Anything can be accomplished with ENOUGH !!!

It’s an odd title for a blog so here’s my explanation:

ENOUGH as used here means bringing to bear sufficient resources (i.e, money, manpower, equipment, whatever it takes) to accomplish the task at hand, usually this pertains to a challenge previously considered unsolvable or overwhelming.

Why am I thinking about this? Several reasons:

  • During Thanksgiving weekend, I was anxiously raking up my leaves one morning and it looked like I would not complete in time for the first snowfall. Then I was joined by my 3 sons and we completed the task before sunset. We got to talking about how long it would take to complete the task if 100 persons were issued a rake and we agreed that it could be done in 1 hour (2 hours max.)
  • I was listening to a commercial that mentioned an organization that reportedly solves problems previously considered unsolvable.
  • I was thinking about all the problems afflicting society (crime, education, housing, etc.) and thought that anything’s possible if only ENOUGH resources were brought to bear.
  • As a former mall cop from a family with many cop ancestors, I’m naturally interested in criminal justice matters. I can’t seem to get out of my head the fact that a nearby public housing complex reportedly has over 7 unsolved homicides. All those eyes and ears in a densely populated area and “nobody knows nothing”. One of my clients was recently murdered and I can’t stop thinking about how the homicide unit is so understaffed that a quick closure to this case (if it ever gets closed) is unlikely.
  • As a former manager of after school programs in a public housing authority until the Drug Elimination Grant funds dried up, I always wonder what more could have been done and how many lives could have been re-directed has there been sufficient and consistent resources.

The resources exist. We’re the country that won WW2. We’re the country that landed on the moon. We build the railway and interstate highway system. We got the covid vaccines up and running in short order. When we rake our lawn and shovel our driveways, we don’t do it only half way. So why are we overwhelmed when it comes to crime, education, housing, hunger (pick you favorite cause). It’s all about the will to apply the resources AND make some hard decisions about what NOT to fund. Might I suggest a couple fewer aircraft carriers and battleships since we already have plenty and it’s not a good idea to keep funding the LAST war (the future war will be of a cyber/bio variety).

So what’s the call to action? Select priorities, laser focus until the problem at hand is addressed, make the tough cuts, tough decisions about priorities and get it DUNN (sorry for the typo, it happens to be my last name).

Talking points for liberals and conservatives

What NOT to say and how to start a speech has become as important as the speech itself if you want to maintain open dialogue.

So here’s my advice to liberals:

  • Don’t get painted into the “weak on crime, big spender” corner.
  • Start every conversation (to greatest extent possible) making it clear that you are tough on crime (especially the violent stuff). Infuse your argument with the mantra of “taking responsibility for your actions” and requiring “consequences for your actions”. Personally, I have no problem kicking off conversations on this note since I believe it and recommend it for others as long as you make sure this “tough stance” is being applied to everyone no matter what their race, religion, ethnic origin, income status, etc.
  • Start every conversation with a focus on ROI (Return On Investment) and cost-benefit analysis emphasizing getting “the most bang for the buck”. Infuse every discussion with the importance of getting “results” for every dollar spent and make sure its clear that you are a zealot when it comes to preventing waste and mismanagement. As noted above concerning the “law and order” speeches, insist that implementation is conducted without any preferences concerning race, religion, income status, etc.
  • If what you are proposing can not be justified in terms of “dollars and cents” and you can not identify a direct line between the spending and the result, you may want to re-consider the proposal.

So here’s my advice to conservatives:

  • Start every conversation underscoring that everyone is entitled to the basics of life (food, clothing, shelter, basic medical care and safety). Make sure it’s clear that whatever you are proposing or discussing will NOT cause anyone to be cut from these basic needs. This will enable conservatives to escape from the corner that paints them as heartless, uncaring for the common person and sub-groups of society.
  • Start every conversation and infuse every discussion making it clear that your proposals are cost effective while also presenting no harm to anyone. Make sure it’s clear that focusing on “dollars and cents” and results is not being done at the expense of any particular person or group. If what you are proposing causes harm, you might want to reconsider it.

Now this new way of conversing may not overcome ALL polarizing stumbling blocks (especially those cultural/religious values topics) but it might get some conversational traction where it currently does not exist. As I make this proposal, I keep thinking of those conversations which never get off the ground because of initial “sound bites”. I also think of those conversations in which 2 people agree on all topics up to the point at which it becomes known that a “liberal” or a “conservative” is the proponent and we revert to being at logger heads.

Looking forward to any/all thoughts and further suggestions. Also looking forward to sharing this sense of collaboration, communication and tough-love no nonsense policies in my upcoming novel.

Beware the UNDERTOW

As an avid swimmer and swim instructor, I have a healthy appreciation for the danger of undertow.

But we need to beware of the other types of undertows:

In the office....

The boss and upper management announce policies and procedures expecting enthusiastic implementation. Beware the undertow of staff who are not on board.

The new employee joins the staff but the undertow with rumors, animosities and resentments are ever present from day one.

The diligent, hard working employees sense the undertow from the slackers and the clock watchers.

In the schools….

Same scenario as described above concerning the office undertow:

Superintendents, principals, teachers all announce policies and procedures but the student undertow undermines their best plans, intentions and platitudes.

New kids, transfer kids and the student leaders (student council, valedictorian, etc.) are all victims of the undertow (and some don’t even think they’re victims).

In the community, in the neighborhood

The mayor makes proclamations. On the streets the undertow could care less.

The police chief announces an initiative, the undertow of citizens don’t care and the underworld undertow knows better.

In the nation

In a binary system of politics where it’s a winner take all situation…

The winner may win but the undertow relentlessly flows for 4 years

The far right calls the far left calls them wimpy, socialist, Marxist, incompetent, elitist

The far left calls the far right racist, fascist, elitist, war mongering.

Poke each other enough and the undertow only gets stronger.

In foreign affairs….

Here’s where the undertow is most dangerous and most significant.

You underestimate the undertow and you have seriously miscalculated. Examples are as follows:

  • Overestimated strength of the Syrian resistance to it’s dictator. Miscalculated strength of undertow.
  • Underestimated strength of Taliban
  • Overestimated strength of Arab spring undertow.
  • Underestimated the Viet Cong, North Vietnamese
  • Miscalculated the Russian fear of NATO expansion and underestimated the undertow of Russian sympathy within Crimea and Eastern Ukraine.
  • Overestimate the strength of undertow that will support democracy in historically undemocratic nations.

So here’s the take away, the bottom line:

Don’t over or under estimate the UNDERTOW. To avoid this losing scenario, do the following:

  • Have boots on the ground and your ear to the rail (touching a vibrating rail can alert you to an oncoming train that’s still out of sight).
  • Be sure to talk to and listen to the underlings, the little people. Don’t just talk to the leaders, the big shots, the talking heads. Don’t believe the leadership public relations.
  • Be observant, be strategic, fight the next war not the last, be sure you know who you can trust, be aware of whose got an axe to grind, who is allied with whom and who is the enemy of your enemy.

Cashing Out

I was thinking of the following riddle the other day:

Question: What do you call it when you die pennyless?

Answer: Good timing

This also remined me of the February anniversary of my fathers death some years ago when he died basically of old age at 93. He had a good life, survived WW2, worked all his life, built a house and retired down south. As his only child who became privy to his financial circumstances only upon his death (since his generation kept mum on such matters), it occurred to me that had he lived another year, he would have been destitute.

Got me to thinking of my own mortality and how my generation is so much more indebt at such an earlier age. If you tally up credit card debt and student loan debt (aka, Parent Plus Loans), I’m already pennyless and I’m not yet dead. Got me to wondering if there was some place where I could turn myself in. I’ve heard the term “ward of the state” and started to wonder if that might be a viable scenario. Growing up I heard about people who “joined the circus” or the “French Foreign Legion” but I’m not sure if either of them are still around. Growing up in the Catholic tradition I’m familiar with monasteries but I’d be hard pressed to name anybody who became a monk. I actually live a monastic, minimalist, simplistic life so maybe I’m a monk already. In keeping with that monastic tradition of taking a “vow of poverty” it got me to wondering if I could pledge my remaining assets (social security, savings, retirement income and wages) and just be assured that for the balance of my life I would have “3 hots and a cot. If I got sick, I would be patched up. I’m proposing the bare necessities to keep me from starving and freezing. As far as medical attention goes, for example, if I break my arm it gets set but if it’s anything terminal or debilitating they just numb me up keeping me relatively comfortable and let me drift away.

Many would be shocked and resistant to my proposal but I wonder how many from my generation are exhausted and would be willing to “cash out” so they could “coast out” for the balance of their life in relative tranquility.

This notion of “cashing out” has permeated my thinking in a number of other ways highlighted as follows:

  • Cashing out of relationships with persons for whom I have nothing in common. I would be pleasant and civil to them but otherwise spend no more of my social capital or energy
  • Cash out of endeavors and initiatives for which I no longer have anything in common. This includes everything from cutting the lawn to attending events to working on what I now consider to be pointless.
  • Cashing out of a country that I no longer recognize. Thankfully, I’m not yet at that point but my concern is growing.

If fellow baby boomers (and anybody for that matter who is living just day to day under an unrelenting cloud of anxiety) are feeling and thinking the same way, I would be most interested in your feedback.

Advice for my kids (and who ever else listens)

As I enter the 4th quarter of this game of life and my kids are in their 20’s heading for the 30 yard line on the football field of life, I jotted down the following reflections/recommendations to consider:

Cars/Vehicles (motorcycles, etc.)

  • Hold off on buying (aka financing $$$) them as long as you can. And when you do buy them, get dependable/practical used ones (preferably e-vehicles for environment and longevity). Avoid financing and all the costly baggage (taxes, registration, insurance, maintenance, depreciation, parking cost in cities, etc.). So how are you supposed to get around? electric bikes, uber, live near mass transit, scooters that do not require registration/insurance, zip-cars/rental cars (aka, wheels when you need them) and ride sharing. FYI, I will be doing this when I no longer have a company car or I retire from my company. I’m even considering hooking up a cart behind my electric pedal bike for all sorts of monetized activities (advertising, hauling, delivering, etc.)

Houses/Real Estate

  • Avoid the American Dream trap (bigger is better, suburb over city, picket fence). Live UNDER your means, get worst house in best neighborhood, buy low, sell high, consider multi-family (let rents pay the mortgage). If moving way out into the country (or out of country) or off-the-grid, consider alternative housing lifestyles focused on the environment, affordability and durability. Land in the right place at right price is always a good bet…to paraphrase Mark Twain who said “buy land, their not making any more of it”. I think Mark Twain said this (at least it sounds like something he would say). Consider shared housing (includes condos and co-ops, mutual housing, etc.) but be really careful about the following:
  • high common charges
  • renter/owner ratios (don’t be the only owner occupant in a sea of renters. This is not to say that renters are bad people it’s just that they do not have the same vested interest in the property)
  • resale and occupancy restrictions
  • Sites that have not set aside funds (or sufficient funds) for repairs in their reserve funds.

Take it from me as someone who lost a condo because of the aforementioned issues and later a house when I got overextended in the American Dream home ownership trap.

If you get a piece of land, make it as profitable and sustainable as possible. Consider a durable, modular small home in a minimalist lifestyle where you own the building and the property rather than the bank owning the property. Why spend your time cutting/raking lawn when you can convert most of your property to a garden of even a “food forest” which is both environmentally positive and a boost for your wallet. Plus in uncertain times (which are inevitable), make sure you are canning/preserving food to get you thru the winter. I’m thinking about following my own advice and writing a memoir about this so I share my experience while monetizing the experience. Might even title this book “My Year Living in a Tent in my back yard

Considering a pet? Only add a pet if you have the money, time, space and energy for yourself and the pet. If it’s a dog, maybe a working dog that could provide security to keep other 2 legged and 4 legged critters away. And speaking of security (especially given what I predict to be increasingly dangerous, unsettled times), have in place adequate and appropriate devices/systems (cameras, guns, alarms, drones) to protect self and surroundings. There was a reason that castles were surrounded by moats and archers were ready to rain down arrows upon invaders (sorry, my ancestral roots are showing).

Education

  • Any schooling you do beyond college needs to be paid by your company or a fellowship or some other outside source…not you. Too late to undue all the college loans but going forward make sure you live a life of austerity (no marriage, no kids, no vacations, no going out to dinner, etc.) until this gets paid off. Wish I could offer better news/advice but that’s all I got. Keep eye out for legislation concerning debt forgiveness but “don’t hold your breath”.
  • For intellectual/career advancement (and maybe for personal enrichment), consider all the Massive Online Free Educational websites, podcasts, YouTube, Ed Apps, etc. and any free (or low cost) seminars, clubs, organizations, etc. affiliated with your interests and career advancements. In my case its writing clubs, organizations, etc.

Social life, dating and finding a soul mate

  • Ok, here I’m out of my league and have no advice. Actually this needs an entirely separate blog so for now, let’s move to the next category

Entrepreneurship, Innovation, Invention, Gigs, Bartering, Alternative-Sustainable Lifestyles

  • Follow your passions and interests (especially if you can monetize them) and consider bartering for services and products. My personal example is writing with the goal of publishing and offering swim lessons since that’s the one sport I feel capable of teaching others (you would not want me teaching any other sports).
  • Get patents (example: I got my novel copywrite protected)
  • Be on lookout for market niches or as they say “build a better mousetrap”.
  • Find mentors/trusted advisors in whatever you do and keep up networking and branding.

Vacations, Travel, Retirement

At the risk of sounding like Ebenezer Scrooge, don’t do any of this “just for fun”. Try to monetize whatever you do and wherever you go. Ok, have a little fun while doing it.

For example, if I was to travel, it would be for the following reasons:

  • Take a bus and/train tour across the country coinciding with my marketing of my first novel (Mall Child). Bring my foldable electric pedal bike on the tour so I’m getting exercise, seeing sights and being kind to the environment. While doing this tour, visit family, friends and acquaintances throughout the country preparing my 2nd book (memoir) that’s appropriately titled “Family, Friends & Acquaintances”. Maybe there’s a 3rd book in the making here based upon the experience of this touring. If there is some product, idea or invention that you need to market and if you also have wander lust, why not combine forces on your own tour and have some fun in the process. Even a scrooge like me can have some fun.
  • If you are travelling around the country or travelling outside the country, consider motivations and goals beyond the traditional touristy stuff. In my case, for example, I’m looking to obtain dual citizenship (already a USA citizen and plan to add Irish citizenship since I’m 2nd generation Irish on maternal side of family). With the dual citizenship in place, consider working and/or living in Ireland so spend my touring time checking this out. As an author, include book touring and marketing/networking integrated with the travelling.
  • If you’re in a profession and affiliated with a company that entails travel (domestic or foreign), consider adding pleasure and personal research and marketing/networking to any business trips

As I composed this litany of suggestions, I reflected on my ancestors and realized that they deployed the same strategy of monetization and diversification.

For example, my great-aunt Kate on my mothers side of the family emigrated from Ireland, worked multiple jobs, bought a rooming house and created a revenue stream. This was essential since her husband died and she had to raise her own 2 children while taking in my mother and her 3 brothers because both my maternal grandparents died young. While doing all of this, great-aunt Kate fed the horses in the morning so they could pull the wagons of a hauling firm that she grew into a moving company that ended up running trucks up and down the Atlantic seaboard from Boston to Florida.

For example, my grand father on my fathers side built a 3 family house which included a corner grocery store which he managed until the Great Depression. The 3 apartments provided shelter for his children which was fortunate because both he and my grandmother died young. He and most of my ancestors were proponents of the philosophy of living “debt free” long before it became fashionable for financial advisor Suzy Orman espouse this message in her webinars. My grandfather didn’t stop with the grocery store venture. He then became a co-owner of a funeral parlor and was active on several town commissions (police and fire) as a local alderman.

No grass growing under the feet of these ancestors and many others like them. Lessons to be learned from all of them that we can certainly benefit from today.

So I hope that you found this helpful (or at least it offered some food for thought). I’m looking to implement in my own life as much of the above described recommendations as time and energy will allow. I will publish future blogs updating my progress and likewise look forward to any feedback/suggestions you might have. By the way, some of these notions are also baked into my upcoming novel entitled Mall Child so stay tuned for more announcements.

Write a biography for those we do not understand or do not like

While listening to a fascinating interview of author and biographer Richard Norton Smith describe how he discovered what really “made some famous persons tick”, it occurred to me that the act of writing a biography could go a long way to understanding someone else’s essence.

Only when we know all the intimate details of the ancestry of someone else do we really appreciate how they evolved. Maybe that’s why I so enjoy watching the “Finding our Roots” show hosted by Dr. Henry Louis Gates. Knowing about someone’s upbringing, neighborhood, school, friends and life/work/social experiences (including the good, bad and ugly) will help us more fully understand why they think and act the way they do. Only then might we better appreciate them. To me, that’s what “critical race theory” is and I have no problem with that. Maybe to make it more palatable to some people we could call it any of the following:

Critical truth theory….or just drop the word “critical” if that’s what upsets some people. Who could be against the simple telling of the TRUTH. Document what happened, when it happened, how it happened and why it happened. Just the facts. No judgements.

Glaring case in point is the Tulsa “Riot” which now is more accurately described as the Tulsa “massacre”. And why is it that I only heard about and appreciated the “Trail of Tears” atrocity concerning Native Americans after I took a tour of Georgia as an adult. Guess I was busy watching cowboys and westerns and The Lone Ranger as a kid in the 1960’s.

Years ago schools had kids write to “pen pals”. Maybe what we need today for everyone is “life exchange pals” for everybody. Just knowing and understanding about eachother would go a long way to “peace on earth” from the local level upward. Now there are going to be some whose biases and stereotyping might only get reinforced when the curtain is pulled back concerning the lives of others. For the hard-core haters and ignoramuses they may need additional coaching to better understand and appreciate others.

I emphasize again, this does not mean you have to agree with everyone else but it will go a long way to “agree to disagree but not be disagreeable”. And let’s be clear about the following: If the culture you are discovering advocates things like honor killings, female genital mutilation and racial supremacy….you are not expected to say “that’s ok and I appreciate your perspective”. Hell no.

In sum, maybe we all should be required to write biographies about each other and conduct active listening interviews with each other in our workplaces, schools, neighborhoods and nations.

I’m hurting, angry AND I’m a patriot!

With the passing of the anniversary of the 2021 insurrection (riot or whatever you want to call it) at the U.S. Capitol, I wanted to draw a comparison of myself and those who participated that day.

Photo by Philipp Pilz on Unsplash

My characteristics, my circumstances:

  • I’m facing over 25 years of college loan payments. I will probably be dead long before that debt is paid. I’m looking at living out the balance of my life as an indentured servant.
  • I’ve worked over 40 years at 2 and 3 jobs. Still living hand-to-mouth with nothing to show for it. Worked overtime much of this time. Worked on an innumerable number of well intentioned efforts. Wonder if it was not all for naught.
  • I have not taken a vacation (i.e., a week away relaxing somewhere) for well over 20 years. Days off have included activities such as burying loved ones, moving the belongings of deceased family, cleaning out basements and garages and painting rooms.
  • I’m house poor paying over 50% of monthly income for the past 30 years just to survive in astronomically overpriced housing market of Fairfield County in CT.
  • My mortgage will be paid off within 2 years (good news). My house continues to deteriorate and may even collapse (or I might collapse before it) within 2 years (bad news).
  • I’m now aware of all the lies that have been propagated all these years: Gulf of Tonkin naval incident was NOT caused by the North Vietnamese, the Soviets did NOT have military superiority, NO weapons of mass destruction were ever found in Iraq, the elites in government, business (big pharma, big banks, big insurance) are NOT working in your best interests (I could go on and on).

So what’s the characteristics and circumstances of the participants of the January 6, 2021 insurrection?

Their specific stories and backgrounds may differ but they all seem to have one thing in common…..they were not happy campers. And my sense is that they share many of the above listed list of grievances and regrets I listed concerning myself.

Now, here’s where I differ from them:

  • I only condone violence in cases of self-defense. They caused the violence and the cops had to do the defending.
  • I support the rule of law and the constitution. They claim to be supporting the constitution but in actuality the events of that day resembled more of a coup and that’s anything but constitutional or orderly.
  • I do not blame any president, institution or organization for my circumstances and my woes. As the saying goes, “I made my bed and now I have to sleep in it”.

Yes, I’m angry and hurting, feeling marginalized, disrespected, trapped, threatened, and anxious just like members of that mob on January 6th.

Photo by Little Plant on UpSplash

However, I differ in one major way. I’m a patriot and they are not (despite their claim to be patriots). Like some of them, I question authority and have a healthy dose of skepticism but I am not blinded by conspiratorial theories, outright lies and a blind faith in demagoguery. As a patriot, it’s my patriotic duty in these twilight years of my life (and I have seen a lot of life) to work like hell to never let mob rule undermine our democratic (small “d”), constitutional form of government.

I hope that I have presented a balanced, thoughtful response to last years mayhem and if you are of like mind, I would greatly appreciate your support and feedback.

Check out http://www.dunnwriteswell.com concerning this blog and similar blogs from this socio-economic, poli-sci, cultural commentary junkie.

Why do we hate each other so?

We connect on so may levels, enjoying laughs, sharing stories.

I tell my mall stories based on 15 years as a mall cop

Neighborhood pals, high school and college buddies share hilarious tales and hijinks.

Every conversation starts with the phrase “remember the time when”. We end up toasting to good times and pledging to “keep in touch”.

But the mood changes, awkward silence descends and in some cases acrimony takes hold when the following words are uttered:

  • Democrat
  • Progressive
  • Socialist
  • Liberal
  • Left wing
  • Biden/Obama/Hillary/AOC/Kappernack
  • Republican
  • Conservative
  • Right wing
  • Trump/Rand Paul/Ted Cruz/and even the mention of Marjorie Taylor Green

So what do we have in common and where do we go from here? Hopefully, here is some common ground:

Everybody agrees that nobody should freeze to death or starve to death

Everybody agrees that children should be able to read, write, add , subtract, multiply, divide.

Everybody agrees that we all need to be safe, defined as not being murdered, raped, beaten, robbed, etc.

Everybody agrees that sick persons need basic medical attention (i.e., broken arm must be set, medicines need to be administered, life saving operations must be conducted, etc.)

How we achieve the aforementioned minimal bar, minimum standard for society to survive? Persons of all political/attitudinal strips seem to agree that if this safety net is ripped, society unravels.

So why is it that once any of the above listed terms are applied (liberal, conservative, etc.), we can not agree and we degenerate into an “us vs. them” mode?

What if we set the bar so low (with no political or philosophical label on that bar) that society could function without polarization and acrimony.

How might this look?

  • It could be a GBI (Guaranteed Basic Income) based on principles of simplicity, efficiency, effectiveness. No big government, no means testing requiring the completion of forms affiliated with a bloated bureaucracy to coordinate a myriad of programs and regulations. This will appeal the the “small government” folks and those whose primary concern is cost-effectiveness and Return On Investment (ROI(). Nobody starves and nobody freezes, unless they squander their GBI (and conservatorships could be arranged for those most likely to squander). Everybody gets to read and write and everybody gets to live their life without being physically violated. Is that too much to ask for? I would hope that persons from every part of the political spectrum could buy into this concept. If you can not support this minimum standard of living, I would seriously question your callous perspective on humanity and I would watch my back when in your presence.
  • It could be soup kitchen style food distribution. No frills
  • It could be housing designed for short term needs to keep persons warm/dry. No frills.
  • It could be clothing distributed to keep persons warm/dry. No frills
  • It could be clinic style medical triage style to address immediate medical needs
  • It could be education certifying that the basics of reading, writing, arithmetic are achieved (something that many of todays students can not demonstrate despite copious amounts of funding). No frills.

Most persons would agree to this baseline level of services . This would serve the dual purpose of keeping persons alive and stabilizing their circumstances enabling them to forge beyond the subsistence level. This would give them at least the opportunity to climb up the socio-economic ladder.

If the warring factions of the left/right, liberal/conservative, red/blue states could buy into this minimalist strategy, it might break the log jam and avoid getting bogged down in the minutia of policies, formulas, regulations, value/culture wars and petty grievances. It would be both humanitarian (saving people from falling off the financial cliff) and pragmatic (maximum impact with minimum cost). Arguments and priorities could be debated among the factions for programs extending beyond this minimalist strategy but at lease the log jam might be broken.

In essence, fiscal conservatism meets social progressivism.

Maybe then we could all get back to enjoying ourselves sharing stories, laughs, and good times. Ah the good old days!

Children Lost In The Mall

Photo by Anna Dziubinska on Unsplash

This is NOT a story about a mother who lost her toddlers in the food court.

This IS the true story of 5 youngsters who lost their moral compass, rampaged thru a mall on the day after Christmas (aka, National Mall Riot Day), got arrested for disorderly conduct and one of them threw a punch at a cop. All of these juveniles ranging in age from 11 to 15 were egged on by at least 30 other children (similar ages) who likewise lost their way in life.

How did it all start? Two girls were fighting, others joined in, crowds formed and when cops interceded one of the 15 year old’s took a swing at the cop. Bad idea. By the way, he was also wearing an ankle bracelet since he was already on probation for armed robbery. I always thought that probation and ankle bracelets were intended to monitor the movements of criminals thereby protecting society from further mayhem but I digress and that’s a topic for another day, another rant.

If you can envision the stage of the Jerry Springer Show with combatants on stage falling away while audience members hoot/holler with fights breaking out everywhere, imagine an entire mall engulfed in this behavior. That’s what’s happening all across America on the day after Christmas. So much for “Peace on Earth, Good Will to Men”. These children have lost their way and so has America if we continue down this path. And it’s not just on the day after Christmas. This behavior occurs throughout the year, particularly on Friday and Saturday evenings.

How do I know all of this? As a mall cop for 15 years, I had a front row seat to this mayhem. I have observed despicable behavior as youngsters spit at each other, sucker punch each other, gang up on each other and hurl racist insults at me because of my uniform and the color of my skin.

Am I bitter? No.

Am I sad. Yes.

Sad for them.

Why?

Because:

Because:

  • If they remain on the same track, they will never amount to anything in life. They will never achieve their full intellectual and emotional potential
  • They will go thru life angry & fighting. What’s most sad is the fact that they will never realize why they can not dig themselves out of their own hole of hate.
  • They will demand respect of others but never demonstrate it to others
  • The day will come when they insult and abuse the wrong person. In a worst case scenario if their mall mayhem behavior escalates, they will end up homicide victims or homicide suspects
Photo by Sean Lee on Unsplash

So what’s our options? Some say….

  • Lock em’ up. Juvenile hall. Scare em’ straight. Some even say, lock up the parents.
  • Leave em’ alone. or Warehouse ’em. They’ll grow out of it. Maybe for some but most will just wallow in their own angry juices or just get worse.

We’ve been doing the above strategies for years at great cost with seemingly no positive results.

Maybe we should consider the following to get beyond this quagmire and find a cost effective, long term solution:

  • Mandated, long-term, intensive therapy for all combatants. This includes the parents/guardians over a sustained timeline. Get to the bottom line, the root cause of why these lost children act and think the way they do.
  • For every delinquent (let’s call ’em what they are and not sugar coat this), customize intensive interventions since the kid on probation with the ankle bracelet for a prior armed robbery is way more damaged goods than the youngster whose biggest offence is being mouthy and belligerent.
  • For those (kids and parents/guardians) who comply with the aforementioned intensive interventions and for those who demonstrate progress over time, let any criminal charges be wiped clear. For those hell bent on avoiding the therapeutic, redemptive route, let the criminal charges stick and ban them from access to places of business (malls, movie theatres or wherever their behavior causes chaos).

That’s my observation and recommendation. I would love to hear any other thoughts concerning how we can FIND these LOST CHILDREN and in the process find the soul of our nation before it also is lost.

Cops in the future

What shall be the role of cops in the future?

Who will want to be a cop in the future?

Who would we want to be a cop in the future

Full disclosure: Being Irish-American, I come from a long line of cops including my father and numerous uncles and great-uncles.

Growing up I planned to start out as a cop, maybe move up to the FBI, maybe attend law school and maybe somewhere in the process become a prosecutor. Lots of maybes and none of this happened. However, I did become a mall cop working weekends for over 15 years. So I sort of became a cop. I also had a birds eye view of all the good-bad-ugly that cops deal with.

Growing up I planed to be a cop given the following ingredients:

  • It’s just what we do as Irish Americans
  • It’s all about fighting crime, catching bad guys. My favorite shows were cop and detective shows (Hawaii 50, Adam-12, Mannix, Cannon, Spencer For Hire, Highway Patrol). Obviously I grew up in the 1960’s
  • It’s the uniform, gun, nightstick, handcuffs, siren, pride, honor, respect

As time when by, I spent a career community development, community organizing and years of working in the affordable housing field (including over 7 years managing public housing). During these years, the philosophy of “community policing” and “weed & seed” were in vogue. All well intentioned and necessary but unfortunately this organic, grass roots approach to policing did not have roots deeper than specialized units and public relations campaigns. Meanwhile, the rise of civil disturbances, 911/terrorism, and mass shooters spawned the growth of SWAT tactics and the militarization of police forces. When budgets tightened, choices had to be made between addressing root causes of social disorder (therapy, counselling, etc.) and clamping down on criminals in a show of force (i.e., 3 strikes and out laws, all cops looking like SWAT team members, etc.). In the classis economic show down of “guns vs. butter” the guns won out.

Which brings us around to todays watershed moment concerning social justice and a reckoning about the future of policing. For the record, I oppose the use of the term “defund the police” since I recognize it’s an emotional flash point that derails further conversation. I prefer the phrase “reimagining the police” and infusing the notion of getting the most “bang for the buck” (aka, Return On Investment ROI) when rolling out the nature of police work in the future.

So here’s my vision of cops and police departments of the future:

Is there room for social services and therapy ?
  • Redeploy and restructure departments with an eye toward cost effectiveness. Contract with a computer geek squads to tackle white collar crimes, cyber crimes, hackers and conduct social media tracking (within constitutional limitations of course). No need for computer wizzes to pass agility and strength tests. Just deputized them (if needed) and turn them loose to ferret out criminals in the cyber world and get one step ahead of them. Their computer skills could also augment the rate of closure for violent crimes (rape, murder, armed robbery, etc.) since digital stakeouts are more cost effective than physical stakeouts.
  • Contract with mental health agencies, counselors, psychologists, therapists, street outreach workers, juvenile counselors/mentors so they accompany the cops on appropriate calls for services and follow up as appropriate with suspects. By contracting with the aforementioned resources, these social service providers join the cop team without becoming beholden to the cop team/cop culture. Structure the contract for services so they deliver product by getting to the root cause of the criminal activity and thereby reducing the likelihood of recidivism. For example: based upon my mall cop experiences when a fight occurs among youths and they are being detained summon an appropriate mixture of the aforementioned team of social service providers who arrange for intervention sessions with the combatants including the parents/guardians of these combatants. If the juveniles and/or their parents/guardians fail to participate in the intensive/extensive counselling sessions, let the criminal charges be applied. If suspects and families agree to counselling, the record of charges will be wiped clean.
  • Contract with mental health and addiction service providers in a format similar the above describe contact for social service providers so that long term solutions can be applied to what are currently short term fixes.
  • Contract with specialists providing services for rape victims and domestic violence cases which require ongoing, intensive and compassionate interventions.
  • Contract with private investigators who have the time, expertise and track record to build a case for the state so that the case closure rate is so high that the expression “crime doesn’t pay” really means something.

So where do we go from here??

  • Ask every cop and police chief that you meet what they think should be done. Ask them if they feel overwhelmed by being a cop whose supposed to respond to any and all situations. Ask them if they are frustrated by all the repeat-offenders and the revolving door of justice as they re-arrest the same knuckleheads’ for the same offences over and over.
  • Now ask them how they feel about working on a team involving a full range of therapists, counselors, outreach workers and case managers at the scenes of crimes, with ride alongs and participating in follow up intervention sessions with them. If they show reluctance but still complain about being overworked and overwhelmed, consider this disconnect and let’s all re-examine what’s their motivation to be “a cop” and what role they really want the cop to play.

In conclusion……

  • There will always be a need to respond to bar fights (traditional cop role)
  • There will always be a need for someone ready, willing, able to respond to deadly threats and volatile situations (traditional cop role)
  • There will always be the random criminal passing through the community who is “up to no good” needing to be dealt with.

Maybe cops in the future could be a highly trained cadre of officers who have the mental, physical and tactical skills to address the above listed needs.

For all other situations, maybe specialization and collaboration (in whatever format that ultimately takes) would be the most cost-effective long term strategy.

Maybe, finally we could get beyond that over used expression “Call the Cops!” expecting them to solve all of societies problems while the rest of us look the other way going about our business.

Your thoughts and feedback are always appreciated. And look for more of these criminal justice, social transformation themes baked into my upcoming novel entitled “Mall Child”