How to regain the blue collar, working class, small business contractors, unions, law & order advocates, first-responders, uniformed services, military and moderate-right of center sectors of society
That’s a mouthful and a tall order but here’s how to do it:
Talking points and strategies:
Become Tough-Love Democrats
Firmly establish yourselves as tough-love democrats.
Define TOUGH (this doesn’t mean you have to be MEAN)
Zero tolerance for violent crime and repeat offenders. The message of lock ’em up and throw away the key should be crystal clear. Who could be against this?
Make sure it’s clear that non-violent offenders and persons driven by addictions to commit crimes should not be included in this batch.
Let’s stop the “catch and release” approach to persons suffering from addictions and emotional disturbances and replace it with a policy of “treat and release with rigorous follow up”.
Mandated therapy on a mandatory schedule should replace the current mantra of writing up a report and sending afflicted persons on their way only to repeat this lunacy on a subsequent day. If a person presents a harm/hazard to themselves or society, there should be no reason why we can not track and trace them. Recovery coaches are currently deployed at some hospitals to empathize with and coax overdose patients to seek rehabilitation (this is the LOVE portion of the tough-love equation). I suggest adding a mandated element to this (i.e., tough part of tough-love) to require extended treatment for them. If you are brought to the hospital for an overdose, you do not get discharged until you are enrolled in a rehab program (24/7, full supervision) that gets you clean and gets you to the root cause of your addiction. Why not apply the same mandated supervised/therapeutic regime for gunshot victims when the shooting incident is just the tip of a much uglier issue (gang violence, drug war, etc.).
Based upon documentation of criminal behavior (whether you are a wife-beater, rapist, pedophile, hate monger or road rage maniac), we need to know your whereabouts and be assured that you are actively participating in recovery from your addictions and afflictions.
For the downright violent and purely evil criminals, permanent incarceration with no chance of seeing the light of day should be the order of the day. Democrats should lead with this “Law & Order” stance based on the old principle of “hate the sin but love the sinner”.
Provide the very basics of food-clothing-shelter and medical care to survive. Nothing fancy here. Who could be against this ? (except for the most callous of persons). Food: soup kitchen basics to prevent starvation. Clothing: warm clothes in winter to prevent from freezing and good shoes to get from point A to point B. Shelter: a cot to sleep on and a roof over head. In sum: 3 hots and a cot as the saying goes. As for medical care, if you are sick, you need to be treated and isolated as needed (especially with a pandemic underway). As noted above, this is the formula for SURVIVING, it’s up to the individual if he/she wants to launch beyond these basics to THRIVING
TOUGH: Basics of survival (food-clothing-shelter-health) require that recipients of services must take steps to address the reasons that they need these emergency, basic services in the first place. For example, if you are receiving medical care related to your smoking, you need to take mitigation steps. Likewise, if obesity is your issue, a healthy diet and appropriate exercise regime must be prescribed. Mandate mental/emotional therapy and fund mental health counseling so there is no excuse to avoid counselling if behavioral/emotional issues are the underlying reasons why you need assistance with the basics of life (food, clothing, shelter, etc.). In sum, get TOUGH by treating the causes rather than just the symptoms. When do you have a persons undivided attention? It’s when they need food-clothing-shelter or when they are in a hospital recovering from an overdose. In sum, treat’em when you got’em especially if they are frequent fliers receiving services.
Universal Basic Income (UBI) can be a vehicle or tough-love societal change that parties of all persuasions can support:
If everybody age 18+ who was NOT receiving SSI/SSDI were to receive $1,000/month, think of how much simpler our social support network (aka, bureaucracy) would be. Gone would be the days of the ridiculous cat & mouse game of hiding income. Gone would be the days of bureaucratic entanglement qualifying for benefits, re-certifying for benefits, adapting to ever changing program regulations and requirements. Advocates for less government would support the $1,000/month formula since they would appreciate the simplicity and expediency of UBI. Equally important, these beneficiaries would gain a sense of self-sufficiency and self-determination with nobody telling others how and where to spend the money. Libertarian’s and a sizable proportion of the Tea Party members might support this strategy and philosophy. Gone would be the demoralizing days of waiting in line at the social services/welfare department, something that the recipients of services/benefits would certainly appreciate.
The UBI model with its across the board payment formula avoids the quagmire created by targeting programs and resources which inevitably engenders animosities between the “haves” who qualified for programs vs. the “have nots” who did not qualify. Furthermore, there can be no accusation of discrimination if everybody is benefiting.
UBI would also benefit the bureaucrats. At first blush, it might appear that bureaucrats would be out of a job since they wouldn’t be needed to administer social service programs. Although there might be some workforce shrinkage (which the advocates of small government. less government would applaud), many of these employees could be redirected to be counselors (financial, life skill, peer mediators, therapist, etc.). Persons previously enrolled in programs could be provided encouragement to make the most of their $1,000/month allotment. Deep down, most former bureaucrats would find this much more rewarding than the pencil-pushing, form completing program implementation drudgery of program based service delivery. If they really preferred the bureaucratic format over the holistic, client centered format of the UBI, maybe they should be exiting the profession anyways. Many of these “former bureaucrats” could be transitioned to more productive roles which will be necessitated by the movement to revamp criminal justice, community policing and violence mitigation. Maybe they could be moved from behind their desks to the streets where they could ride with the cops and intervene on the scene where persons are in crisis and their social services expertise could best be utilized. In sum, the tandem combination of UBI and “outside of the box” tough-love messaging by Democrats could create some odd bedfellows. Conservatives would love the practicality and frugality. Progressives would love the kinder, gentler, holistic approach to community policing. Now that’s a formula for bringing into the Democrat tent those segments of our society that have strayed away.
Before leaving the topic of UBI, I have to share an observation that I had during my morning commute to work. I was heading south on I-95 behind a flatbed truck which displayed a huge TRUMP banner. If I had the chance to chat with the driver, I would have asked how he felt about getting $1,000/month thru the UBI. I would ask him how would he spend his time and what goals would he pursue if the $1,000/month freed him up to pursue his dreams. I would also gently remind him that in the not-to-distant future all trucks would be self-driven and trucking jobs would evaporate. I would avoid mentioning UBI was supported by both the democratic party presidential candidate Andrew Yang and by the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for fear that he may not be impressed by this or might even be turned off by knowing this. My sense is that this trucker (like so many other persons who feel aggrieved and financially strapped) could buy into the UBI economic argument which happens to have democrat progressive origins.
The following is a wrap-up listing of suggestions concerning how the Democrats can better position themselves to get themselves out of the liberal, big-spending, big government perceptual corner that they have been painted into:
Relentless enforcement of crimes of violence. Put the focus on the perpetrator rather than getting bogged down in the gun rights/restrictions quagmire. Be tough on crime vigorously pursuing both violent criminals and white collar criminals. Bernie Madoff the Ponzi schemer, pharmaceutical price gougers, wall street bandits, and insurance/medicare fraudsters can share their prison cell with the rapists and shooters. Law and order should apply to all criminals from the local mugger who steals the pocket book to the corporate raider who steals your pension.
Relentless enforcement cutting wasteful spending and calling out absurd expenditures. Strict adherence to the risk/reward equation. If the costs exceed the benefits, do not proceed. Taking the Affordable Health Care (ACA) as an example: Call out any situations where a person has been harmed by the ACA and identify exactly how they have been harmed. Did they loose their house because of ACA? Did they loose their business because of the ACA? How can such a person be made whole? If a Democrat could assist such a person, they have made a friend in the voting booth. Chopping off financial fat and finding practical solutions will win over fiscal conservatives.
Relentless avoidance of any foreign entanglements where the mission is not clear and the risk/rewards do not justify involvement.
Relentless advocacy of self-determination and self-sufficiency. Less regulation and more innovation. If people had more choice about their schools and more control over their neighborhoods, they would feel better about themselves. If feeling good can be attributed to Democrat’s, this spells voting victories.
Maybe we should consider a community digital wall where documented (not fake news) incidents of waste and abuse could be routinely highlighted. Call out the pharmaceutical price gougers, the welfare cheats, Medicare/Medicaid fraudsters, corporate/political incidents of corruption, and insurance horror stories, just to name a few. The Democrats could use this wall to identify and champion the populist causes of smaller government and cleaner government, thereby shedding the image of Democrats as the “tax-spend-regulate” party.
As with most of my blogs, I try to conclude by summing up how I have come to some of these conclusions and suggestions, so here goes:
Years of working in the public sector as a community organizer, planner, administrator in the fields of community development, redevelopment, and economic development have brought me to the conclusion that we spend way too much time, money and energy treating the symptoms of problems rather that tackling the causes. We live in the world where we hope that good results will come from our time, money and efforts. We try to turn cities around with trash clean ups, garden plantings, decorative street signage. These are all good and noble undertakings but they never get to the core reason that the city deteriorated in the first place.
Years of working as a mall cop on weekends seeing the same kids get kicked out of the mall for shoplifting, fighting, and being boisterous and belligerent. Replace the “catch & release syndrome” with a “mandated therapeutic meetings with both the parents/guardians and the youths getting to the root cause of their angst”.
Years of working in the mental health and addiction fields, I have met wonderful clients (many of whom I prefer to consider as friends rather than the label of clients). What frustrates me is the fact that the tough-love approach is not consistently applied or allowed. Self-determination is important and must be respected but recurring episodes with no measurable improvement ultimately is of no help to either the person or the society. Without addressing this issue (as with so many vexing societal issues), it seems like we only nibble at the peripheral symptoms without getting to root causes. We fail to take charge of situations in the most cost-effective, time/energy effective manor.
They fight everywhere they go? At the mall, in the bar, on the street, in their own home.
They live on a hair trigger. The slightest comment triggering animosity.
They get mad and stay mad. Grudges become a way of life.
They zoom everywhere. Dashing here and dashing there. Road rage is the norm.
They blast their music for all to hear, whether you want to hear it or not.
They rarely use a trash can. For them, the world is their trash receptacle.
No sentence is complete without the F-bomb. Friend and foe alike are called a female dog.
Angry glances, furtive looks, angry stares.
Anything in a skirt is fair game. If it moves, pounce on it.
They have no roots, no culture. No idea of where they have been or where they are going.
Momentary pleasure and personal gain is their north start. They live by the mantra of what’s mine is mine and what’s yours is negotiable.
Their day rarely includes a solitary moment or contemplative reflection. Their senses are downing in music, dance, gossip, social media in all it’s banality of twitter, facebook, snap chat.
They dream big unrealistic dreams. They want to scale the ladder but they are incapable of proceeding up each rung.
Every day is a holiday for some of them. Party here and party there. Their fun is a shallow fun, not the kind of fun that results from working hard for something and achieving a goal. They hoot and holler but they do not experience deep satisfaction. Making fun of someone else is their version of fun.
So who are all these people? They are becoming the face of America. They are redefining American character in all its ugliness and shallowness. Will they change and mature. Maybe. What will awaken them from their slothfull slumber?
The answer: A sense of purpose. A sense of pride in their past, purpose for the present and hope for the future. A sense of community rather that their myopic, me-centered world. At some point, they might find a higher purpose in life. Maybe it’s thru religion, maybe it’s thru military service, maybe they just finally “man up or woman up” deciding to become productive, calm citizens and good neighbors. Maybe not. Maybe they will live out the balance of their life in an angry maelstrom ruining their life and the lives of everyone around them.
I’m from the government and I’m here to help. Trust me.
If you are dependent upon the promise of government help and support…
Don’t hold your breath
Have a Plan-B
This applies whether you are a domestic group or a foreign entity.
Let’s start with domestic groups who put their faith in the government support and promises:
Native Americans. Broken treaties and forced migrations epitomized by the Trail of Tears. Relegated to reservations in the past and environmental injustices in modern times
African Americans promised freedom after the Emancipation Proclamation and the Civil War but Reconstruction was a travesty of justice that ushered in the era of Jim Crowe segregation, KKK atrocities and lynching’s.
War on Poverty established multitude of well intentioned programs but also ushered in an era of big government, bureaucracy, and social stigma.
War on Crime and War on Drugs was well intentioned but disproportionate incarceration’s of inner city residents and uneven application of justice caused more harm than good.
Dreamers who were brought to the USA as children and have in most cases become outstanding members of society attending school and starting careers. How are they being rewarded? Threat of deportation to countries and cultures that are entirely foreign to them.
College students needing financial aid. They encumber school loan debt so they can graduate only to become debtors for many years.
Retires who have contributed all their working years to social security and when they finally retire they are taxed on their social security earnings.
Working poor who struggle to rise out of poverty and wean away from benefits such as food stamps and public assistance only to be penalized for moving up into a higher income category and risk loosing a financial safety net in a precarious work environment.
Residents of hurricane ravaged New Orleans (hurricane Katrina) and Puerto Rico (hurricane Maria)
Victims of 911 rescue workers who had to fight for continuation of medical benefits for 911 related illnesses
Veterans in VA Hospitals who are kept on long waiting lists for physical and mental health treatment.
Persons who received health insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act (aka, Obamacare) and are threatened with becoming uninsured again with the threat of ACA coverage with no plan in place for replacing their insurance.
Persons unable to receive Covid-19 testing, first responders, essential front line worker (grocery clerks, retail clerks, truckers, delivery persons, etc.) and health care workers who are not supplied with Personal Protection Equipment (PPE), ventilators and adequate health insurance coverage.
In foreign affairs and with regard to international relations, the following groups have been betrayed by the promise of USA support:
Mong tribes in the mountains of South Vietnam who supported us in fighting the Viet Cong but were obliterated by the Viet Cong and communist regime of Vietnam when the USA abandoned Vietnam
Afghans who supported the overthrow of the Russian incursion into Afghanistan and were subsequently tortured by the Taliban when the USA exited.
Kurds fighting Sadam Hussein in the hopes of USA support of a Kurdish nation that never materialized.
Syrian rebels that supported a overthrow of dictator Bashar and subsequently fell victim to both Bashar (Syrian govenment) and ISIS. They were tragically double screwed the lack of USA promised support.
Libyans who supported the overthrow of Kadafi but without follow up by the USA they devolved into chaos and mayhem
Iraqis who were invaded by the USA and their society was irreparably broken with little hope for restoration of order with the USA having little appetite to remain long term to fix what they broke (and not knowing how to patch up the broken pieces).
Yemen. USA backs Saudi Arabia which backs the Yemen government in it’s fight with Houthi rebels (who have Iranian backing). Again, USA gets immersed in a quagmire with no clear direction and plenty of opportunity for fiascos.
Long term USA allies are no longer sure of USA support/commitment since the NATO treaty/alliance has been recently questioned and there has even been discussion of removing troops from South Korea. If I was a Ukrainian or the member of the small Baltic nations, I would be very concerned about USA inaction as the Russian bear casts its imperialistic glace toward those regions.
So if someone says “I’m from the government and I’m here to help you”, ….be afraid, be very afraid and make sure you have a “Plan B”.
Don’t get the wrong impression by this post. I’m as patriotic as the next guy. However, to maintain a democracy we need to be able to question, analyze and THINK. Mark Twain said it best when he said “Patriotism is supporting your country all the time and your government when it deserves it”.
Through CCTV, cameras and facial recognition those persons who cause disruptions and physically threaten others can be banned from the places they disrupt and the people they threaten.
Persons who consistently cause disruptions, threats and thefts can be banned from sites where they act out. In bygone years, such persons would be banished from the village and sent off to the woods where they would have to fend for themselves. In todays society, the banishment could be site specific. The duration of the banishment could be determined by the severity of the threat and extent of damage or theft that occurred.
The technology exists to enforce banishment. Capabilities include the following: access control measures, CCTV, camera surveillance, and facial recognition. Members only participation following the format of gyms, clubs and bulk retailers (i.e., Costco and BJ’s for example) would quantify who was within each premises and facilitate removal of persons whose behavior necessitates their removal. For years, gated communities and secured entrances have been symbolic of the rich upper classes. Why can’t middle income and lower income be able to secure their perimeters and ban those who demonstrate an inability to live in harmony?
The confluence of the following factors necessitate this emphasis on access control and banning capabilities:
We need to allow entrance to only those persons who are not infected.
In the event that an infected person has traversed the site, the documentation of who was on site and when they were on site becomes critical for the tracking, tracing and quarantining required to effectively combat the pandemic while still maintaining economic viability.
Crime, Disorder, Safety and Economic Viability
Sites that are more tightly controlled through access restrictions with banishment consequences for those who disrupt the order of the site will enhance safety and economic viability of the site. It’s just good business. Furthermore, restrictions and adaptations can be adjusted to meet changing circumstances. Examples include: restricted access and banishment of persons for whom restraining orders are in place, repeat offender shoplifters and fighters will no longer be repeaters. Anonymity is the protective foil for persons with bad intentions. They shun the bright light of identification. We’re already tracking buying patterns and personal movements via I-phones, so why can’t we track and ban those persons who present a threat to persons, property and economic viability of our businesses, our schools, institutions, houses of worship. Some might say this is “Big Brother Overreach” but it’s already happening as soon a you tap your I-phone or computer. Ask the family and friends of persons gunned down in mass shootings (and any sorts of shootings) if they think some heightened access control, tracking of participants and restricting of malcontents documented to be credible threats might have averted or lessened the level of tragedies. I’m not implying that this strategy will solve all problems, but it might mitigate some problems.
Enhancement of Personal Responsibility:
If a person who repeatedly steals, fights, threatens or causes mayhem finds themselves becoming increasingly restricted from places where they can carry on their bad habits, maybe over time they will realize that they are the source of their problems and maybe they will exercise more self-control. This is certainly more cost effective than the current cycle of repeat offenses and catching/releasing syndrome.
How did I come to suggest this strategy/proposal:
Over 15 years as a part-time mall cop, I have see far too many “catch and release” situations. Far too many incidents where actions bring no consequences. Stealing, arguing and fighting persists, often among the same players. And it’s these players who never realize that they are the source of their own anxieties. They live in a viscous cycle which only will be broken if they come to terms with themselves or they encounter a shrinking world where they can carry on stealing, fighting or both. As a community organizer, community revitalizer and property manager, I have likewise experienced chronic bad neighbors and bad tenants who either need to change from within (that’s up to them) or changed from outside (thus the tracking & banning).
Education by Walking, Talking, Mentoring, Learning & Exchanging
How did I come to propose this drastic revamp of our education system for the pandemic and beyond?
Long before the pandemic struck, I opposed the building of new schools. Instead of the warehousing students in new schools, I have long advocated for the paradigm shift described in this post. Schools may be new but bad habits and attitudes by many students and teachers remain. That’s why we need to change the way we educate kids, not just build new schools to house them.
As a mall cop with over 15 years of weekend work experience, I encounter belligerent youth raising hell in the mall. My fellow mall cops are amazed at how teachers must have to put up with these kids day in and day out. We only have brief, contentious interactions with them. Teachers must have the patience of saints! We often discuss how these kids might learn best in small group sessions with intensive mentoring.
As a father quarantined during the pandemic, I have been taking evening walks with my sons. During these 1 mile walks, we discuss all sorts of topics. No subject is off limits. We discuss politics, philosophy, science, current events and whatever is on our minds. Every stroll includes brainstorming. Since they are in their 20’s, they update their old man on high tech stuff. Since I have over 60 years of life/work experience, I share my views of the arch of history and what I call the long-view. This got me to thinking, what if we developed a similar walk-talk-learn-exchange format for our education system. My sense is that more learning could take place in 1 hour in a Socratic exchange format than several hours of classroom lecture format.
Having been a “student teacher” in Washington DC since I double majored in college in Politics and Secondary Education and I have managed after-school programs in pubic housing sites as a Resident Service Coordinator, I have experienced first hand the value of intensive tutoring over unmanageable large scale classroom settings.
Having been a VIP (Volunteer In Probation), I have seen the benefits of working one-on-one with a probationer playing basketball, going bowling and just talking.
So how would this “micro learning, intensive mentoring” system of learning work?
Small groups of students (and in some cases one-on-one mentoring for students needing intensive attention) would experience a “warm up session” where their goals and interests would be explored. During this session, any blockages to learning, personal issues and anxieties could be identified and addressed. Multiple “warm up sessions” might be needed depending upon the emotional state of the student and their aversion to schooling. Having a “learning warm up” would be akin to doing a “warm up’ before a physical workout. During this “warm up session”, learning objectives and goals could be established so the learning session would be more productive. If hunger is preventing learning, now would be the time for health snacks.
Subsequent learning sessions could then be scheduled with teachers/mentors representing the subjects and activities essential for a well rounded student (i.e., math, science, social studies, reading, writing and physical education). The teachers/mentors would be experts in their respective subjects. Most importantly, their teaching/mentoring would reflect their enthusiasm for their subjects. In my case, I would share my affinity for social studies, history and politics while leaving the math and sciences to teachers/mentors qualified for those subjects.
Subsequent learning sessions and possibly large segments of the day could have field trips scheduled to explore various careers, cultures, and experiential learning activities (museums, libraries, businesses, etc.). Make learning memorable and relevant. Include reflections before and after these field trips so the students connect subject matter with real world jobs, people, environments and resources.
Volunteering and in some cases paid stipends for work performed would augment the learning process while providing value to both the community and the students.
The students would be issued a laptop and guided by the teacher/mentor to research projects, navigate the web/internet, distinguish fact from fiction, and essentially become life long learners. This setting encourages researching, thinking, and problem solving rather than the memorization of facts and figures in the traditional classroom setting. Under supervision, the students would be allowed to play video games so that they also learn the importance of time management and discernment while using technology.
The teachers role will expand to life-coach and mentor for a more cost effective and meaningful learning experience for the student.
Some advantages to this micro teaching/intensive mentoring format:
Small group settings are conducive to learning and quality interactions
Small group settings with social distancing and mask precautions are needed during the pandemic. Safe and essential social interactions needed for healthy development of children could be achieved without the greater chance of “virus super-spreader” situations in big classroom settings.
Small group settings would be less likely settings for school mass shootings. Its a sad commentary that I have to suggest this as an advantage.
Small group settings for learning coupled with experiential learning experiences (field trips, job shadowing, guest speakers and hands on experiences) would accomplish in fewer hours what many hours of classroom instruction tries to accomplish.
Small group settings of students with a healthy mix of socio-economic, racial and cultural backgrounds under proper mentorship has a much better chance of creating the “more perfect union” that politicians and leaders espouse.
Small group settings enable the teachers to become a mixture of instructor, coach and mentor. Teaming up these teachers in pairs working in tandem would also provide transparency, accountability and enrichment/support for all concerned (both teachers and students).
Small group settings initially sound more expensive but in the long run the students might learn quicker and in a more cost effective method.
Who knew it would take a pandemic to get us to re-think the entire format of our education system?
He ordered the killing of some really bad guys…..namely Bin Laden and other terrorists via drone attacks and special forces intervention. Strategic approach to national security without long-term foreign engagement.
He made the best of circumstances having inheriting an unjust war that was started by George W. Bush and his warmongering team (Wolfowitz, Chaney, Rumsfeld, etc.) and their allegation of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD’s) in Iraq.
He made the best of circumstances having inherited a collapsed financial market and the great recession at the end of the Bush administration. He averted a complete financial collapse and instituted guidelines so as to prevent the next financial bubble to burst (measures which, by the way, are being dismantled as we head toward the next financial crisis fueled by greed). He continued to advocate for a steady (albeit slow) economic recovery.
He implemented the Affordable Care Act (aka, Obamacare) enabling millions of Americans who had pre-existing medical conditions that precluded them from obtaining affordable health care to now receive this coverage. Who could be against providing affordable health care for the chronically ill?
He brokered an international treaty with Iran that put a moratorium on their development of a nuclear arsenals. Now that treaty was torn up with no replacement and heightened likelihood of war
He brokered an international treaty designed to address global warming and climate change (which by the way is not a hoax). Now that agreement was torn up by the USA with no replacement and we are ignoring an existential threat to our existence.
He increased USA goodwill and profile among nations and strengthened relations with our allies. Now we are not trusted by our allies and the dominant them of our foreign relations is unpredictability.
For those who insist that Obama was a horrible president, I ask the following questions:
Under whose watch was Bin Laden captured and killed?
Whose life was ruined by Obamacare? Ask the formerly uninsured. Ask the patients with chronic pre-existing conditions who now could access affordable health care and insurance.
What was the major scandal that occurred during his tenure? Some might say that the terrorist attack in Benghazi Libya was a scandal on his watch. Though this was a tragic occurrence, it’s inconceivable that Obama caused this.
Economic recovery was tracking upward (maybe not at the robust pace everyone wanted) but you have to admit that he and his team brought us back from the brink of financial collapse.
I’m a child of the 1960s when we had race riots, Vietnam war protests, Kent State massacre, Mai Lai massacre in Vietnam, colleges and cities in flames, rioting at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, rampant drug use and assassination’s of our leaders. Now those were troubled times! And then there were the 1970’s when we had the gas crisis, oil embargo, inflation and economic stagnation (a combination referred to as stagflation) and last but not least Watergate and the resignation of Nixon. And then there was the Iran Hostage crisis that bogged down the Carter administration at the tail end of the 1970’s. Along came the Reagan years and relative prosperity during the 1980’s but let’s not forget about the corruption of the Iran-Contra affair. As a student of history and someone who “has seen a thing or two” (to paraphrase a line from the Farmers Insurance commercial), I truly can not share the view that the 8 years of the Obama administration were as horrible as some persons describe it.
Having just finished watching all 4 nights of the Democratic National Convention and the nomination of Joe Biden for President, I felt compelled to post this blog which I had on the shelf for a couple of weeks. I watched the Republican National Convention and tried to keep an open mind for any proposals that I can support but didn’t see any. I had to shut off the tv on doctors orders for fear that my blood pressure would skyrocket!
Some responses when confronted with the absurd, the racist, the hateful or simply the woefully wrong information or misplaced emotional responses
We all have experienced some combination of all of the above described situations.
We all have thought of clever, reasonable, thoughtful and even humorous responses after the fact and wished we responded that way in the moment.
I present the following statements commonly experienced and I offer possible responses to each.
The Pandemic: It’s a hoax, fabricated and exaggerated by the liberal media and the democrats. Watch, it will disappear after the November election.
The Response: Let me give you the names and contact information for the families of those who have died from this and see if you can tell them to their face that the whole thing was contrived. So does that mean that their dead loved one had no meaning?
The Pandemic: Wearing the mask is uncomfortable and unnecessary.
The Response: You wear a seatbelt so you don’t fly thru the windshield in an accident. It may be a bit uncomfortable but you got used to it and you’re still alive. And if you still do not wear a seatbelt, you are a fool who has only yourself be blame when you are killed or maimed. Just like you are a fool to not wear a mask and practice social distancing and wash hands regularly.
Another Response: Our ancestors fought on the mountains of Korea and in the jungles of Vietnam and the Pacific Islands in World War II. Now that was uncomfortable. So maybe, just maybe you can muster the strength and fortitude to tough it out and wear a mask, wash your hands more frequently and maintain a safe social distance.
The Pandemic : It’s my right to decide whether I need to wear a mask. It’s government over-reach to require it.
The Response: It’s also my right to remain healthy because you wear a mask. It’ my right as a taxpayer to not foot the hospital bill and pay for you when you go on a ventilator. So how about wearing a “Do Not Resuscitate” bracelet so when you come down with Covid-19, I do not have to pay for your right to refrain from wearing a mask?
All News Is Fake: I don’t trust any news sources. They all lie and have an agenda.
The Response: Ok, well I do not have a really good response for this.
What comes to mind is a question/answer series that could go like this…..
Did the sun come up this morning…yes or no?
OK, so on this much we agree upon.
Are you currently breathing and still alive.
Ok, so on this much we agree upon.
Beyond the sun rising this morning and you breathing right now, is there anything else that’s happening now or happened prior to this moment that you believe to be true?
Answer, sure lots of stuff.
How did you come to believe this stuff?
Answer: I saw it for my own eyes or I just believed it to be true.
OK, so we agree that anything that you see or experience first hand is true.
So what would it take for you to believe to be true anything that came before this moment in time? Would I have to take you to view the bodies of mass shooting victims? Would I have to bring you to the scene of every incident of police brutality committed in real time? Would I have to bring you to the emergency room to watch a Covid-19 victim breath their last breath. How about at trip to the arctic to watch a polar bear die of starvation because the habitat is disappearing because of global warming?
Might I suggest that if you chose to trust nothing and trust nobody, you should resign yourself to stop thinking and just focus on eating and sleeping and wait for this miserable life to end.
All politicians are corrupt, you can’t trust any of them
The Response Ok, so if you “tune out and give up”, who do you think is going to step into that void. Answer, the very politicians you accuse of being corrupt. Somebody is going to rule you if you give up on the process. So why not at least have a say in who rules you.
All good conversations must come to an end, thankfully the above described encounters. Let me suggest how such conversations might end…..
Hey, look at the time, I’m going to miss my flight on the space ship back to the mother planet, take care and good luck with everything.
Time for a Domestic Version of the Foreign Student Exchange Program.
Time for Community Ambassadors/Community Mediators.
Time to change. Time for a new paradigm.
Political and cultural polarization over the last several years and recent unrest/protesting over police brutality got me to thinking…. what if we established throughout the USA…..
Ride along in cop cars
Teach along in classrooms
Walk along in hallways of detox/rehab facilities
Feed along in soup kitchens and housing shelters
You get the idea. Why am I so keen on “ride-teach-walk-feed alongs”?
Most people drive by cops, schools, mental health/detox/rehab facilities, public housing projects, soup kitchens and housing shelters and never get a first hand experience of what it’s like to be a provider of these services or a beneficiary of them. We drive through neighborhoods that we consider foreign at best and dangerous at worst.
We live in an increasingly polarized world of sound chambers reinforcing our own thoughts and values and ignoring or worse yet denigrating those of others.
When changes and reforms are implemented, they are often done in a top-down manor. Communities establish Citizen Advisory Boards, Educational Oversite Commissions, Blue Ribbon Panels. You get the idea. The elites of the community interact with the other elites while the real action and interaction at the ground level, the street level never is experienced. This is not to say that advisory boards and higher level oversight is bad. In fact, it’s often needed but it’s still not exposing the “man on the street” and the “outsider” to what the cop, teacher, student, housing resident, patient, and client all experience on a day-to-day basis.
It’s ironic that for years we have had a Foreign Student Exchange Program that encourages exchanges of languages, cultures, values and experiences to benefit both the foreign student and the host family. For years we have had a Peace Corp (internationally) and AmeriCorps (domestic version) with similar missions to expand the horizons and understandings of all participants. For years we have fielded local sports teams composed of persons of various backgrounds who share a common interest in their respective sports. We have a long tradition of employees of various backgrounds sharing their lives (at least during working hours) in support of their common goal of bringing home a paycheck. We have increasing popularity of Air BNB’s, house swaps and extended stay residences. We have Sister/Brother Cities initiatives and school children had pen-pal programs exchanging letters and experiences with students in far off lands.
However, prejudices and misunderstandings are threatening to turn the American melting pot into a boiling cauldron of distrust and dissention. Why is it that we can accept someone who we play ball with or work with or went to school with but refer to them as “one of the good ones”. Does this imply that the “rest of them are bad?”. Why do we usually get to like the person we know and distrust the rest? The answer lies in the realization that this is the person we know.
So why not establish a national exchange program. How would it work?
Let’s start small, organic and doable. Let’s start simply with “walk alongs” where persons from different paths in life can stroll together (keeping appropriate social distance during the pandemic and wearing masks) exchanging stories and experiences. Now isn’t that more productive than angry tweets? Plus, we all could benefit from burning some calories while walking. This would not be a stressful blind date situation. Rather, there could be an intermediary who introduces the walkers and accompanies them while facilitating conversations. Think of the intermediary as a match maker. What let me to this proposal for a walk-talk-share-reflect model? Evenings during the pandemic, I take a one mile walk with my sons. All sorts of topics are covered. At the half mile mark, I do push ups and sit-ups on a stone wall and we return, talking/reflecting and sharing ideas all the way back. I’m the old guy in the group and I’m not sure why I’m the one doing the push-ups and sit-ups but that’s a topic for another blog. I was further inspired to propose a “walking-talking-sharing” event by a radio interview of the director of the Corrymeela Community in Northern Ireland. This is a retreat house which is a place for peace and reconciliation among otherwise waring factions. The mantra of this initiative which was created to facilitate the end of the 30 years of sectarian warfare in Ireland is “to live well together”. In gaelic there are 2 interpretations of the meaning of Corrymeela. One version is it means “Hill of Harmony”. The other version is that “It’s is a place of lumpy crossings”. I like both versions and the “lumpy crossings” seems a good fit for current USA circumstances. Whatever the true meaning, we could use some Corrymeela’s in the USA. We could start simply with some strolls among strangers. This reminds me of poet William Butler Yeats astute phrase “There are no stranger here, only friends who have not yet met”.
Moving beyond “walk alongs”, let’s consider more “ride alongs” in police cars, classrooms, mental health facilities, detox centers, soup kitchens and any other environment where the general public needs to get a better appreciation of the persons being served and the persons doing the serving. This could serve multiple purposes. The hard working, honest and well intentioned servers (cops, teachers, counselors, social workers) would get a boost of moral by the general publics better appreciation of the challenges they face and the value of the services they offer. For the “bad apples” among the afore mentioned professions, the heightened transparency would be like turning on the light forcing the cockroaches to scurry away. For the persons receiving the services, they might be bolstered by the fact that members of the greater community gained an appreciation of them. They might appreciate that persons other than professionals assigned to serve them (cops, teachers, etc.) care about them. They might feel more valued and appreciated. This could be the groundwork for real progress. The “outsiders” and “observers” would be able to attach a human face to what previously was limited to statistical announcements on the evening news and editorials by the pundits in their respective commentary silos.
So back to the grander notion of creating a Domestic Version of the Foreign Student Exchange Program
This may not be for everybody. As someone who works 2 and 3 jobs, I do not have the luxury of taking a sabbatical to experience the customs, circumstances and value systems of persons in other parts of the USA or even in a nearby city or the other side of my town. However, with social security and retirement days on the horizon, it’s something I would consider if given the opportunity. As a writer, full emersion into the lives of those with whom I am not familiar will certainly provide material for the next book. Speaking of “full emersion”, an exchange program that plops me into a non-English speaking setting would turbo charge the learning curve of an unfamiliar language. For a long time, a pet peeve of mine has been seeing my kids take Spanish from 7th grade through high school. Now they rarely speak it. They passed the tests but promptly lost the words. Participants would be kept busy at the host sites while engaged in projects that match their interests and skills, advance their careers while making a meaningful contribution to that host site. Many communities have a Voluntary Action Council where volunteers are matched with needs and interests. Think of my Domestic Exchange Program with the longer term mission of “living well together” just like the previously described mantra of the Corrymeela Community in Northern Ireland.
An incentive for participation could be college credit and/or work study payment with stipends to students who enroll in this Domestic Exchange Program, just like college students get credit for spending a semester abroad. Under proper supervision, some participants might be required to participate as a condition of community service. They could be persons enrolled in anger management programs, particularly if their anger is related to racial, cultural, religious animosity. With an up-tick in hate crime related offenses, there will be no shortage of potential candidates who could benefit from the racial-social-cultural-religious enlightenment offered by a Domestic Exchange Program.
Lastly, in this day and age of global terrorism, participating in a Domestic Exchange Program might be preferable to a Foreign Exchange Program. It’s closer, more convenient and less costly for participants than travelling overseas. With the recent interest in “experiential vacations” rather than traditional “play vacations” , this might appeal to persons seeking a learning/inspirational vacation experience without travelling to a far off jungle or wilderness. As the divide between “Red States” and “Blue States” expands, there might be a role for a Domestic Exchange Program (or a cultural sabbatical if you prefer that definition) to better enlighten eachother and regain a sense of empathy and national unity. Now that would really be patriotic!
My fear is that if we do not implement some sort of Socio-Cultural Exchange program and the cancer of polarization grows, so will the specter of violence, anarchy and potential civil war.
I hate to conclude with this ominous warning but that’s my dystopic vision if we do not start taking small steps like strolling and riding with each other on a one-on-one basis to get to know, appreciate and respect each other.
Some Life Reflections with Medicare Card in my wallet
Usually birthday cards are received but since I’ve hit a birthday milestone, I’ve been in a more reflective mood and thought I would share with my children (and anybody else who might be interested) some observations and reflections. I’m feeling fine so this is not some sort of “curtain call” speech (but with the pandemic re-surging because of the selfishness of persons who will not wear masks or practice social distancing…. it never hurts to have your affairs in order and your thoughts recorded).
That said, here are my reflections, observations and recommendations:
Do what interests you and what you are passionate about. The money will follow. Not much money ever followed me but I still cherish the memories of the persons I have met and persons I have worked with during the course of the endeavors I have engaged in.
The longer you live, the more distant and fuzzy the memories. At my age, you start to think in terms of decades. What seemed to be important back then becomes blurry and unimportant. For my kids who are in their 20’s, this means don’t get too hung up with the anxieties of the “hear-and-now”. Don’t be driven by anxiety about benchmarks implying that you must complete “X” before “Y” happens. Take your time and enjoy the ride because, like I said above “it all blurs together later on”. At my age, I have finally gained an appreciation of all the subjects I took in college and grad school. I got A’s and B’s but its only until now after 40+ years of work/life experiences that I really learned what I was taught. As a life-long suffer of math phobia, I finally have gained a rudimentary understanding of finance and economics. If the younger generation could come to this understanding while they are still young, just think of how much more successful they would be.
I recommend identifying mentors and supporters in your respective careers (and you will probably engage in several careers over time). Without mentors and some semblance of a master plan, you run the risk of becoming a rudderless ship bobbing in the water.
Cherish your friendships, keep building your friend base. Be aware that annoying traits and habits observed in others early in life tend to grow with time. Some people age gracefully like a good wine. However, many others grow increasingly sour and stale. Be cognizant of this when picking soul mates and long term relationships. Also don’t be surprised by friends who become essentially strangers after lots of “water under the bridge”. Sometimes you can pick right up where you left off in relationships but don’t be surprised if time, events, shifting priorities and changing philosophies re-set the relationship. Some doors will close while others will open. Just keep knocking.
Be your own person, be your own agent standing up for yourself and what is right. On that note, the more confident and self-sufficient you can be, the better off you will be and the farther you will get in life. This applies to all facets of life: career, financial, inter-personal. Looking back, I can identify junctures in my life when I might have stepped up and made different decisions and commitments, if only I had more confidence and sense of direction. That said, do not dwell in the rear view mirror and the land of “what if”.
There are rooms where the POTENTIAL exists for permanent change for the better
What follows is just a sample of such rooms
The holding cell within the loss prevention office of a department store.
Here sits the handcuffed shoplifting suspect. They come in all sorts of backgrounds.
Angry and beligerent
Tearful and remorseful
Gang wanna be’s looking for street creds and fulfilling an initiation requirement
Junkies needing a fix
Just plain lazy, selfish, narcissistic products of our shallow consumer driven society
No matter what their background and persuasion, they are in custody. They got caught. We have their attention because we are in charge and they are in handcuffs. Might now be the time to dig deeper to determine their underlying motivations so as to counsel them to change their ways?. But no. The time and resources are limited. The result is release into the custody of parents/guardians if they are minors, a night in jail for the others and a Promise To Appear (PTA) in court for all of them (unless the shoplifting was accompanied by some physical resistance).
Teachable Moment & Opportunity Loston all of them except the most contrite who might be “scared straight”. For the rest, where is the “tough-love”? When will the taxpayers say “enough is enough” and stop paying for this revolving door? Might it make sense to pay some attention and money now rather that keep pouring it down the drain later?
The doctors office for the annual check up
Here sits the patient dutifully answering the following questions:
What is your weekly intake of alcohol? Oh, just an occasional beer or wine with dinner
Are you eating plenty of fruits and vegetables? Oh, yes almost every day.
Are you exercising regularly? Oh yes, I have a gym membership
Are you getting at least 8 hours of sleep every night? Oh yes, no late night tv watching or computer screen surfing for me.
How is your home life and is anything bothering you? I’m fine
Have you paid the co-pay for todays visit? Yes, I paid on the way in.
Here sits the patient:
Bloodshot eyes, tired, forgetful
High blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes
Teachable Moment & Opportunity Loston all patients except those who have taken a good look at themselves in the mirror and are resolved to change. For the rest, where is the “tough-love”? Might it make sense to pay some attention and money now rather that keep pouring it down the drain later with increased health insurance costs, increased medication levels and frequent hospitalizations?
The emergency room treating overdose victims
Here lies the drug overdose victim. They come from all sorts of backgrounds but they have one thing in common…they almost died from their addiction. Another thing most of them have in common is that this probably not their first brush with death and it will not be their last.
Teachable Moment & Opportunity Loston all patients except those who have taken a good look at themselves in the mirror and are resolved to change. For the rest, where is the “tough-love”? Might it make sense to pay some attention and money now rather that keep pouring it down the drain later with increased health insurance costs, frequent hospitalizations and continued arrests? Might this be the time when bring them back from such dire circumstances to enroll them in long term hospitalizations that include both physical and psychological therapy? Costly up front but cost effective in the long run.
Hospital psychiatric wards
Here sits the “frequent flier” needing stabilization and safety.
Teachable Moment & Opportunity Lost: Might now while they are receiving direct care and supervision be the time to make sure their diagnosis and medicine management are correct. Might now be the time to transfer them to a supervised, therapeutic residence for longer term care and treatment rather than release them into the community where there is a high likelihood that they will relapse, hurt themselves or become victimized.
Emergency housing shelters
Here sits more “frequent fliers” needing stabilization, safety and longer term treatment
Teachable Moment & Opportunity Lost: See description above concerning psychiatric admissions. On a personal note, having worked for over 30 years in the affordable housing field, I recognize that every case of homelessness is different and treatments must vary accordingly. That said, the pervasive pattern of homelessness is a clear indication that issues must be addressed concurrent with putting a roof over someone’s head. Again, spending without tough-love is good money after bad.
The court room and the jail cell
Here sits more “frequent fliers” needing stabilization, safety (from themselves and for society) and longer term treatment.
Teachable Moment & Opportunity Lost: If they are in these systems (courts & jails) we know where they are and we have their attention (similar to the shoplifters described in custody at the start of this discussion). Obviously, the circumstances of every person in the criminal justice system will be different for each person. Solutions need to be tailored. Additionally, the punishments must be proportionate to the crimes committed. However, for chronic repeat offenders, there needs to be a mechanism in place that provides long term intensive supervision and therapeutic treatment (and confinement if violence is on the criminals resume) since it’s obvious that stints in jail are not turning this persons life around.
So what prevents tough-love, long-term, cost-effective solutions to the above described revolving door scenarios?
There needs to be a re-examination of our perspective on individual rights and autonomy when the safety of both persons and society are at stake. When there is a pervasive pattern of good-money-after-bad-money pouring down the drain with no evidence that the problem is being addressed, it’s time to consider more mandated, longer term treatments when we have the full focus of the person who is in crisis or in the case of persons engaged in criminal activity who are caught red-handed.
Of course, there needs to be oversight to make sure that there are no abuses of power concerning the application of tough-love, mandated treatments. Maybe if we crafted a system of conservators, mentors, and life-coaches coupled with technology to monitor those persons in need of monitoring for their own safety and the safety of society, we might be able to reduce the repeat offender syndrome. This approach would bring a stop to the ridiculous “catch and release” treatment of all the persons described in this article. As someone who has worked in the fields of community organizing, housing, criminal justice, education and mental health, I have seen my share of “catch and release” and observe that nobody wins in the long run. Maybe with dwindling funding to address problems, it’s time to think outside of the box in addressing these problems.
Some of this outside-the-box thinking and long-view perspectives are baked into my upcoming novel Mall Child so stay tuned for details!