Countering the Floridation of America

“Once a government is committed to the principle of silencing the voice of opposition, it has only one way to go, and that is down the path of increasingly repressive measures, until it becomes a source of terror to all its citizens and creates a country where everyone lives in fear.” (Harry S Truman)

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Florida Sunset

No, I’m not talking about fluoride, the naturally occurring mineral added to local water systems to fight tooth decay. I’m talking about the southern state whose governor and legislature are bent on promoting truth decay.

A few years back, under a different governor, the lawmakers of the great state of Florida banned the use of the terms “climate change,” “global warming,” or “sustainability” in any official communications, emails, or reports. Now, they have passed what is being called the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which forbids discussions of sexual orientation and gender identity in primary classrooms.

In recent days, the Florida legislature has also passed the “Stop WOKE Act,” designed to protect its sensitive residents from being made uncomfortable by the truth. Thus, it prohibits the teaching of history about race, identity, events, or circumstances that some might find unpleasant. Further, it restricts private corporations or businesses from offering diversity, equity, and inclusion trainings, as well, potentially, as sexual harassment trainings, if they cause discomfort.” Wounded employees could actually sue their employers for the distress. (And they call us snowflakes? Just sayin’.)

Having nixed critical race theory, and surely turning their attention now to Covid denial and sea-level-rise repudiation, conversational topics in the Sunshine State are becoming limited.

Pretty soon, Floridians will find approved conversation limited to orange juice (a wholesome breakfast beverage, as long as it’s made only from Florida oranges, and not those progressive California upstarts) and Mickey Mouse. Actually, they’re on the fence about Mickey. Despite his ambiguous voice, he is almost certainly a heterodent, Continue reading

Not the New Year Message I Hoped to Write

I haven’t posted on this blog for three months. There are multiple reasons—none of them good. I’ve been busy … I’ve been at work on other projects … I’ve been frustrated by WordPress’s new editing format … I’ve been discouraged by the state of the world. All true, but each insufficient.

There is something I am burning to say that will not coalesce into sentences with verbs and nouns and proper punctuation. Instead, I sputter and rage. I seem to have traded my Pollyanna tendencies for those of Nostradamus, or perhaps Eeyore.

Prophet of doom is not who I am. Yet I shiver to think of where we may be this time next year. And two years after that.

Over the last five years, I’ve realized just how much I took for granted about my country. How much I failed to see—whether from ignorance, naïveté, or because I was looking in the wrong direction. I knew my country was imperfect—that inequality and injustice were far too prevalent—but I believed enough of us cared and wanted to work together to build a more perfect union.

I wish I could say I still believe that.

Continue reading

White America Must Embrace Becoming a Minority

“The price of privilege is the moral duty to act when one sees another person treated unfairly.” (Isabel Wilkerson, Caste)

These are discouraging times, yet also illuminating. While the Black Lives Matter movement has brought hope and determination over this last year, it also brings awareness of how very far we are from achieving equality. And the anti-Asian sentiment that became more evident in response to COVID and climaxed in the horrific shooting in Atlanta last month shows us that hate is an equal-opportunity employer. As more of us act to counter the inequities surrounding race, ethnicity, and gender, the backlash by those intent on preserving the status quo becomes more malicious.

I am a white, middle-class, cisgender female. I recognize my privilege and know I will never fully understand what it feels like to be a minority or a member of a marginalized community. Perhaps it is that recognition that makes me eager for the day when whites join our sisters and brothers of color as minorities in America. It can’t come soon enough.

The U.S. Census Bureau has projected that by the year 2044, non-Hispanic white Americans will join all other ethnic groups as minorities. The Bureau states that, “no group will have a majority share of the total and the United States will become a ‘plurality’ of racial and ethnic groups.” Continue reading

Just Show Up

“We cannot, of course, save the World because we do not have authority over its parts. We can serve the world though. That is everyone’s calling, to lead a life that helps.” (Barry Lopez)

Yesterday, I participated in a Saging International webinar on “Cultivating Compassion.” I signed up for it weeks ago, not noticing that it was scheduled for the day after the inauguration. As it turned out, it was a perfect follow-up to President Biden’s powerful and beautifully inclusive speech, and also to Amanda Gorman’s luminous poem, “The Hill We Climb.”

Both asked us to step up to this moment in history with a commitment to unity and to bringing our best selves to the task. Each, in their own way, acknowledged that it will not be easy and there may be some who do not share the vision. Nonetheless, the time is now. Continue reading

Restoring Trust, Restoring Hope….

“Trust men and they will be true to you; treat them greatly and they will show themselves great.” (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

attribution Donna CameronGeorge Shultz is not a man I ever expected to write about with any admiration. Or at all, for that matter.

Having served in both the Nixon and Reagan administrations—as Secretary of Labor, Treasury, and State—it’s safe to say that our political leanings are in opposite directions. Yet, I believe he is a man of honor, and a voice to be listened to as we seek to find light after this year of so much darkness. On more than one occasion in the last couple of years, Shultz has lamented the climate of distrust at home and abroad that the current administration has fostered, noting that it will take years to reverse.

On the occasion of his 100th birthday, which happens to be today, December 13, he wrote an op-ed for The Washington Post that is worth your attention. It’s a reminder of a time when we may not have agreed with politicians, but we could still believe that their motives were honorable and their commitment to public service genuine.

In “The 10 Most Important Things I’ve Learned About Trust Over My 100 Years,” Shultz recounts moments—some personal, some significantly political—when he saw that trust is the essential element that must be present if we humans are to accomplish great things together. As he put it, “When trust was in the room, whatever room that was—the family room, the schoolroom, the locker room, the office room, the government room or the military room—good things happened. When trust was not in the room, good things did not happen.”

Perhaps that is one explanation for the world we find ourselves in today. Trust is not in the room.

Years ago, I used to teach seminars on trust, and, like, Shultz, I saw it as the quality that must come first—in a friendship, a marriage, a business, and a community. Once trust is established, you can deal with just about anything. Trust serves as the solid foundation upon which futures are built.

In his book, The Speed of Trust, Stephen M.R. Covey contends that the ability to establish, grow, extend, and restore trust is the number-one leadership competency. Where trust is low, you find hidden agendas, interpersonal conflict, win-lose thinking, and defensive communication—all of which impede progress.

Where trust is high, you find transparency, confidence, win-win thinking, effective communication … and progress. Doesn’t this explain a lot about our country today?

Covey further explains that for trust to be present, a leader must display both character—which he defines as integrity and good intent, and competence—which comprises both capabilities and results. Again, we can readily see how trust has been eroded.

How do we establish trust once it has been lost? That’s the question we are facing today. Fortunately, it’s not rocket science, but it will require effort. As individuals and as a nation, we must consistently model behaviors that generate trust:

  • Speaking the truth
  • Following through on our promises—both the big ones and the little ones
  • Showing respect for others
  • Admitting our mistakes and taking responsibility to fix them
  • Holding ourselves accountable and expecting others to do the same
  • Confronting reality—having the courage to tackle the tough issues head-on
  • Listening to one another with the desire to understand
  • Extending trust to others, while at the same time not being gullible

All of these take awareness and practice. But all are doable if we have the genuine desire to come together as a nation. There’s evidence that many Americans do not share that desire, but if enough of us do—and are willing to do the necessary work—perhaps a year from now we can look back with pride on the changes we made in 2021.

I’ll give George Shultz, on his 100th birthday, the last word:

“The best leaders trust their followers with the truth, and you know what happens as a result? Their followers trust them back. With that bond, they can do big, hard things together, changing the world for the better.”