Are We Close to Second Civil War?

This blog was inspired by David French writing, A Whiff of Civil War in the Air.

We were driving to Lake Lure, NC, this past Saturday and drove through Chimney Rock. I stopped at a pedestrian crossing and right in front of me was a 60-something white male displaying a holstered handgun on his hip. I got a big whiff of Civil War in the air!

We live in a country of fear, and it is escalating. Fear is in the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat and all the screens we scan. We are oppressed by fear. It’s the monkey on our backs; the weight on our shoulders. Thus, we fear one another, we fear our leaders, we fear government, we fear business, we fear our shadow!

French writes about malice and disdain. I believe shame researcher Brene Brown would tell us malice and disdain like shame are rooted in fear.

“Malice and disdain make a person vulnerable to misinformation. Misinformation then builds more malice and disdain and enhances the commercial demand for, you guessed it, more misinformation. Rinse and repeat until entire media empires exist to supply that demand.”

Fear keeps us from sharing our vulnerability. If you learn of my weakness, I fear you will take advantage of me.

Fear is the foundation of distrust. We are consumed by distrust. Distrust feeds denial.

Fear is the foundation of cults in which the cult’s leader is seen as all-powerful, can do no wrong, and is not held accountable. A cult perpetuates us versus them mentality and establishes the binary, ‘you are with us or against us.’ Questioning, curiosity, and open-mindedness are discouraged and even punished.

Fear is destroying our democracy, which thrives on compromise. There is no compromise these days. We see opponents, people who think and believe differently from us as enemies, socialists, Marxists, sluts, nasty, snowflakes, and retards. While French writes: “With rising hatred, I’m seeing a rise in purely destructive spirit, especially on the right.” Just to be fair, I also have seen this behavior on the left.

Fear has turned relationships into transactions rather than transformations. Transactional behavior follows law, policy, and tradition rather than adjusting and changing. Transactional behavior is about maintaining the status quo rather than looking for opportunity. Unlike transactional behavior, transformational behavior deals more effectively with the VUCAs – volatility, uncertainty, confusion, and ambiguity which are the headwinds in our face today.

Fear has thrown ethics, values, and principles ‘under the bus.’ We are consumed in the short-run, individualism, and loyalty over truth. The Golden Rule is on life-support. After all, the Golden Rule challenges self-serving interests.

I have Jewish friends who fear living in the United States. They look at me as a Christian and point out how Christianity is dividing our country. Christianity is fueling fear rather than love. They say that “love thy neighbor as thyself” is a sham. Many Christians don’t walk-the-talk of Christ’s teachings. These friends are looking to move to Portugal (which is 2nd in the world in COVID vaccinations at 85% while the United States is 46th with 55% as of 10/3/2021.)

I have POC friends who are considering moving to Spain or Canada to escape racism. (Spain has one of the lowest costs of living in the world and treats BIPOC much better than here in the US according to them. Canada celebrates multiculturalism.)

So how do we overcome this epidemic of fear?

South Africa is working to overcome hate. Perhaps we should take some lessons from them. When South Africa rewrote their constitution in 1996, it sought input from the public. They got over 2 million responses! The opening line of their constitution reads: “We, the people of South Africa, recognize the injustices of our past.” The US Constitution focuses on government structure while the South African Constitution focus is on human rights, including the right to dignity and respect.

We need to learn about our history, our past beyond what is white-washed in high school. I read Boston College American History Professor Heather Cox Richardson who publishes daily, Letters from an American. She schools me about the history of this country I never learned. She continuously reveals how we fail to learn lessons from our past. She adds substance to French’s OP-ED as well as Robert Kagan’s OP-ED on our Constitutional Crisis Is Already Here.

Finally, we must mindfully get out of our comfort zones, including our echo chambers, and seek to have hard conversations with others who think and believe differently than we do. When we hear something that is contrary to our belief and stokes our fear, ask a question rather than respond with our point of view, label, or shut down. Stay engaged. Stand in their shoes! Practice empathy and compassion. Find common values and principles.

When I learned the process for identifying core values, discovering purpose, developing a mission statement, and creating strategic plans, I was taught EVERY strategic plan has the same mega starting point: What kind of world do we want to create for tomorrow’s child? As the grandfather of a six-month-old, this challenge has become a living challenge. How about you?

Juneteenth and an Invitation

I wish I could say “Happy Juneteeth,” but this is a day of remembrance much like Memorial Day (which I think we fail to recognize the gravity, the solemn remembrance, and the purpose of the day instead of the  beginning of summer!)

Juneteenth…why should I care? Why should I be interested?

Do you remember the Juneteenth history lesson from high school history class or even in college? I don’t.

Juneteenth was an 89-year-old catch-up to the Declaration of Independence that all men (and women, LGBTQ+, Hispanic, Indigenous, Asian,…) were created equal (even though it failed to recognize different circumstances require different resources and opportunities were/are needed to reach equal outcomes.)

Did you know that Juneteenth occurred 2.5 years after President Lincoln signed Emancipation Proclamation in Galveston, Texas where 25% of white Texans owned slaves? Over 30% of the population of Texas were slaves. After the announcement of “all slaves were free,” over 400 freed slaves were murdered over the following three years.

Juneteenth is a reminder that every historic step taken by Black people as well as anyone else who is not white has been met by fierce resistance. Even the 1968 Civil Rights Act and the 2008 election of a Black president have shown fierce resistance.

Juneteeth adds to our national narrative about an important part of American history that is uncomfortable, but which we can not ignore.

Question. How long can our democracy survive if it has no self-respect, no courage to acknowledge the truth? How long can our democracy survive when we turn our heads from the cries of “I can’t breathe”?

Question. Are you up for “Uneasy Conversations on Socialization, Racism, and Privilege?”

Beginning Tuesday, July 6, 2021, from 7:30 PM – 9:00 PM EST and running for five consecutive weeks via Zoom, up to 18 participants will have conversations…
– On the four levels of racism.
– How I as a white person unconsciously contributes to the four levels of racism.
– The untaught history of the United States.
– Examine what it means to be inclusive and empathetic.
– Examine and reflect on “Silence is Violence” including, “What does it mean to be anti-racist?”

I will send out an email before each session with suggested videos, articles, and podcasts to watch, read and/or listen to. I will also send key questions we will discuss.

These discussions will be limited to 18 participants. I am asking for a small financial contribution to show commitment.

If you are interested in being a part of this, email me, and I will add you to the roster.

To the Graduates of the Class of 2021: Did You Carpe Annum?

Did you carpe annum – “seize the year” – this past year? How well did you carpe annum? Perhaps these questions can help you answer this question:
What did I do this past year that I have never done before?
What was my most outstanding achievement?
What did I celebrate?
Where did I extend myself versus pullback?
What was a memorable book I read; an amazing podcast I listened to?
What made this past year more satisfying?
What gave me hope?
What gave me stability?
What valuable lesson did I learn this past year?
What is the quote that summarizes this past year for me?
What got etched into my memory this past year that I will never forget?

“My life feels like a test I didn’t study for.” – Unknown

Were you tested on patience, self-awareness, and self-control this past year? College admissions counselors are checking to see if you passed these three behaviors as part of being accepted to their institutions. They are also interested in how open and curious you are. It indicates your ability to learn and grow.

Let’s acknowledge what a year you graduates of 2021 experienced! Perhaps the greatest experience was of denial! How did denial show up in your life? Denial indicates a learning disability and ignorance of the truth. Denial is an addiction in which reality is distorted, including ignoring the problem, minimizing concerns, and blaming others. Denial is a coping mechanism used to justify or rationalize warped thinking and ugly behavior.

“Truth is like the sun. You can shut it out for a time, but it ain’t going away.”     – Elvis Presley

We have a crisis of denial of the 2020 Presidential Election results. Some are calling the election “The Big Lie.” More than 60 lawsuits brought by POTUS 45 and his allies failed due to a lack of evidence to prove their allegations. Numerous state election recounts have revealed no voter fraud. Question: Suppose there was a referendum on governance in the United States. Would you vote for the Constitution and democracy or vote for despotism and disarrangement?

“I grew up as a democrat, so I always thought that it was just half the government that was evil. But now, of course, I’m a little bit more of a grown-up, and I understand that it’s actually one-party rule – and it’s professional wrestling.” – Jimmy Dore

We have denial in vaccination against COVID. Where do our rights over our bodies end, and our duty to the common good begin? In a pandemic event, shouldn’t personal liberty be second to public safety? COVID has revealed our fear and distrust. As I write this, 1 in 4 Americans will not take a COVID vaccination, thus making herd immunity much harder to achieve.

“Ignorance does not make you fireproof when the world is burning.” – Nelou Keramati

We are in denial about our health. There has been an average weight gain of over twenty pounds during the lockdown.

“I can be changed by what happens to me, but I refuse to be reduced by it.” – Maya Angelou

We are in denial about loving our neighbor as ourselves. We see people who have a different belief not as opponents but as enemies. Diplomacy has turned to bomb-throwing.

It’s easy to talk about how much you love God, but loving others reveals how much you truly do. – Elizabeth George

We are in denial about not having enough. Look at the run on toilet tissue and the recent gasoline shortage in the eastern United States. Greed and scarcity thinking are alive and well in the U.S.

“You’re taught to “be grateful” for everything. But have you ever been taught to “be grateful” for yourself? Be grateful for yourself. Make that a promise.” – C. JoyBell C.

We have denial racism is not an issue in this country.

“The beauty of anti-racism is that you don’t have to pretend to be free of racism to be anti-racist. Anti-racism is the commitment to fight racism wherever you find it, including in yourself. And it’s the only way forward.” – Ijoema Oluo

We are in denial guns are contributing to a health crisis in America. Americans own half of the world’s guns, yet the United States has only 4% of the world’s population contributing to 109 Americans dying by a firearm per day.

“Don’t believe everything you think. Thoughts are just that – thoughts.” – Alan Lokos

Consider viewing your 2021 graduation as an opportunity to recognize what you’ve chosen in the past and determine if it is good to take into the future. Use the next part of your educational journey to recognize what you need to unlearn and rethink. This will require more slow thinking and more curiosity and less judgment. Consider these questions going forward:
What is my “on purpose”? How am I living it?
What are my core bedrock values, and how am I holding myself accountable to them?
How do I wish to be experienced by others especially by others who don’t look like me or have the same beliefs and opinions?
What is most important right now, and what will it take to act upon doing this?
What will I do to get into my growth zone?
In the event of failure, how will I fail forward? Who can I count on for support?
What will be my fight song that I will sing when things get tough?
How can I nurture hope?
What can give me balance and stability? Where can I get support?

Has Your Pride Ever Been Hurt?

Mine has! In 1988, after my father and business partner died of a heart attack, I sat down with our family doctor after a complete physical. All my numbers looked great, including my BMI of 23. Dr. Lewis advised me to keep doing what I was doing and wished he had more patients like me! He pointed out the only thing I had no control over was my heredity. I made a commitment to continue to eat healthily and to get plenty of exercise. I continued to hear this post-physical pronouncement through the years from my doctors.  As a result, I was proud I had not been on any medications! I felt superior to others my age who had to take daily doses of meds.

A couple of weeks ago, I experienced severe chest pain while walking our dog. It went away after a few minutes. I thought it was gas from spicy food eaten the night before. It occurred again this past Tuesday, and I went to the clinic to get it checked. My EKG looked a bit off, so they took blood for analysis. Early Wednesday morning, I got a call from Physician Assistant Annie asking me if Terri, my wife, was home. I said, “Yes,” and she said, “I want Terri to drive you to Mission Hospital ER immediately. Your Troponin enzyme is high, meaning you have had a heart attack!” That afternoon I had a heart catheterization that found some blockage in the LAD of my heart, and a stent was inserted.

After the procedure, the doctor prescribed a statin and a blood thinner and said I should keep a small vile of nitroglycerin with me at all times! My pride took a hit. After all the good healthy habits, I fell off the pedestal! My humility took a hit. I’m learning and relearning a couple of things.

First, I’m blessed to have had incredible support from Annie, the PA, who directed me to go to the hospital; the nurses and doctors who treated me; my caregiver wife, my close family and friends, including my men’s small group; and my work cohorts. As I lay in the ER Wednesday morning, I felt peace and knew the prayer that never fails, Thy will be done, was at work.

Second, the only constant in life is change. The antidote for change is adaptation. Heredity is a wild card. It is at play in our lives. You cannot control or change heredity. While I feel like and have the attitude of a 40-year-old, I am reminded I still need to adapt to an older body, so my reality check doesn’t bounce! I admonish my coaching clients to remember to put their oxygen mask on first before anything else!

Third, patience is part of a healthy lifestyle. Patience is the ability to stay calm while you’re waiting for an outcome. Patience is essential in one’s emotional intelligence and aids self-awareness, self-management, empathy, and managing relationships. Patience is the foundation to “seek to understand before being understood.” Patience is essential in dealing with difficult people.

Finally, I’ve been a practitioner of daily prayer and mindful meditation. It has served me well and is proving to be an essential part of my recovery. It, like my nitroglycerin vile, is something I won’t leave the house without!

This is what I know for sure: I’ve lived an incredible life, and I plan to continue to do so. I am looking forward to adding a new title of “grandfather” later this year. I am looking forward to officiating at the wedding of our son and his fiance in December! Thus, I will take my daily doses of meds and carry that little vile of nitroglycerin. I plan to keep running the bases and sliding into home, Lord willing, and the creek don’t rise!

 

My Word For 2021 – “Selfie”

In a New Year tradition, I continue, I don’t make resolutions. A word chooses me, and I focus on how it intersects my life. It becomes a “trigger” for reflection.

While I don’t want to relive 2020, I don’t want to forget the lessons I learned, including:

  • Face coverings will be an ongoing medical/fashion piece and won’t die anytime soon, unlike the “dickey.”
  • Make sure you always have an adequate supply of toilet tissue and paper towels in the house.
  • Growing a beard doesn’t stop one from touching his face.
  • Pandemics are exhausting even though you don’t go anywhere or do anything.
  • I trust subject matter experts who have integrity, ethics, and principles like Dr. Anthony Fauci (Independent), Chris Krebs (Republican), Robert Mueller (Republican), and Brad Raffensperger (Republican).
  • Taking a knee during the National Anthem no longer means disrespecting The National Anthem. All major sports embrace it. Even NFL commissioner Roger Goodell admits he got it wrong back in 2016 when Colin Kaepernick took a knee.
  • Black Lives Matter is not an organization. It is a belief.
  • Systemic racism is alive and well, a pervasive force, creating gaps in wealth and health, harming communities, and I’ve unconsciously contributed to it.
  • I can explain systemic racism, but I can’t understand it for you.
  • Diversity training is not effective. It may contribute to more racist behavior and “moral licensing.”

How could these bullet points be captured in “selfies”? Selfie – an image that includes oneself (often with another person or as part of a group) and is taken by oneself using a digital camera especially for posting on social networks. (Merriam Webster)

In a time of deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act. – George Orwell

I’m reminded of Daniel Kahneman’s breakthrough, best-selling 2013 Thinking, Fast and Slow. “Selfie” is a trigger to think slowly, deliberately, and mindfully. After all, taking, posting, and viewing selfies has become a daily habit for many. “Selfie” is going to be a daily habit of thinking slowly, deliberately, and mindfully.

Studies reveal “selfies” often evoke criticism and disrespect and are associated with non-authenticity and narcissism. They may be the ultimate sign of the narcissistic age in which we live. I intend to use “selfie” to do the opposite for me in 2021. I want “selfie” to trigger Ubuntu – an African word – “I am because we are.”

“Selfie” will be the trigger for me to look inward so that I can look outward.