Thursday, October 26, 2017

Your Ku Klux Koworkers

I like to ask questions. I watch and read the news, but I keep asking questions because most sources of information don’t satisfy me. Sometimes I find what I am looking for, sometimes I don’t. So this is the result of some of my questioning. 

       A few years ago, as I noticed a resurgence in people’s willingness to be openly racist, I started asking questions.
       Now, I know right away, some people will reject the notion that people were/are more openly racist. If you’re one of those people, stop reading now. You are, in fact, unreachable. My more aware friends always told me, “Mike, it’s not that they don’t know, they don't want to know!” I’m seeing this more and more.
       Well, on with the story. As I am a curious type, I started asking questions. Is the Ku Klux Klan as an organization getting stronger? If so, how? Are they recruiting? Do they have websites?
Boom, that was it! I would search their websites. And I found plenty. This was long before goons with tiki torches descended on Charlottesville.
In particular, I found some very disturbing, yet very enlightening points of strategy for these groups. Let me know if any of this seems like it’s familiar. It is to me and it makes my stomach knot up. 
       They decided a subversive approach would be best. These are some of the things I found as common themes on many of these white supremacist, white knights, KKK sites:

         “ It is not so productive to make it obvious what you think of Negroes. We cannot stand on the courthouse steps and yell the n-word (they spelled it out). We have to keep our views less obvious. 
Instead, we have to change things differently. We need to become more politically active. We need to elect more people like ourselves. We need to focus on Christian values, patriotism and Americanism. We will attack people and political opposition based on not being Christians or not being American... 
 We need to get more involved in our police and fire departments and public services.” 

       I’m not sure I need to write much else. But if you did not pick up on it, they chose to co-opt values ideas that matter to people in order to hide behind them. This way when someone attacks them politically, they can say, “They hate America, the flag, the military, Christians.....”
       Crazy thing is that it’s much like what ISIS or the Taliban does to further their twisted aims. In other words, neither of these entities represents what they purport to, they only use them. 
       But I’ll finish with this. We all know amazing people in public service. We know they love their country and are dedicated. I’ve always had solid relationships with them and a huge appreciation for them and the sacrifices they make, as well as their families’ sacrifices (some are my family). 
 But know this, some twisted people have co-opted your good values, and hidden their filthy agenda behind them. And now they might be working alongside you.
       You need to separate yourselves from them. You probably know who they are. You probably have been ignoring their occasional racist slip, thinking, “Hey, he’s not like that!” Well he is...and now you know this.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Our On Demand World

We live in a time of speed... lightening fast internet, On demand video, on demand music, pizza in 30 minutes or less, Amazon same day delivery, Google searches measured in milliseconds, instant messaging, and the list goes on.

We may be the most spoiled rotten society ever in terms of our "on demand" lives. It's not really our fault though. In most cases, it's often required to compete, to keep up with life.

We've gotten so accustomed to things happening fast, however, that we've forgotten that some things in life still require time. As a result, we've become ineffective by our impatience at the things that do, in fact, require time. We quit too early, we get outraged and angry, we stop talking to people. We often immediately define and dismiss others because we process quickly, often without much actual  processing (thought).

Growth, change, social change, development, advancement and relationships all require time. None of these things can be shortchanged on the path of getting desired results.
Our collective impatience brought on by this "on demand" world is making us ineffective at achieving meaningful change in places that matter most. The most successful will always be the ones who know what can be fast and what cannot. Knowing the difference and having the patience and discipline is the most critical skill for thriving in the "on demand" age.
For adults this might seem like a good reminder, but for your kids growing up in this world, I hope you're not taking this for granted. The challenge for them is exponentially more difficult. Be proactive.
Good luck.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Keep Whatever Integrity You Have Left, Don't Run for Office

Keep whatever integrity you have left, don't run for office....
(True story)
It was a beautiful mid morning in March and I was hurrying to catch up to my family and friends who were already enjoying the annual Oceanview St. Patrick's Day Parade.
I was running behind, and doing my best not to make eye contact with anyone in order to avoid the chance of seeing someone and delaying myself further with a useless "Hey! How's it going?" conversation with a random someone I know, but only see once every 3 years when I'm late for something else (that happens to me more often than it should).
As I'm hustling along, a man in a suit stops me with an abrupt, "Excuse me, can I have a minute of your time?"
I notice another man standing next to him with a clipboard in hand and a political campaign button on his shirt.
He continues, "I need your signature on this petition so I can get on the ballot to be your representative in congress"...
Now, normally I would simply tell him I'm in a hurry and can't stop, but I could tell by his aggressiveness in stopping me, this guy wasn't letting me off that I didn't let him off that easy either.
"Why do you want to run for office?" I asked.
"I'm not happy with the direction our country is heading in..." he says.

And then my cynicism kicked in.

"Well what are the chances you'll win? Do you have a lot of money? You'll need a lot of money. And if you don't have a lot of money, you'll need support from people with a lot of money. Now let's say you have that....and let's further agree that you're a good man with good and noble intentions. Here's what happens next. Let's say you win. You will then have two options in our government. First, you'll find yourself as a freshman congressman with little to no influence. In order to gain influence you'll make friends. Maybe you'll have to compromise your principles a little to make those friends...and you will. You'll find that in order to make a difference, you'll need more than one term and immediately begin making decisions that ensure you'll have the funds to win the next election. And those people you know with a lot of money...well they don't just give it away for free.. You'll owe them, but not in cash. You'll owe them in political favor.....At least that's how most of them do it. You'll pack away your great ideas on 'fixing the country', and focus on getting along with the more senior members of congress who can help you and vilifying people who don't believe agree with everything you agree with...and you'll be caught in the won't be governing, you be politicking. You'll be owned...So in that scenario, I'm not interested in signing your petition.....
Now there's a possibility that you'll stick to your convictions and you won't bend. You're maybe a strong person, and you really mean what you say about doing 'the common good...the will of the people'. In that scenario, you will definitely fail. You see people like that don't last in our government. Those that somehow do are often marginalized as kooks. The rest get their one term in office and move on.....
So these are your options... Bend and sell out like the rest of them, or be marginalized as some crazy person. And you want to do this!?! Give me that clipboard...."
He looked at me with his mouth open and nothing coming out.

I went on about my day and he went on about his. I caught up with my family and enjoyed the parade.
I don't know what he did. Smart people simply don't run for office. I do know that he didn't win however...and that's probably a good thing for him.

Monday, September 23, 2013

My First Love....

    I met my first love when I was 12 years old. I remember I used to stay up late or sneak downstairs after bed to see her when everyone else was asleep. I knew I should be asleep, but I couldn't resist the amazing feeling I had when I was with her. If I felt sad, she made me smile, often laughing out loud. She never judged me. She never made me feel bad. She didn't care what I looked like. She never gets jealous. She never noticed my failings.... She even helped me find ways to enjoy them, and laugh at them. Now there are some nights that we don't get along, but those are few and far in between.
When I'm depressed, she picks me up. She has the power to heal my soul. When I'm happy, we laugh out loud together.
     I still am very much in love with her today. Not a day goes by when I don't think of her, or write something for her. She's amazing.
     You see, my first love is comedy.... I fell in love with comedy when I was 12, watching The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. It was there that I saw the magic of Jerry Seinfeld's first Tonight Show appearance, I saw George Carlin, Bill Cosby, Don Rickles, Joan Rivers, Garry Shandling, David Brenner, Jay Leno, Ray Romano, Eddie Murphy, Ellen DeGeneres, Rodney Dangerfield, and so many more....
    I know she'll always be there. If one of us gets fat, we'll laugh about it. If one of us goes bald, we'll laugh about that too.
    And the amazing thing about this love, is that she always helped me with women too. She's the best.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

A Rainy Night I'll Never Forget

It was Easter, 2002. My beautiful young wife, Mary Sue, and I had just enjoyed an Easter gathering with family and were driving home. At the time we lived in a small two bedroom apartment in Virginia Beach, while our first home was under construction in Chesapeake. We were pretty jacked up excited about our new home and decided to drive past it to see construction progress, which we did pretty often.
Now to illustrate how ridiculous our exuberance was about this, it was after 8pm, so it was dark, and to top it all off, it was raining. But our enthusiasm for our "home to be" was off the charts and we wouldn't be deterred. 
So we headed down I-664 to the number 12 Exit and drove into the neighborhood. It was mostly vacant lots with only a few homes under construction. Our new home was situated towards the front of a cul de sac, and was the only one under construction at the time on that street. We turned onto Tattinger Trail (the name of our new street) and slowly drove past the partially framed home, giddy with excitement. Admittedly we couldn't see much, but we didn't care. THIS WAS OUR NEW HOME! I continued driving to the end of the cul de sac and turned around once there and headed back to pass the house again to make our exit.
However, as I made my way back up the street, I noticed a car headed our way. I believe it was a red Trans Am. I moved to the right of the road to give him space to get around. But as I did, I noticed him move in the same direction, as if to block my exit. He clearly was not interested in getting past me or letting me past him. So then I shifted to the left lane to go around, but as I did another small car appeared from behind the Trans Am and effectively blocked our exit. My wife and I looked at each other, "this is not good", I said. We were both pretty uncomfortable to say the least. Were we about to be robbed or killed? Why would two cars behave in such an aggressive manner? We didn't want to have to find out.
A chill ran down my spine. Here we were, basically trapped in the cul de sac, in the dark, in the rain by two unknown people driving aggressively. In just a few seconds I had to decide what to do. Getting out and finding out what they wanted was out of the question. I also quickly eliminated going off road, even though I drove a 4WD vehicle. The lots were extremely muddy and I couldn't risk getting stuck. But I couldn't just sit there and wait, so I put the car in reverse and began to drive backwards slowly to the cul de sac. I was just doing this to buy time... to think. I gave Mary Sue my cell phone and asked her to call the police. As we drove in reverse, the two cars moved towards us, so apparently we were ALL headed to the cul de sac. As we got back there, I realized a funny thing. Because they followed me back there, the two cars were no longer wide enough together to block the now wider space in the cul de sac. There was some space to the left of the smaller white car. I decided that I was going to put the car back in drive, hit the gas hard and squeeze past them on the left. I asked Mary Sue to duck her head as a precaution and I put the car in drive. Just as I did I noticed the passenger door on the white car opening. I had to choose. Do I go through with the plan and "floor it", knowing that there wasn't enough room to pass without hitting the opening door and whoever was about to come out? Or do I let them come out and approach us?
I decided that staying and finding out what they wanted was not a risk I was willing to take. So I put the pedal to the floor and drove straight for the opening door. That night it was either gonna be them or us, and I decided, we were not about to become victims. They were able to close their door just milliseconds before I passed them. They tried to chase us but only followed us for a quarter mile or so.
That was a scary night. We never found out who they were, or what they wanted. I did ask around. They were not some kind of security for the builders. The police didn't have any answers either. 
On that night, I learned a lot about myself. I learned that when pushed into a corner, I'm bright enough to find my way out. But I also learned that if I felt danger to me or someone I loved, I was willing to run someone over to protect myself and her. I am comfortable with my choices that night.
Would I have been wrong to do so? Should I have found out what these people wanted? 

Monday, March 18, 2013

Silent heroes, we can all be one

Some people quietly get things done. 
They're the quiet, friendly type that you don't pay much attention to. They're kind when kindness is needed and when it isn't.
They blend in the background with the rest of the volunteers at your homeless shelter. They're almost faceless. They stop to help you change your tire, they help push you to the gas station when you run out, they read to children in the pediatric wing, they show up when you need help, they offer the postman a glass of ice water on a hot day, they volunteer at the local fire station, and they take lunch outside to the guys working to restore your electricity when the power goes out. 
        They're the last to complain. In fact, they're usually the ones listening to you complain. They're quiet. They're good listeners. They're usually patient.
         There's almost never any fanfare or celebration when they step up. They're not comfortable with it. They don't self promote. They'd prefer to just do something nice because in their mind, "that's what comes naturally", "it's what people are supposed to do".
Often their ideas are swallowed up by others who take the credit because they desperately need approval of peers or parents or employers. And still other times they're so quiet and modest that their ideas are even attributed to others in their organization because no one remembers who really birthed them. And while this irks them a little, it's not enough to make them stop being who they are. They "need" to do good things. It's almost like it's part of their DNA. They're problem solvers, they love doing good things. They can't help themselves.
Without them, no one would be coaching your little league team while you're too busy. Without them, your kids might not have the school supplies they need. 
They are people at your road race cheering you on, that don't even know you. They are the people in the car in front of you who pay your toll.  They are the people struggling to gather resources (asking for donations) for an underfunded event at your school or rec team. They're doing a career day at your school. They're cleaning the highway you drive to work everyday. They're in the nursing home holding the hands of the elderly with no family left. These people are doing things. Maybe we all should be.
And while this note may compel you to want to thank them, it should not be all you do. And if that's all you believe you can do, I'll ask you to dig deeper . If you feel compelled to do anything, carve out time from your busy schedule, and do something for someone on a regular basis. You can do it.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Outrage is the new Significance

People are so devoid of significance in their lives these days that they will look for it anywhere they can find some semblance of it. Today's flavor of "significance" comes in the form of outrage (often faux outrage). You find people outraged about all kinds of things these days. We're commenting on social networking sites, talking in coffee shops, school parking lots, at work, at school, about all the stuff that we should be outraged by. 
"Can you believe this!" 

We share the memes about things we should be outraged by, we TYPE IN ALL CAPS, to show our outrage. It's everywhere! 
And I suppose there are a lot of things that you CAN be outraged by, but isn't it uselessly expended energy? 
It gets you almost no results and doesn't add any significance to your life. I suppose we think that it somehow it might make us socially or politically conscious when we spout off... But we're really not. Our actions prove otherwise... And still no real significance.
If we really measure all the outcomes of the fashionable outrage in this quest for significance, we'll likely find negative ones (With the exception of our friends in Northern Africa, where Internet outrage led to revolution and removal of dictators). It may, in fact, give you a momentary level of faux significance, but because it doesn't last long, you find yourself soon looking for the next thing to show outrage over.
We find that most of our actual outrage results in offending friends, losing friends, being avoided on social networking sites, and nothing really good.
I can't blame people for using the expansive number of methods of communication available to them. I suppose the outrage, helps people feel like they're not sitting idly by as bad things happen. But really you are. In actuality, you're doing worse. Rather than pull people together to combat the negative things you see, you unintentionally (or maybe intentionally) separate.
What's worse is that this momentary feeling of social or political consciousness is so short that you need to find something else to show outrage over. So now you're looking for it....or maybe your FBBFF (Facebook BFF), is posting it and you're joining the party. So instead of looking for good things in life, and things that actually add significance like being involved in the community, volunteering, being active in your kid's school, you're looking for the negative in everything. What a life!
It's hard to be too bothered by this. There are big problems facing us in 2013. And maybe we just feel like there's nothing that we can really do about them. Maybe our social and political impotence, has us so desperate that we think this is "doing something". I also know that many people say "I just don't know what "I can do". I'm so busy with work, and kids, and life.... I get it, me too. 
I'm just telling you, this isn't the way.
Outrage should exist, but only as fuel for you to do good things. Otherwise, it just makes you look angry.
There are lots of ways to feel significant, mostly by showing love, not hate. Show kindness, not anger. Show compassion, not judgement. Show your joy in things to celebrate, not outrage. Let's save outrage for outrageous things.

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