have a couple of extra minutes today, we invite you to watch this video about the benefits of learning Spanish.


Follow up…

Yesterday I encouraged you to consider a contribution to Teen Health Mississippi to help with the organization’s COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund for youth. However, I did not include information on how to donate. Doh! Here now is a link to Teen Health Mississippi’s donation page. You can use the comment box to designate your gift to the Emergency Relief Fund for youth. Thanks!


Chickenman – Episode 49

The Wonderful Weekend White Winged Warrior is still suffering from amnesia and the delusion that he is, in fact, a real chicken. His efforts to lay an egg in the Policie Commissioner’s office have, so far, been unproductive…thankfully!


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

Tom

Day 54 – Stories of COVID-19 and Sheltering-In-Place

This blog series was started 53 days ago for one purpose…to provide a brief diversion to people who needed to take a small break from all things COVID-19. It seems to have succeeded for several people – well, okay, at least me…and Clemencia…and the Girls, but then, they are dogs and may not count.

Friday, May 8, 2020 – Live to Blog from Weekend Euphoria (Wait! Is it actually the weekend?)

#alonetogether

I feel funny today. No, not sick funny but funny funny. You know…it’s the way you feel like you want to be funny and think you are funny even if nobody else does? For too many people this is usually associated with having one too many drinks of an adult beverage. Me, I’m just drinking generic diet soda and still feeling funny. So, without further delay…let’s get on with “What I Think Is Funny Friday.”


COVID-19 Humor I Think is Funny from BoredPanda.com

A wonderful COVID-19 take on Grant Wood’s classic “American Gothic.” This one is for my friend Beth Howard, a former resident of that famous house and whom you met earlier this week.

What I Think is Funny from The Tonight Show (but with Johnny Carson)

This is a comedy classic. It makes me laugh everytime. Jack Webb was famous for his deadpan delivery on Dragnet. Here, working with Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show, his deadpan makes this whole sketch work.


What I think is Funny from The View from Jeff

Jeff and I met in the doctoral program at Eastern University. Reading, research, and writing are the three primary activities of any doctoral student – for years. Jeff captured the most frustrating of that triad of tyranny.

What I Always Think Is Funny from Chickenman

Episode 23 – Chickenman attempts to give two scoff laws (his grandparents) a parking ticket. How does that go down?


But, in Reality…a bit of Perspective

This blog series was started 53 days ago for one purpose…to provide a brief diversion to people who needed to take a small break from all things COVID-19. It seems to have succeeded for several people – well, okay, at least me…and Clemencia…and the Girls, but then, they are dogs and may not count. It is not intended, however, to distract us from our current reality. God knows there are a few people who work about 20 miles Southwest of me who would like nothing better than to do that.

Throughout this period we need to maintain perspective. I will not lie and say that it has been easy for me to do this. I tip off the rails too like many other people and sometimes it is a bit challenging to right myself. After all, we are in the midst of the worst public health crisis of our lifetime. Many people are dying. As of this moment that number is 76,368 in the United States. More than 325 of those are from the county in which Clemencia and I live. Over 275 of our neighbors in our small zip code have tested positive for COVID-19. Still, all of us have to find a way to move forward with our own lives.

Keeping perspective is something that helps us do this. One helpful perspective is this: we may be alone at home and we are sharing this experience together with many others who are staying at home too – either by choice out of fear or by mandate. Another perspective that we haven’t considered as much is this: we are not alone in history. I was reminded of this recently by something shared with me by my friend Cynthia. I tried to find a source for it but cannot trace it back to its origins. Each place I have found it also credits the author as being unknown and I will do the same here. Even if you have seen this before, it is worth revisiting. It reminds us that those who have come before us, including some of our parents, have “been there, done that,” survived, and we will too.

Imagine you were born in 1900. On your 14th birthday, World War I starts, and ends on your 18th birthday. 22 million people perish in that war.

Later in the year, a Spanish Flu epidemic hits the planet and runs until your 20th birthday. 50 million people die from it in those two years. Yes, 50 million.

On your 29th birthday, the Great Depression begins. Unemployment hits 25%, the World GDP drops 27%. That runs until you are 33.

The country nearly collapses along with the world economy.

When you turn 39, World War II starts. You aren’t even over the hill yet. And don’t try to catch your breath. On your 41st birthday, the United States is fully pulled into WWII. Between your 39th and 45th birthday, 75 million people perish in the war.

At 50, the Korean War starts. 5 million perish.

At 55 the Vietnam War begins and doesn’t end for 20 years. 4 million people perish in that conflict.

On your 62nd birthday you have the Cuban Missile Crisis, a tipping point in the Cold War. Life on our planet, as we know it, should have ended. Great leaders prevented that from happening.

When you turn 75, the Vietnam War finally ends.

Think of everyone on the planet born in 1900. How do you survive all of that?

When you were a kid in 1985 and didn’t think your 85 year old grandparent understood how hard school was. And how mean that kid in your class was. Yet they survived through everything listed above.

Perspective is an amazing art, refined as time goes on, and enlightening like you wouldn’t believe. Let’s try and keep things in perspective.

Author Unkown

Stay safe, be well, keep calm, keep washing you hands, keep wearing you mask, and keep prespective.

Tom

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