Seeing Through the Trees

trees up closeWhen moving through the forest, they can turn you around, block your view or hide your path. Some trees (or even a specific branch or a specific leaf on a specific tree) can become so distracting that you get off track and forget the original purpose of the journey.

Of course it can be hard not to get lost in the moment. Whether it is in parenting when your child is not doing what they are told or with your partner who is running late again or possibly, most glaringly, in confrontational situations with people you don’t feel connected to – think comment sections digressing into long debates over whether one tree is tall enough or the right species or should be chopped down or is Obama’s fault.

When you are not in a good place you can get distracted from the big picture – shaming your child, forgetting how good your partner is in other ways, or that the point of the article was a tribute to fatherhood – not Obama’s tax plan (true story).

But not losing sight of the big stuff when you are dealing with the little stuff is an art. It requires a strong inner compass that guides you so that your thoughts, words and actions do not go off course. It also requires setting a good course to begin with.

It requires that, in the moment, you remember that your child is 3 and that you love them; that your partner is more that this one flaw; that the issues the world is facing will not be solved by your ego, angst, anger or nasty comments. And that you actually do care about solving the issues of the world.

At some point I hope we learn this art. As parents caring about our kids, as partners in love, as humans on this planet. It starts with appreciating that people and trees have value and valuable points to make –  even if labeled as republicans, liberals, democrats, conservatives, business owners, gun owners, gun control advocates or those working hard to keep a roof over their heads – but that there is more than one person, one tree, or one point to creating a forest.

Of course, the forest can’t be located on the outskirts of crazy town. And we need to drop the righteousness, and add adjectives like ‘reasonable’, ‘responsible’ or, in the case of commentors, ‘rational and respectful’ to create a flourishing ecosystem. But you get the idea.

Don’t forsake the forest for the trees. That’s the wisdom we need to remember.

I vote we start now. Solutions to happier families and the world’s challenges are too important and can’t withstand much more of our overly-reactive, self-serving, or small-minded narratives.

We need to take a step back and see the bigger picture. Or the biggest picture which is that all of our roots are in the same soil here people.

Let’s start getting this right. Each person can and really must do their part. Whether you are raising your little family or educating a student body, whether you are a big voice in the boardroom, on the hill or over the airways, or a single voice in the workplace, the voting booth or the comment section – set the tone, set the course, see the forest.

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    Goldilocks & The 3 Bears Explain Politics, Parenting, Etc.

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      People v. Obamacare Translated

       The above photo was posted on facebook after the Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act’s provision that a mandate to carry health care insurance was constitutional. It was a call to action for conservatives. Here’s what it really means:

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        Dear Readers

        Dear Readers of this blog,

        Just wanted to let you know that while I appreciate having a forum to share my thoughts, my life is such lately that I have had to take a break.

        Hopefully I will find an opening to add more in the future. Until then, I hope you are doing your part to make this world a bit better, safer, saner.

        Take care,
        Me

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          Walker’s Win-Lose Thinking – The biggest issue

          In listening to the conversation between Wisconsin’s Governor Scott Walker and who he thought was a major backer, billionaire David Koch, one thing jumped out at me.

          It wasn’t that Walker was willing to use deception to lure AWOL Democrats back to the capital to force a vote to eliminate collective bargaining. It wasn’t that his camp considered planting instigators in the midst of protesters. It wasn’t even that he’s quite the chatterbox. It’s that in all his narrative, he talked like he was playing a game.

          And he likes this game. This idea of strategizing with his camp, of shoring up his team, of crushing his opponents – who in this case are state Democrats, public workers, unions, liberal protesters and of course Obama – this is fun for him. There are no real people in his playbook. No good and dedicated teachers, trying to inspire the next generation. No sanitation workers doing a job that most would not touch. Those protestors are just liberal hippies who will tire the ‘usually bad’ press soon enough. Even the one Democrat that he has had some contact with (and presumed respect for), is irrelevant because he isn’t ‘one of us’. So he doesn’t really count.

          Of course in many ways, politics is a game. And at this moment he, and his agenda are winning so why not privately be Gleeful?

          But it’s this very mindset – whether you see it as a game, a competition, a battle or an out-and-out war to be won that is the biggest issue we must get beyond if we have any hope of moving on to truly solving some of the challenges of our times.

          To be clear I have issues with unions too because they have the same strategy – looking out for themselves. And while I do have great respect for many in the professions that have unions, as an entity unions play the same game.

          The minute all you care about is getting your demands met, or getting your way, you keep the game going. And while there is nothing wrong with wanting to win, it’s when that comes with an apathy of or even pleasure toward the other side losing, there is no difference between the sides anymore.

          And that is why we need collective bargaining. But of a different sort. Where we address the legitimate concerns of the other players as well. Otherwise we are stuck – moving the ball back and forth down the field. Each side picking up yardage, making touchdowns and winning games until the other side comes back with enough steam to stop them. It might take until the next game, next season, or next election but that is the game we are playing.

          Until we change the rules – we won’t achieve greatness. But it’s going to take some true visionaries. And unfortunately Scott Walker isn’t proving to be one of them.

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            Is reasonable – the new crazy in today’s world?

            It seems that the world has flipped upside down. What was once the fringe is now the norm and visa versa. Which means that being reasonable and respectful, knowing the difference between facts and spin – even when spin agrees with you, not only disagreeing without being disagreeable but being open to agreeing as well, and not turning every difference of opinion into a volley of insults is the new nuts.

            So if this is true I say – Call me crazy and please join me!

            We have some very big issues these days. And we need big solutions. Instead we are getting more and more extreme rhetoric, push-button reactivity (that is completely reasonable when we are reacting and completely ridiculous when it is the other side) and stretching the truth to make a pre-determined case.

            And sadly no one wants to take ownership for their part in this mess. It’s worse than my kids with their – ‘He started it’! (And as bad as the grown-up logic that gave us the sequels: How Marriages End and How Wars Start)

            Look, the truth is that a certain amount of panic is not unreasonable in today’s world. It is a bit of a mess and we should be worried. But the key is to use that fear to fuel smart discussions instead of distracting debates and detracting comments or worse – using a 2nd Amendment solution.

            Jared Loughner in Arizona is the most recent example. But the jacked up reaction of some that threw Sarah Palin’s map into the mix is much more a part of the problem than the map itself. In fact does anyone else see the irony in the actions of a man making Congresswoman Giffords a scapegoat for his mental health issues causing some to make Palin’s crosshairs map the scapegoat for our political issues?

            Not that I don’t agree that we are living in volatile political times and that the anger that’s out there is not helping us resolve our differences better. But it’s a huge leap to say Ms. Palin’s map – though arguably in bad taste – is even in the top 10 reasons for this tragedy. In fact bringing it up to make a point actually reinforces the very problems we are having and fortifies the divide. Because any Palin fan will dismiss it for what it is – overkill – and not feel obliged to listen to the point behind it. Which is – we need to find better ways of dealing with our nation’s challenges than taking it out on each other.

            So let’s not get nuts (I mean the old nuts) because that’s exactly what I’m talking about. When something bad happens we need to respond but let’s keep our wits about us. The trouble with un-contained ratcheting up of the conversation is that it compels us to respond in the instant and it’s almost always overkill!!! (See I could have used a period there but I was ratcheted up!) Slowing down seems counterintuitive. Being calm and reasonable seems crazy and yet this is what is often needed…

            As a nation we need to get better at this skill.

            Now – you may be saying – It’s not me it’s the other side that needs to hear this. And to that I say – Yes. So if everyone would remember that to someone – YOU are the other side – it would be a great start. Not that that is where we end but how about looking at your own actions and seeing what you can do…

            Even with my kids I would say, ‘Even if you didn’t start it – where did you take it from there?’ Because that’s the most important thing now. My vote – a little of the new crazy would be good.

              Posted in My thoughts on people, My thoughts on politics, My thoughts on the future | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

              Where Insanity Started

              On September 11, 2001 a brilliant and insane plot was carried out to take down America. Not only were buildings destroyed and lives lost, but what was also shattered that day was the innocence of our nation.

              After an initial rallying, we’ve had a rough go.  Our reactions to our grief and anger have been varied and not necessarily effective in helping us move on. In fact I think a case could be made that as a nation we are still suffering from these attacks in a  very unacknowledged way – similar to the way some military personnel struggle after seeing combat or a woman might react after being raped.

              It’s called Post-Traumatic Stress.

              Post-Traumatic Stress causes a shake-up in the sufferer’s ability to feel safe. People, situations, daily tasks that once seemed routine and benign can no longer be taken for granted. If untreated, this hyper-aroused state can cause, among other things, irritability, anger, blackouts or difficulty remembering things, increased tendency to being startled, and hyper-vigilance to threat. Think raising the terror alert system to orange.

              Add to these the fact that PTSD symptoms can become chronic and you’ve fast forwarded to today in America. According to Medicinenet Chronic PTSD includes: “problems regulating feelings, which can result in explosive anger, or passive aggressive behaviors; persistent feelings of being completely different from others; feeling the perpetrator of trauma is all-powerful and preoccupation with either revenge against or allegiance with the perpetrator”.

              Sound familar?

              I think we’ve seen all of these symptoms. In our conversations with family, friends and perceived foes such as _____ (fill in your own blank: liberals, tea partiers, Republicans, Democrats, Muslims, Obama, Beck, Palin, Maddow, Fox News, Jon Stewart etc.). From the political machines that blast their messages, to the difficulties in enacting reasonable legislation, at our airports and our borders there is a tension, a fear, a sense of threat that is palpable.

              The biggest challenge with PTSD is separating out unreasonable from reasonable fear. And that is what we have been struggling with ever since 9/11/01. There is reason to be fearful. But we have lost our ability to regulate this fear. Our take on whether that shadow is a sniper or a rapist or a terrorist is not always accurate.

              So what to do about it?

              Take back our power as a great nation. Take it back from the fear-mongerers in the media whose job it is to keep us worried so that we will keep tuning in. Take it back from the Koch brothers and similar behind the scenes players who have exploited our fears for their own purposes. Take it back from the political extremists who – while often having very valid points – are too fear-based and myopic to hold the nation together as a WHOLE.

              September 11, 2001 showed us that this is serious.

              Now we need to be serious about our recovery. We need to lead it and not just continue our knee-jerk reactions. Challenge yourself first. Work with good FACTS not divisive spin that sees a bomb in every baby carriage. Be open to hearing others who speak with reason – even if they have a different take on things. Manage your own symptoms.

              Invite others to manage theirs. On the airwaves, on blogs, in the media, in our legislation. Communicate in a reasonable manner to those around you. Insist on hearing from reasonable leaders. Vote for reasonable representatives. Encourage reasonable laws. Respectfully, reasonably (and much more loudly) challenge unreasonableness where you find it.

              Come on people. We are better than this. Now let’s start proving it.

                Posted in My thoughts on politics | 1 Comment

                Passing on a better world

                If future generations are to remember us more with gratitude than sorrow, we must achieve more than just the miracles of technology. We must also leave them a glimpse of the world as it was created, not just as it looked when we got through with it. ~ Lyndon B. Johnson

                About a year ago my 16 year old son shared with me that he is really worried about this world. And frankly I don’t blame him. As grown-ups we are messing it up. So I promised him that I would help fix it.

                I still don’t know exactly how I think I’m going to do that but I decided to at least get in the game. That’s why I started this blog.

                We all need to be doing our part. Mine is hopefully some clarity of thought and decent writing. What’s yours and what are you doing with it? Feel free to comment below!

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                  Reactions To The Rally To Restore Sanity

                  I wasn’t exactly sure why I felt compelled to join this Rally to Restore Sanity. But since Jon Stewart has kept me from going crazy in what, at times, seems like a Bizarro World, I felt I owed it to him to show up.

                  First, let me say that the rally was a phenomenal experience for me. Just being around that many (mostly) sane people who, like me, would like to change the tone in this country away from the  extremist, angry, ‘us-them’ sentiments that are currently prevailing our public discourse was rejuvenating.

                  Jon’s message was to take it down a notch. He also reminded us that people of different faiths, ethnicities and even political parties can and often do get along better in real life every day than one might be led to believe in the media.

                  But Stephen had a great point too. Fear is a powerful force. And of course there are times when it is absolutely the correct response. But because it is hard to judge reasonable fear from over the top hysteria it becomes either a tool to signal real danger or a danger signaled by real tools.  The fear that has taken hold of much of the rhetoric these days is the latter and is now being used to justify dividing, demeaning, dismissing and denying reasonable thoughts and differences.

                  At the rally, we were part of a giant Mythbusters experiment to push against the seismic wave of fear that is out there right now so that our country can move in a direction that makes more sense to us. A rational place where insanity does not reign supreme.

                  The vibe was inspiring. 150-215k people NOT being hostile toward each other. But now the harder part begins. Can we carry this message out to the world? Can this rally take on the energy coming from fear and reactivity and division so that we can set a new tone for this country? I hope so. But we do have to be careful not to become the very reactionary, fear-based movement that we are repelled by. What kind of energy will we use to counter this wave? Will it be reasonable, wise leadership that moves us to a new place or just a louder us to their them?

                  I hope some great thinkers are out there working on that question right now. For my part, while I consider myself a good thinker at best, I will contribute my thoughts on that as well. As I hope others do because we are going to need every sane person there is.

                  To sum up though, I found this rally to be a very hopeful start. In fact, the ultimate validation for going to this event came from one of my teenage sons whom also attended. On his facebook post the day after this rally he wrote:

                  Yesterday was one of the coolest experiences of my life. I saw Luigi taxiing people around in a bike cart, met the Flying Spaghetti Monster, found Waldo, was part of the Mythbusters’ largest experiment, and best of all, I got to take the pulse of sanity, and find that no, it’s not dead in some attic somewhere, and that yes, there is more to America than what the media amplifies. Happiness.

                  That, in and of itself, told me that it was worth the trip.

                    Posted in My thoughts on politics | 1 Comment

                    Sanity Agreement for Jon Stewart’s Fan Base

                    Dear Reader,
                    I feel the need to say that I don’t normally write like this but in honor of my favorite Real or Fake Newscaster Jon Stewart, I gave it a shot. ~ Thanks JS for rallying the reasonable.

                    In order to create a more sane America, I, the undersigned Jon Stewart Fan, agree to the following:

                    1. I will not be a dick.
                    2. I will not be a dick even if the other guy is a dick. (Which means not calling them names like ‘dick’ btw)
                    3. I will not completely dismiss, distort, contort, or literally throw away REAL facts just so I can make my points.
                    4. While I have the right to carry a gun, I will not use it – or my fists or feet or anything that blows up for that matter – to try to communicate my point.
                    5. I will not hate people or assume they are insane just because I disagree with them.
                    6. I will not hate people just because they are Glenn Beck and are most likely truly insane.
                    7. If someone has facts and concerns that are different than mine and talks like a sane person, I will try to listen and I will be nice about it. Including not making disapproving facial expressions, under the breath noises or baiting comments designed to tap into their crazy.
                    8. If someone has facts and concerns that are different than mine and talks like a crazy person, I will ask them to call me back when they land.
                    9. I will pay attention to craziness and call it out in a non-dickish way when I see it.
                    10. I will try not to drink too much of my own Koolaid. And I will do my best to take away others’ keys if I find them drunk on the stuff either.
                    11. I will ask myself: Am I the crazy one? And If I hear myself answer – then I will know it really is me. And it’s all YOUR fault!
                      Posted in My Attempt At Humor | 1 Comment