It happened at Sandy Hook. It happened at Columbine. Today (as I am writing) it is happening at Stoneman Douglas High School, in Parkland, Florida. Students traumatized, frightened, and brave beyond measure returned to school. The rest of us go on with our lives while these young people must return to the scene of the crime. They go to pick up the belongings they left behind and find what might be left of the friends they had lost. The life they left in those corridors is not there. Everything is different. The world is not what they thought it was. Because of this event, the hope and innocence we all share as we grow into adulthood, I would have expected to have been left in the halls at Stoneman Douglas Hall, but for so many of these young people, it was not. Somehow these young people faced evil and were not defeated. They came out of the darkness into the light. They are not allowing the deaths of their friends to be without purpose. They are speaking truth to power without hesitation or guile.
A group of these students has been the primary spokespeople. For their courage, they were accused of being part of a liberal conspiracy, described as “crisis actors.” Right-wing pundits, so threatened by these young people, complained that 17-year-olds couldn’t organize protests. Regular high school kids could not be this articulate, could not be this bright. Their ideas could not be this fully formed. As a mother of three millennials, I can tell you, this generation is remarkable. I am continually impressed by their consideration, activism, and willingness to reach out beyond themselves. These high schoolers are a little young to qualify as millennials, but if this is what we have to look forward to, I can’t wait to see what is coming.
Usually, the way these things go is this: mass shooting, everyone is horrified, gun control advocates call for changes in gun laws, NRA and gun control resisters shout “We shouldn’t talk about that now. That would be heartless. Our prayers and thought should be with the victims and their families,” parents are deer in the headlights, have no way to react, have children to bury and care for. (I would be the same way.) A week goes by, and the nation sends their thoughts and prayers. The news cycle moves on, and the NRA dodged another bullet. Nothing to see here. We don’t have to worry about this until Michael Moore decides to make a movie about it. This time is different; these incredible students have put aside their pain to say “enough is enough. You are the adults. You have had time to fix this.” They are not buying any excuses about the politics of it, do not care how difficult it is, and are willing to lead the fight. I am willing to follow.
The first thing that they are doing that I want to point out here is that he is not allowing the President or anyone else to reframe the discussion. Trump has tried blaming the FBI or the officers on the scene. The students are not having it. They have responded to his tweets with power and truth. When Marco Rubio went to a CNN town hall meeting and said if we are going to make assault rifles illegal, we have to make all semi-automatic weapons illegal, the room full of students; parents; and school staff applauded. He seemed surprised and did not even seem to know who he was talking to.
I am not hopeful that this Congress will pass stricter gun legislation, but we may see changes in gun laws when these young people inspire voters to reject representatives who do not pass laws Americans want. Polls have shown over and over that voters favor stricter gun laws; over and over, Congress rejects taking even the simplest steps to change background checks or improve the system.
I will be attending the March for our Lives in the San Francisco Bay area on March 24th. To find out where Marches are planned in your area, check out the March for out Lives website: https://marchforourlives.com/. You can March, sign a petition, donate, or purchase merchandise. You can even register to vote on the site. They have thought of everything.
No matter what you think needs to happen, from better background checks to outlawing semi-automatic weapons, go to the polls and vote for the candidate with you on this. Again, marching is not enough. It is only the beginning. These young people need support.
Please comment, and share.
It is a cold, overcast and occasionally rainy day as I write about what the president called a “perfect day for all Women to March.” I marched the Women’s March Contra Costa in Walnut Creek, CA. The weather was beautiful. The marchers, not all women, were enthusiastic. The atmosphere was powerful. My favorite sign of the day was “Who will help me find Donald Trump’s Horcruxes.” Many of my fellow marchers who had been there last year, claimed that this year’s march was bigger than last year’s march. I believe that many local marchers were like me; they had gone to Washington, DC last year and were participating in their local march this year.
The message for the March itself was straightforward and direct. VOTE. Marching does not matter. Objecting does not matter. Calling our representatives in Congress does not matter. None of it matters if we do not vote. The only way to change things in this country is to vote, get others to vote, and register people to vote. The theme for the March this year was “Power to the Polls.” We have moved from activism focused on opposing Trump's agenda to one that focuses on controlling our future. In the last year, 26,000 women have signed up with Emily’s list, committing to run for office in 2018. We need to look for the women we support and donate, volunteer, and vote for them in our local, state, and national elections.
Everyone has a story. Something brought them to the March in the first place; a line that they could not cross. For me, it was people I care about fearful in the face of the Trump/Pence victory. Afraid that their rights and safety were threatened. As a mother, I could not stay silent if others are not safe. I have been a labor activist and have been politically active for many years. I just know that now, the activism is different because I am reaching out beyond the narrow range of interests that I had acted upon in the past. I connected with a local Indivisible group, started a Huddle group, connected with local progressive groups. I even started this blog. My niece, who teaches kindergarten at a Catholic school in LA, invited kindergarteners from a Muslim school nearby to have lunch with her students. This year she did it bigger and better by organizing an event for all the students at both schools to participate, not just the kindergarteners. It was again a big hit. All this unites us as Americans and fosters peace.
Last year we came together as a group of activists and activists in training. This year we were warriors, tried and true. Many individuals had found a direction for themselves. Most of you reading this blog have chosen a path; you have selected an issue that you are passionate about that you commit your energy too. The Indivisible group I most closely associate with is Contra Costa County Indivisible. It is a large group of about 700 to 1000 members. So the group is divided into smaller units so that members can work on the issues most important to them. That includes members working on immigration, criminal justice, the environment, and education. All members are encouraged to take action in all areas. Action in local government, as well as State and Federal movements. Our leadership works closely with our elected officials, such as Congressman Mark Desaulnier.
We have gone from a group of Americans who are angry and against the Trump/Pence agenda, to a group of Americans for an agenda of inclusion in advancing democracy and real freedom for all rather than a system that allows for freedom for those who can pay for it. Encouraging others to vote and advocating for voting rights is key to advancing the rights of all members of society. That is the key to maintaining a democratic system. Focusing on voting as a fundamental right of American citizenship is one area that we can all agree on.
The young people from Parkland, Florida who have been speaking out about gun control and organizing their peers are incredible. They are an example of how to speak truth to power. They have maintained their message and seem to have been watching what has been happening over the last year. The media seems to be ready to listen to them. They are taking the voice they are given and using it with power. I will be writing more about this in my next post.
Please comment, share, and like. I am anxious for others to share their experiences about in the Women’s March. How was it different for you this year versus last year?
Donald Trump’s first week of the new year was spent antagonizing friend and foe alike on Twitter. No matter how dignified and “Presidential” president Trump’s speeches may become, his tweets continue unabated. He conducts foreign policy 280 characters at a time. (I think twitter changed their character limit to 280 so Trump can engage in more sophisticated foreign policy debates.) His tweets seem to come out of nowhere as if he is watching TV at 3 in the morning and decides to tweet something. Instead, Trump is purposeful in his tweeting. George Lakoff, a neurolinguistic professor at UC Berkley and best-selling author, tells us that Trump demonstrates four purposes in his tweeting: pre-emptive framing, deflection, diversion, and trial balloon. Let’s look at these tweet goals and where the tweet war with Ms. Yulin Cruz fits into those goals. His twitter war with the mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico, Carman Yulin Cruz over the Summer perfectly demonstrates these four goals.
Pre-emptive Framing: He frames first. If the President can define the problem for us, he gets to decide how much aid to Puerto Rico is too much. If Houston loses power, residents can just drive to Austin, or some other cities and they are good. They still have their lives to rebuild, but they have access to food, clean water, shelter, and healthcare. Texas and Florida are also not facing bankruptcy because of inconsistent US economic policy in those states. Particular economic policies had been created for Puerto Rico to encourage investment and job creation on the island. Those plans changed. They were then made subject to bankruptcy laws that prevented them from resolving the debt they incurred providing infrastructure for the businesses that came to Puerto Rico and have since left. Those companies include a Trump golf club that filed for bankruptcy. So, you take a situation that is an act of God and dump it on a people with few options since they live on an island. Finally, they are in an economic condition that the President assisted to create. The people need a lot of help and will need help for many years to come to recover from this disaster. Trump conveniently frames the whole situation 280 characters at a time. Puerto Ricans need to take more responsibility for themselves. He has done so much for Puerto Rico; he just has not gotten proper credit. Puerto Rico has poor leadership.
Deflection: Here Trump is deflecting blame for the problems in Puerto Rico to Puerto Rican leadership. Trump likes to blame previous Presidents, especially Barack Obama. In discussing issues related to Puerto Rico, blaming Puerto Rico leadership is secure. He does not have to worry about them as voters. Puerto Rico has no vote in the general election for President. When Trump is blaming Carman Yulin Cruz and other leaders, he takes no responsibility himself. He can praise his response. He can talk about what a great job he is doing, even while at this late date, 50% of Puerto Rico is without electricity. Blaming other leaders allows Trump to take credit for doing an excellent job, even as Puerto Rico prepares for a humanitarian crisis because they lack access to clean water.
Diversion: The third thing Trump tried to accomplish with his tweet storm on Puerto Rico was to divert people from thinking about the Russian scandal. His latest tweet storm has been timed and designed to divert people from thinking about Fire and Fury, the Trump expose written by Micheal Wolff released this week. It is scary that this man will risk thermonuclear war to keep us from thinking about what his staff is saying about him. His tweet war with Ms. Yulan Cruz seems more timed to distract from the Russian investigation, the failure of the Senate to pass Trump-no-care, and the discussion of the “we don’t care what the American people want, our big donors need a break” tax reform. And, ultimately, the fact that while millions of tax dollars may have been spent, Puerto Rico remains in desperation.
Trial Balloon: Trump’s tweets give him a sense of how the public might respond to any public announcement or policy direction. He does not care much for polls if they are not favorable to him. He tends to play them down. He does care about how his base is going to react to his message and how he needs to craft his message to reach them. His language is not sophisticated. Others do not see him as smart or intellectual. DO NOT BE FOOLED. He has some skills he brings to the table, or he would not be president. He is a conman who can read a room. He knows how to craft a message for a crowd. The problem with the election was not that Trump had the support of the majority of Americans. The problem was that his supporters went to the polls. Election is not about how many people like or dislike a candidate, they are about who goes to the polls. Trump’s voters went to the polls. He may only have the approval of 35 percent of Americans, but if they are the only ones going to the polls, he will win another term. He tweets. He sees what happens. He does not much care how most people respond. He cares about his base. If he can continue to convince them that he did a fantastic job in Puerto Rico, the rest does not matter. If telling Kim Jung Il that he has a bigger button makes him sound like a strong leader to his base, it doesn’t matter if it scares the rest of us.
We have a tough road ahead of us in 2018. Understanding Trump and his tweets will help us have the conversations we need to have to get through the family parties. It will also help us to get through the next election.
I am delighted to be back with you. I am working on NOT apologizing for so many things that do not require an apology. Women do that far too often. I am just going to say that I have been away from writing as I have been busy with family. I have been sick and busy with the holidays. I am delighted to be back. I hope you are delighted as well.
Happy new year.
1 "Trump’s Twitter Distraction « George Lakoff." N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Nov. 2017 <https://georgelakoff.com/2017/03/07/trumps-twitter-distraction/>.
We will look more closely at Trump’s Twitter war with San Juan’s mayor next time.
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Policies in this administration move at the speed of the internet. It becomes difficult to keep up with all the foolishness that is going on. I do try to comment on all the important issues that come up without addressing every early morning tweet that comes down the pike. DACA is one of those issues that seems to demand a discussion. DACA stands for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. We are not going to do anything while we wait and try to get Congress to come up with some reasonable immigration policy that will allow you to have a real status. We know that your parents brought you here when you were a child, and you had no control over it. You did not act criminally. The US is the only home that you know. You may not even speak the language of your home country. So, we aren’t sure what to do. DACA leaves you in limbo, lets you live your life until we have something better for you. Oops, nothing better came. Your neighbors elected a president less sympathetic to your concerns. So now what? How do we address this problem in a way that is just and kind?
The current state of affairs leaves the issue with Congress to arrive at a legislated solution that the President has said he will sign. Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, has said that he will not defend DACA from any legal challenges. President Trump then stated that he would suspend DACA in six months if Congress failed to pass a plan to continue DACA in that time. This threat does a couple of things. First, it takes responsibility for the program away from the President. He complained about DACA during the campaign. He has since his election found that the program is popular and its members are sympathetic. One cannot argue that they have broken the law to get here. They were children under the age of 16 when they came to the US, often without a choice or full knowledge of what was even going on. That fact alone makes the whole argument that they are crooks kind of difficult to make. Most of them have been successful in some way: attended college, gotten married, started families, or served in the military. These young people have contributed to society and culture in important ways. So where is the justification for discontinuing the program?
Here is a good place to listen to opponents of the DACA program and to hear what they have to say personally. Then look for ways to flip the conversation. You can do this by asking what people think should be done for these young people. Where should they be sent? Should they receive any consideration for their situation? What do they think Congress should do? I have not met many opponents to DACA in my circle, to be honest. The first issue is that those who feel strongly in opposition to DACA are extremists. Moderates in favor of stricter enforcement of immigration regulation recognize the sense of a DACA program. In fact, polls are finding that conservatives tend to be divided on DACA. Only among Trump’s strongest supporters does his decision to discontinue DACA find real support. Both Republicans in general and Trump supporters believe that ending DACA is the right thing to do. Numbers vary from 49 to 83 percent, depending on the survey you are looking at. What is even less clear is exactly what they want to do about the program. Many of them may have seen the creation of the program as an executive overreach. They would support congressional program that allowed a path to legalization or citizenship. They do not see immigration as core to the reality of their lives anyway, so their reaction and commitment to DACA issues are limited. To DACA participants, DACA is important. It is essential to their lives. DACA intimately impacts participants’ friends and families. There are also many individuals that see how all these policies work together to create a better community for everyone. Figuring out how to move forward from here is a problem because the Republican party holds Congress and the Presidency. When you have someone else to blame life is easier. Congress can block immigration reform without consequence. They can act in support of their corporate supporters and know that the President will veto whatever you pass. They will not have to face their constituents with the consequences of their policies.
Now Trump passed the DACA on to Congress. He met with Democratic leaders in the House and Senate. Fox news Republicans are livid that he has done this. They are screaming about the betrayal. Now is a time to flip the conversation. What do your conservative friends think should happen to these young people?
Thanks for reading this. Please share, like and comment if you liked what you read. Include any requests for discussions you want to see in the future.
A couple weeks ago I was watching Senator Al Franken talk to Stephen Colbert on The Late Show. They were talking about “pivoting” a conversation; the process of not answering the question you are asked, but covering a key point you want to make. It sounded a lot funnier when these two veteran comedians were discussing the issue. Flipping a conversation is a little like that process. We don’t want to ignore the issue under discussion. We just want to change the frame; we want to take the frame that our companion is using and flip that. We have been talking about framing and listening. Once we understand how Trump supporters frame their understanding of the conversation, we can listen with more compassion. Once we have the compassion to listen with accurate empathy, we can flip the conversation to achieve a completely new understanding of the material. I have been talking a lot about health care lately, mostly, because only Donald Trump believes that health insurance costs $12 a year. The rest of us know that medical expenses can be horrendous. They can hit anyone without warning. I remember one of my sisters wanted to take a sick child to the doctor and not having the $20.00 copay to do it. This event was 30 years ago. Health care is an issue that all of us understand on a personal level. The principles we have been discussing apply to any of the progressive issues that you see as important: environment, child care, women’s health, income inequality.
If you missed it, or if you need a quick refresher about framing, here is the link to that post. Okay, so we are most likely operating out of a nurturing family frame. Our companion is most likely operating out of the strict father frame. If we have been talking to these family members and friends about things that they have done which expresses the nurturing family frame in the last few weeks, we’ve prepared them to make a switch. If we have asked Uncle FOX News about ways in which he is helped people without expecting anything in return, we have given him an opportunity to experience a nurturing family frame. When we make the switch, it will not seem like a completely foreign language to him. First, it’s important to recognize that most people do understand the need for government intervention in healthcare. For example, most people believe there is a need for Medicare and Medicaid in the system. Medicaid is known as Medi-Cal here in California. They might argue about who should be entitled to these services, but they recognize the need for healthcare services for the elderly and people with low income. It is interesting to note that in attending a town hall meeting my Congressman held back in February, he reported that his office got many calls from people telling him to get rid of Obamacare but that they wanted to keep the ACA (Affordable Care Act). It is surprising that so many people were unaware that they were the same thing. I can’t help but wonder if he’s getting the same calls now. Many voters are becoming much more aware of health care as an issue as they see the congressional debate over it. They are learning that much of what the Republican Party is advocating will provide them with little benefit. That has done little to change their thinking on what they believe the American healthcare system should look like. It has done a lot to help them understand that politicians they thought were advocating for them are not. So the next step is to help them see that a more open, free health care system is a better system for the nation as a whole is a benefit for the nation. The question of health care is not just about making a better system for the poor.
Flipping the conversation can be done with any of our progressive or liberal issues: education, infrastructure, gun control, women’s issues, child care, climate change, agricultural policy, care for the poor. You will notice that I did not use the terms “food stamps,” or “welfare.” The punishing father frame, not a nurturing family frame, drive both of those terms. “Food stamps” are part of our agricultural policy. Nutrition programs should be considered separately from agricultural issues. That way nutrition programs will be based on what is best for people, not what is best for farms. For now, agriculture has a firm grasp on nutrition programs.
Where are some of the opportunities for flipping the conversation?
1. Time frames. We often look at programs as potential money savers. When the required tax savings don’t appear in the first few months of the program, we consider it a failure. We need to start thinking in longer terms. Even up to 20 years as we invest more in education, infrastructure, immigration policy. All of these progressive policies will cost more to start. The benefit regarding less poverty may take many years to realize. Some families may take 20 years to recover a more independent life.
2. Everyone’s life style will improve. Bill Gates has told his friends that at some point it just does not matter how much money you have. You cannot spend it. Everyone’s life is better if there is no one living on the street, no one has to beg for necessities, the roads, bridges, and schools we all need are in good repair. We all have to breathe this air, drink this water, and eat this food. Better for everyone’s quality of life if it is clean. Yes, everyone must take responsibility for themselves. How do we require that people do that? How do we care for those who have less and are less able to do for themselves? What about the fossil fuel industry? Do they have a responsibility to clean up the mess that they make?
3. The size of government is the wrong question. What are we getting from the government? Is it what we want and need? Those are the questions we should be asking. Yes, a single payer health care system will mean more spending for the government. It will mean much less spending on health care.
None of this is easy. None of this happens without more discussion, thoughtfulness. We must be willing to listen. We must be willing to consider what Trump supporters are afraid to lose. We must be willing to persuade. Again, some people are not going to change the way that they think, no matter what we say or do. Others can be persuaded. But whether or not we can convince people, we should be able to have a conversation.
Comment, share, follow, and don’t forget to sign up for the email list. Most importantly, flip that conversation.
An Inconvenient Truth was released in 2006. My husband, an environmental scientist, and I took our young children to see the film as soon as it came out. The film was a bit dry relying primarily on charts and slides to demonstrate the dangers we were facing if action was not taken to address the problem of global warming. We are now 11 years later. 2006 was towards the end of the George W. Bush administration. We didn't want to call the lower world wide temperatures “global warming”; let’s call it “climate change,” so it does not sound so bad. Bush did not deny that climate change existed, he just said that we did not know enough. We could not take any action that was going to risk our economy if science did not have an agreed upon understanding of the results of global warming. In An Inconvenient Sequel, Vice President Gore refers to global warming. Global warming exists. It is on the way. It is as scary as a Stephen King novel.
I work in the middle of California’s Central Valley. After four years of drought, mild summers, and dry winters, this summer is setting records for heat. Many days have seen the temperature exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit. An Inconvenient Truth relied heavily on charts and statistics to make their point and contained some footage from Hurricane Katrina. The truth was that the impact of global warming was just beginning to be seen dramatically. Those 10 to 11 years that have passed until the release of An Inconvenient Sequel have created two divergent trends. United States industry has decided that science does not matter. They have successfully convinced many of our citizens that science does not matter. The other trend is that global warming has come home to roost dramatically and disturbingly. In fact, the drama of the way in which the effects of global warming have become evident in a way that was so impactful that nearly every nation in the world signed an agreement to do what ever they needed to do to prevent the world from heating up more than two degrees Celsius. With our current levels of heat, we are already experiencing rising sea levels, melting glaciers, and people are losing their homes, not just the house, but the whole island they live on. Many of the world's poor and developing nations have agreed to the Paris Climate Agreement according to Vice President Gore. One nation backed out: us. The one nation that was once the most advanced, developed, and economically strong nations in the world.
I bought our movie tickets in advance. Just my husband and I attended this time because my children are grown and into their own lives now. I could easily have bought tickets at the theater. I am saddened to find that An Inconvenient Sequel only took in $900,000.00 opening weekend. An Inconvenient Truth made $50 million dollars, was awarded an academy award for documentary, and contributed to Al Gore’s Nobel Peace Prize. An Inconvenient Sequel is a more dramatic and compelling film. Unfortunately, it is about what is happening in the world and real solutions that are ready to apply. An Inconvenient Truth is about what could happen. Alternative energy sources are now cheaper than fossil fuels. Electric cars, solar roofs, and effective batteries are available. We have real solutions. Where is the interest? The fossil fuel industry has done such a great job of convincing people first that global warming is going to cost too much to fix. Then they convinced us that global warming was not global warming; it was climate change. Now, climate change does not exist.
The global warming issue is more difficult to flip and engage our neighbors in because it is not as easy for them to see how the ultra-wealthy can benefit from convincing people it does not exist. The immediate tax reductions are not as easy to see. The reality is that the expectation is that the fossil fuel industry wants to continue to produce energy and fuel our cars long past the day it is even practical for them to do so. Even though big oil interests told us for decades that renewable energy like solar and wind are not practical solutions for the near future, that is no longer true. The technology for generating energy from the wind and solar, as well as the batteries necessary for storing that energy exists. I think where this flip occurs, is if the person we are talking to is convinced that others need to take responsibility for themselves. If the fossil fuel industry, if the car industry, if the energy industry, or any industry for that matter, creates waste as part of the process for whatever they produce, cleaning up the mess is the responsibility of that industry. That responsibility is inconvenient and can be expensive. It can cause problems. If the industry does not take care of it, then the medical expenses, the cost of the disasters, the problems with our way of life are externalizations of those expenses to others. The poor worldwide must absorb the expense of the costs of responsible environmental protection from developed and developing nations.
An Inconvenient Sequel spent time discussing the 2015 Paris meeting on global warming. Of course, Al Gore is the star of the event since it is his movie. What is important about the issue is that business and government worked together to achieve an agreement. I recommend everyone go see this film. I cannot say that it will entertain you, but it will educate you and get you thinking. It will help you to see that we have less time than we think. Many people who do not already think global warming as a problem will see this film. It is more likely that it will provide information and motivation for those of us already in the fight.
Please comment, share, let us know what you think. Next time we will be taking about Neo-Nazi protests in Virginia. Also, I am looking for others who want to contribute to this blog. Let me know through the contact section if you are interested.
I am writing this as we await President Trump’s speech to the nation about his strategy for America’s longest war, Afghanistan. I am not sure the conflict in Afghanistan can be called a war as Congress never declared war. The declaration of war is Congress’s constitutional responsibility. Conducting war is the President’s responsibility, not the declaration. If Congress allows the President to conduct strategic military activities without a formal declaration of war, Congress avoids the responsibility of the outcome of the military activity. It also allows the US to withdraw from conflict when the conflict no longer serves their interests without achieving a peace treaty. We don’t need to solve whatever problem we said we were there to solve. Of course, the issue we discussed in Afghanistan was the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in New York. September 11, 2001, just shy of 16 years ago. I, like most of you, remember it well. I had three young children. I now have three young grandchildren. Osama Bin Ladin is dead. Al Kaida is now a non-entity. So, why are we still in this fight? What is it about this battle that has taken so long? Why is this man that most American’s do not trust going to talk to us about war when thousands have filled the streets in protest and resistance since he took office?
The President has talked about the possibility of turning the safety and security of the US and her allies over to private contractors. Fortunately, the military opposed him, including Secretary of Defense, James Mattis. This morning, Politico published the results of a poll that found that only 20 percent of voters thought that troop levels should be increased in Afghanistan. I know that this decision is not one that the President just woke up with this morning. I do see that the need to switch up the conversation. A week now of discussion and argument about the violence in Charlottesville, VA and he is completely unable to convince America that Civil War monuments are not racist and people marching with Nazis, and the KKK are perfectly lovely people with the best of intentions. We need a crisis to divert the public. I know the eclipse has been exciting. An eclipse is hardly enough to keep people from opposing a racist President. It is not nearly enough to cause people to forget that our President did not have the grace that President George W. Bush had in calling all Americans to care and compassion for all their neighbors as they went about their day shopping. I do know that in her book No is Not Enough, Naomi Klein warned about the President’s need for a crisis event. An event that would divert the protesters from taking real action that would move a progressive agenda. An event would have to be a large increase in the military presence in Afghanistan. I don’t know if the political will is there for that. The problem is that if we are busy fighting a military buildup in the Middle East, we are not fighting devastating tax reform, privatization of our infrastructure, and other features of the far-right agenda that we would not be fighting while we fight a war in the Middle East.
I don’t know what 45 is going to say this evening. My crystal ball is still broken. I don’t anticipate liking it. Almost everything he has said that I thought I liked ended up with a twist that turned out to be bad. This article is not strictly speaking about communication. It is still not the review of the Inconvenient Sequel I just wanted to get some thoughts out there.
So, comment, like, share.
More to come in the next day or two.
I keep hoping that we are past the age of overt racism. I did not understand, when I was a child, the sight of people picketing with signs on the street corner against people of different races buying homes in the neighborhood I lived in. There were children of different races in my classroom and near by the Watts riots rages. I did not understand. I knew that there used to be institutional racism. But, by the time I came along and was aware of the world, Brown versus Board of Education had come and gone. I was raised in California, so I was unaware of many of the legal battles waged in the South in the late 50’s and early 60’s. As I grew, I became more aware of some of the limitations of that many of my friends of color experienced. I was not aware of how those limitations affected their lives. It took many years for me to become aware that history in the US is about dead white guys. Everyone else gets a month if they are lucky and loud. I had hoped that after the election of Barrack Obama as president, we were at least on our way to a less racist society. The bottom line here folks is that I have no idea what to say after the events in Virginia this weekend. I am saddened beyond belief. I cannot imagine that we have a president that does not even know how to respond to such a tragedy.
Let me start "'with a summary of events. If you already know all of this, or just don’t want to hear it again, skip down to the next paragraph. Carletonville, Virginia has plans to remove a statue of General Robert E Lee from Emancipation Park. In protest of this action, a group of neo-Nazis, KKKers, and other white supremacist groups planned a Friday night candle march on the University of Virginia with a Saturday “Unite the Right” protest. Many protesters were in White Supremacist garb. The former head of the KKK, David Duke was there. So, counter protesters arrived for the Saturday event. Police attempted to maintain calm and order by calling both sides of the protest illegal and called them to disperse. As a result, the protesters from both sides began marching in different throughout the city. Several counter protesters were injured, one killed when a car ran into marchers. None of the chanting or signage seemed to have much to do with General Lee. It became a rally for white supremacy. Counter protesters were about diversion and inclusion. Sorry, General Lee, you are not that important a 150 years later.
Exactly what to say about this event in the twenty-first century is hard to imagine. I was not sure exactly what to write about the whole thing. I have not had much to post on Facebook. I certainly did not know what to say to you. I know Trump was elected President. I know that Steve Bannon is serving in the White House. I know our Attorney General is Jefferson Beauregard Session III. Somehow, I still think things can’t be that bad. I know, I’m white. Then I found a post of Zenobia Jeffries article “Charlottesville Was Not a ‘Protest Turned Violet,’ It Was a Planned Race Riot” from Yes Magazine. Ms. Jeffries examines the mistake that much of the media make in addressing this and other similar events in calling them protests gone bad. She asks “Who wears paramilitary gear and carries automatic weapons to a rally? Who takes shields and helmets and pepper spray and bats and sticks to a rally? The car didn’t ‘crash’—it was driven at full speed into a crowd of counter-protesters.” These are not the actions of a group of peaceful citizens opposing the removal of a monument to a local hero. These are the actions of race rioters. She further challenges her readers to look at what side they are going to take. Are we going to take the side of minimizing the violence and hatred of white supremacist groups? Ms. Jeffries has some other things to say about how the media tends to cover these events. She also challenges the media in its failure report the reality of the lives of the people of color and Jews that are under attack in race riots. What are their lives like in the early part of the twenty-first century?
I know I have been talking about the need to listen to the other side. We have to understand Uncle FOX News’s point of view and flip the conversation. Sometimes, we need just to stand up and say what is true. We need to ask the tough questions. We need to attribute the violence to the proper source. For example, protests in Berkeley lately have often led to violent encounters. The violence is often unattributed. What goes unsaid in the mainstream media, is that while liberal groups organize the events, left leaning groups, uniformed, conservative, white supremacist groups disrupt the event, often with violence.
I understand that there are violent liberal actors. I have not been to any events or seen reported where the participants have arrived in riot gear and carrying guns. Of course, I live in California. We have pretty strict open carry gun laws. I have always felt safe attending various marches and protests. I will continue to attend marches and protests. I will be attending the Interfaith Peace Vigil-Standing with Charlottesville, VA in Walnut Creek, CA this evening, hosted by Interfaith Council of Contra Costa County. To find events near you to stand in solidarity with Charlottesville go to the website below, go to the bottom of the page, enter your zip code and search. The site will give you the events near you occurring in the next couple of weeks. If you don't see anything, plan something.
I am hoping for a more hopeful week next week. Again: this is a marathon, not a sprint.
To read Zenobia Jeffries article:
Leave a comment if you have a thought. Share, like. I will be posting my review of An Inconvenient Sequel in a couple of days. I had to post this first.
As we left off last in discussing framing, we were asking our FOX news loving uncle about a time in his life when he helped someone else with no expectation of getting anything in return. The exercise gives him a chance to see himself as someone who cares about other people. When he tells us about doing something for others, we can see him as someone who cares about other people. It moves Uncle FOX News to a more compassionate place. It also helps us to see him as a more compassionate person. When my Congressman, Mark Desaulniers, was my state Senator, I was lobbying at his office on behalf of my Union; I noticed a sculpture of an ear in his office. He told us a friend gave it to him to remind him to listen. He felt that he tended to talk too much and needed to listen more. As discussed in last week’s post, we need to come out of our mental frame to understand what others are saying to us. I want to talk about two techniques mental health professionals use accurate empathy and reframing.
Accurate empathy is the ability to identify the feeling that someone is expressing in a way that allows them to feel heard. For example, if someone says to you, “Things are changing. I used to know all my neighbors. I don’t have anything in common with my new neighbors. My kids can’t afford to buy a house in this area. I don’t know what they’re going to do.” They're sharing with you what sociologist Arbie Russell Hochschild calls their “deep story.” What you may hear is code for racism. You may be right, but that is only part of the story. If you stop listening at this point, you miss the opportunity to make a deeper connection. That connection is going to allow you to change or flip the discussion. So it is important to get it right. I like you to take a minute here and think about the deeper emotion this person is telling you about. If you’re willing to, write in the comments below.
This is what I hear: “I feel out of place. I used to think I belonged here. Now I just feel unwanted and alone. I’m afraid of losing everything I’ve worked for. I’m afraid my children won’t have the opportunities they were told they would have if they worked hard, were honest, take care of their families. They should be safe. Their future should be secure.”
They have come to believe that they are on the Titanic, and the ship is sinking. There are not enough lifeboats. If others get on the boat, they will miss out. The truth is that things are mostly fine. The ship is not sinking, yet. We have plenty for everyone. We also have real problems. We just need to work together to solve them. We can’t do that in a state of panic. But first, we must recognize the panic state that Uncle FOX News and his friends are in. He is identifying some real issues. Where he (or she) is off, is in identifying the source of these problems as immigrants, or minority groups, or some other group that Uncle FOX sees as THE PROBLEM. The problem is the financial inequity that we face. Financial inequity is a problem for all of us, no matter where you fall on the scale. Uncle FOX is not ready to hear that. Uncle FOX needs to get out from under his misconceptions. Before we can flip this discussion, Uncle FOX needs to feel heard and understood.
I know this, but the power of the reality is still difficult for me to trust. I talked earlier this week about talking to my sister about the health care issue. It was not easy for me to do. I spent time talking to her a week before and told her I was going to the March in South Gate. I did not ask what she thought. She called me again the next week. I had determined that I was going to ask her about her opinion. She had a good response. She thought Kaiser Permanente should provide service because she has had Kaiser health care for many years. She has seen an improvement in the last 20 years and felt it would be a good system for many people. She was not sure about funding. She does not think we should pay more taxes. I can understand that, but I don’t see how it can be done without taxes. She is not the only one looking to Kaiser as a model for health care services for all Americans. Her view comes out of her concern that all people get good quality medical care. It is certainly a start. I look forward to having more opportunities to discuss her opinions with her.
Listening is not something I struggle with professionally. If I am being paid to listen to someone's concerns, I have no trouble with accurate empathy. In fact, I’m good at it. Even with people I don’t know as well. I have more difficulty with family members with whom I disagree. I do know that it is difficult to engage in the conversation. If we start with listening, we will earn the right to talk. We earn the right to have our opinion heard.
That brings us to the second task, reframing. I will never forget the first time I did this. I was in my first class on how-to counseling 101 in my Master's program at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, CA. We were taking turns bringing a problem to class and practicing as the “counselor.” When it was my turn to perform the counselor function, my colleague and friend talked about her mother and a particular holiday. She was complaining about how she felt about the holiday and what her mother wanted. I reframed the issue to one of “what you want to do versus what you should do.” Well, let me tell you, I have not said anything that brilliant before or since. It flipped the way my colleague thought about the relationship with her mother at that moment. To examine how this is going to work in future endeavors, stay tuned. We will be discussing this in a future post.
For now, the challenge is to listen. If you have a chance to flip the conversation, go for it, but make sure that you have earned the right to be heard. Make sure that your family, friend, or other is ready to hear you. Calling colleagues, friends, and family members racists, chauvinists, or stupid is not going to help. I know that we do a lot of venting on social media, but it is important to remain loving. Please remember that others can read what we write.
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