Refrain to Retain

(I have found I need to preface my posts with my Blogger’s version of the Surgeon General’s Warning statement on cigarette packages:  reading this is not like reading sound bytes or watching tv ads.  It is not contemporary bite size.  It is the best I can do, however.  I have labeled sections of this to make it somewhat more digestible. Bottom line:  What happens to it after I publish is really none of my business. See also The Rhett Butler Rule on the top page, About section.

I Mea culpa. If I want a better way of governance than Donald J Trump is offering (I do), then my way of opposing cannot be his way of doing. I must be what I want, and I fear that I have not always done that in my Pane in the Tale blog posts.

For years, almost without exception the extended hand of compromise has been treated by our American right wing reactionaries in the manner with which sulking, narcissistic,  intemperate teenagers would treat such an action by their perceived enemies:  Sneer, call names, shout and scream lies and insults and then bite.   And I, acting partially on the belief that we still had a civil, rational culture waiting out there to reassert itself in the last elections and partially out of people pleasing, just let it happen. Trump and his flock finally took that deluded restraint to the tipping point, pushed it over the cliff  and broke the camel’s back.  So: I regret very much having not spoken up earlier.  No More Mr Nice Guy to them any longer.  No longer to be their speed bump,   must mean that I not start biting back or acting just like they have.   All that does, as in war, is prolong the battle and extend the destruction.

But I have bitten back. I have poured fuel on Donald’s already blazing inferno.  I let the fear of losing things I need or think I need drive my expressions.  Ido not apologize for entering the fray nor do I regret my ideas. But for my own peace of mind and to shorten the time till Trump’s derailment and crashing, I need to acknowledge trhat fear has contorted my expression into aggressive sarcasm, bedevilment of opponents, character assassination, etc.. I’ve only added fuel to the fires.

II The New Governance Culture. Someone once said that fear is False Emotions Appearing Real. It seems to me that a national governance culture which at least tried tobe encouraging and helpful, friendly, aimed at making positive differences in citizens’ lives has changed over night and not just figurately over night: really. The prime shared of any culture is the thinking and behavior of the top leader. It appears that our national governance culture now values and acts on being against things just to make a big splash, win/lose competitiveness towards just about anyone DT dislikes and weighted towards favoring the President and his men/women,, and finally aimed not a solving problems based on unfiltered reading of the data, but doing what will give Trump and his Republican Congressional and administrative band of imitators and followers more position, power, status and prestige at anyone’s expense but theirs.

I’ll give them the notion that my fears about the changes in our dominant culture could be anticipatory and therefore not actual. And if so, I don’t want the Trumpers via my fears to rent space in my head in absentia. I’ve chosen to style myself somewhat as a soldier in a campaign to right a grave error in our politics. As such, I try to be guided by a character in Masters of Sex (a great tv series about Masters and Johnson by the way) who puts it well: soldiers, he says, do not suffer today from the wounds that have not yet occurred and probably will not.

III A Better Assertion. OK. Following that wisdom, I categorically reject what I perceive to be the new administration’s undemocratic guiding principles; further I reject as ill advised and counter-productive the emerging autocratic/heroic process which is emerging as the path for governance so far. I can, however, in some instances, agree with the issues and/or needs they have identified. Not all because there is no consistency or logical policy, but sometimes, often in retrospect. Bottom line: it is not so much the tasks they choose that raise the alarm bells for me, but the process by which they implement.

Take the travel ban.

For decades in my business, I’ve taught and tried to use up to date research, which in some form has been going on for more than 100 years, about what makes for leadership success and what makes for failure, in any context. Boiled down it is this: our task skills (how to do whatever) account only for getting he job. Success comes from learning the competencies demanded by he job and implementing them excellently. Failure is called derailment and hardlyi ever is caused by lack of task competency. As a rule of thumb, however, derailing just about always involves some sort of interpersonal shortcoming. So, we derail when we overuse our strengths, fail to develop the competencies needed by our real life situation, and actually practice skills and attitudes which stall and stop careers and leadership effectiveness. The management of the travel ban is a good example of derailment.

They say that the US has ineffectively managed entry of foreigners into the country and that in a world in which ISIL and others are clear and present dangers. To me it makes sense to be careful and selective about who comes and goes through our borders. You don’t want to invite more crazies into the asylum than you can handle, after all. I do not think that acknowledging principle that poorly managed immigration with lots of loopholes presents great potential for harm to us. It is no delusion or in some way a violation of any American principles to acknowledge the principle in question here.

The process by which it is all handled, however, is another matter altogether. It’s simple: it violates the fundamental American values set forth by Lincoln in the Gettysburg Address: democracy–government of, by and for the people, not the 1% ultrasuper rich, not the Corporations, not the President, not the Republicans with their “Unitary Executive” euphemism for dictatorship.

Let’s take just one mainfestation of those democratic values here: the fundamental right of every American and everyone living under our law to due process; We do not deprive anyone of their rights without first notifying them and then letting them make a case before a neutral magistrate for their actions and against ours.

To observe the right to due process, however, the leadership taking restrictive action needs to see all men as created equal. That means in terms of skills to deploy on the job, for example, effective Presidential use of such competencies as integrity and trust, patience, dealing effectively with ambiguity,and a lot more. Our President, however, also needs not to be rigid in the face of differences, not to lose his composure, not to be insensitive to others, not to make political missteps, not to rely on just one skill. And more. All of this is about how he needs to go about is agenda, not what the agenda is.

By ramming home with no chance to adjust and no way to avoid being incorrectly categorized as some sort of enemy, American citizens and those we have already welcomed as guests into our culture have been deprived of their rights. It is irrelevant to argue that only a few have been illegally detained. The principle of due process, the principle of going about governing in a democratic way, has been violated. Mr Trump and his Republican flock in Congress ought to have known from even just Richard Nixon’s fate that how you do things is the issue. Mr Trump has needed only one week to show that he will willlinglly violate due process, to demonstrate that his process competencies are counterproductive and anathema to democratic processes. And the riots are at one level a vote of no confidence, a signal to Mr Trump that he is derailing himself and us.

IV What Is DT’s Leadership Style? There are only two natural, inborne leadership styles: autocrat and Laisser-faire: my way or the highway or whatever turns you on. Until the 1950s people thought that Laisser-faire-faire was democratic. It is not. Experiments showed that groups, organizations and cultures with either autocratic or Laisser-faire leadership wind up with low commitmet, dribbling output, poor quality, internal squabbling and finally shut down as people retreat into hardened self protective positions. Democratic leadership is learned and it involves mastering very high level competencies, based on the values Lincoln so eloquently set before us in the Gettysburg Address.

It also turns out that, if let go long enough, autocratic and Laisser-faire leaders always self destruct. The reason is that they never know what’s really happening and make all the wrong decisions, or none at all. Autocrats always think that they really have it down, and especially so just before their houses of cards collapse. That’s because nobody wants to deal with their ire when telling then the sad facts of existence and so they either tell them nothing or just what they know the Leader wants to hear. Subordinates in autocratic cultures become razor sharp at blowing smoke. Laisser-faire leaders never ask for feedback and look at the initial outburst of joy at being freed from direction as success in leading. As a result, we get the Nero fiddling while Rome is burning phenomenon and we get politicians who cannot differentiate campaigning from governing. Republicans have long been addicted to that failing fallacy. And most leaders who have no competency as democratic leaders swing like a pendulum back and forth between autocracy and Laisser-faire: Donald Trump.

V A Way Out: Attraction, not Promotion. That leads to a very practical reason not to spew forth invective against him and his in return for his doing that to us: it just gives him more cause to keep up fighting. If we focus on doing it right ourselves and let him just do on without aggressive, judgmental, demeaning, snotty counterattacking, he will eventually create enough rope and just hang himself. It is inevitable because he will never see it coming. The only quesion is how to shorten the time without pouring on more fuel.

The first step is to realize that “They” did not elect Donald President. We did. We must embrace the fact that They did not make our bed for us, we did and now we must sleep in it. Once we’ve done that, we can make change by being the change, one citizen at a time. If the issues he presents are valid, then let’s affirm that. And if he way he goes about handling them is inconsistent with democratic leadership, then before he derails all of us, let us challenge that as directly and as energetically as we can without violating those principles ourselves. After all, I get angry out of fear, go on the attack and fuel the fire, but we find common ground and retain our much neglected democracy.

So What?

Our devil’s advocate contributor, C. C. Pitt, has asked to have the following published. Here it is:

“Your posts are, maybe, interesting, and you’ve apparently thought a lot about all of whatever you say. Maybe you even think you have Truth to tell here.

Frankly I’m getting tired of all the essays about what’s wrong and how we got there. Your reactionary-right friends and relatives won’t be swayed by anything you say, and those who agree don’t need any more reasons to agree. It feels as if we have made for ourselves in this country a social-political-spiritual and moral chasm, which is too large for any civil or peaceful bridge to join. At least I think that’s the case, with of course the qualification that my view is certainly bot Olympian.

And neither is yours, my presumptuous Mr Pane in the Tale.

If there is, as some assert, a large body of moderates who share much common ground, where are they? Why have we not heard from them? Are these the masses of men who are living their lives in quiet desperation? Has the Moral Majority become the Muted Mass?

So: assuming that it is to too late, what the devil, if anything, are we going to do about all this?

Is it not high time that we stopped the interesting but diverting talk about the Why of all this and moved out of Analysis Paralysis? Should we not be figuring out what right actio is here, planning our What to do before the maelstrom of the national DTs swallows us all up?

if you want to know who will resolve this for us, go stare in the mirror until it dawns upon you.

Otherwise, all this amounts to is: So What?

C C Pitt”

We are always willing to hear feedback: actionable descriptions of opportunities to delete, augment, rephrase, shorten, lengthen, justify etc. and suggestions about how to do the same — offered without judgment and in civil discourse. C C Pitt’s comments are always welcome.
We have more to say about how we got here because we believe that no problem can be solved until the root cause has been dealt with. We laud the call to action, but will have more to say about our notions of root causes for our national case of the DTs.

ALL I WANT

As usual, I awakened at 4::30 r this am to the alarm of my sciatica.

Wash, make bed, get dressed, come downstairs to have my warmed up yesterday’s Gevalia half French Roast  and half house blend decaf.  And of course hope that pounding on the microwave door will one more time knock the spring that operates the switch that causes the plate to go around while those magic energy waves warm up the coffee which the docs say I shouldn’t drink.  But I need a bit of a jump start these days, some help getting into the new day’s new levels of challenges.  I knew what awaited us and was trying fervently not to think about it.

I enter the kitchen area, and there is our Titan, everybody’s friend, the soul of gentleness, curled in his favorite corner of the kitchen, back against cabinet doors, and butt tucked into the corner.  He likes to have his back covered on two sides.  Maybe it was something he learned while surviving in the wild after his first owner abandoned him:  be able to see everything that’s coming at you.  

This morning I saw it right off the bat:  his GSD stare said to me as clearly as if it were on a billboard: :  I need your help.


Titan is never there in the kitchen when I get up.  He is Nancy’s Velcro dog.  He will  not leave her side voluntarily, ever unless there is someone or -thing he does not know on the house’s turf or there is something wrong with him.

There was.   He had lost some urinary continence control.  Of course that got us to the vet lightning fast.  Two visits later we found out that X-rays pictures revealed an enlarged thumus gland.  That’s the gland that produces antibodies for puppies.  When the dog is adult, the gland withers, but leaves enough tissue for tumors to form.  And it could be lymphoma.  Hastily an appointment was made for this morning to see the vet oncologist about what this is and what if anything at all, can be done.  

The X-rays yesterday left him ground down to a nub of his usual frolicking, cuddling, clinging self.  We were going to do it all over again today…. And more bad news from today’s round of examinations  was the last thing we wanted to hear.

Yesterday I wrote about forbearance in this time of my world turned upside down.  I hope to keep that resolve in all matters for another 24 hours.  Forearance is one thing, the ongoing distress of the dawn of a US I don’t know or want to know is something else.
Still, the unprecedented developments in our political system have left us with our sense of safety shattered.  This is not about the why and wherefore of that.  We got there because we set the stage and wrote the play.  The current actors simply auditioned for the roles we created and were offered the job by enough of the audience to make the offer stick.  Forget about whether it was right, wrong, good or bad faith:  the props are gone and they are not about to come back without a fight.  And that means I, for one, and Nancy, for another, no longer can trust that our speech will be protected, that our healthcare will be affordable, that our national defense will protect us against cyber and terrorist attacks, that our economy which depends on stability and predictability in all those other factors will no longer work for anyone except the New American Aristrocracy which owns 99% of all we use and have and to which our new Leader belongs or wants to.

Abraham Maslow taught us that our behavior is driven by the needs of the moment, and the more basic the need, the more basic and protective our thinking and behavior.  We all have just been plummeted from the opportunity to be self fulfilling to the need to be self protecting.  I don’t need to say it will get worse, because this disaster is trouble enough by itself.  The security, tolerance and even handed governance of our state and federal institutions,  on which we built and relied all our lives,  is at very least in grave danger, enough so that it just can’t be counted on any more.

Losing an animal companion is an unequalled trauma for me.

And that or any other stress of life now must ride the crashing cultural whitecaps whipped up by the turbulence of the storm which has settled where the spin and the buck used to stop, our governments.  That violates a basic assumption of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Gettysburg Address:  the foundation of our nation.  It releases an unrelenting, robust and totally arbitrary distress. 

Unfortunately even in times when my fundamental assumptions about this country are not in the line of fire, I cannot by myself feel sufficiently grounded and protected.  The trouble is, I am missing an  internal gyrocompass and bubble level, also the operational mental and emotional filters to manage the attack of stressors.  Consequently, or maybe instead, I work and have always had to work through very high levels of multi-factor lifelong, untreatable ADHD and a few of its troublesome spinoffs.  That means the work others do easily in a straight line, you do twice:  once is wandering swirls and the second time as editor.  Everything, such as this post for example, takes you twice as long as it does others.  And they don’t get it, neither do they care.  You are on our own:  distress.   All that whirling, circular attentativness means, de facto, that our emergency antennae must always be fully operational:  you’ve learned that you miss things and sometimes dangerously big things in the maelstrom.  Concern adds more distress.  Finally, restlessness operates like spraying water into a WW2 P47 Thunderbolt engine in a climbing dog fight:  it makes the maelstrom speed up in bursts.  You go past things you suspect are important but which you cannot really recognize in the blur.  

Distress is a default condition.  Or at least for me.  So I can ill afford to have another source added, about which i can do nothing.  But there it is:  deal with it.

Dealng wth it begins with thinking that I have a choice:  I can bemoan, even eloquently, the outrages of the slings and arrows of fortune or I can look for the sliver lining in the cloud.  For most of my life I’ve bemoaned very skillfully and all too well, keeping the focus on me, King Baby.  That did not lead to much peace of mind, our current cultural love affair with narcissism notwithstanding.  My spiritual gurus have taught me however that I always have the choice of attitude.  They want to carve into my mental concrete the notion that peace of mind, not control of outcomes, is the only viable goal of life in our woebegotten but wonderful world.  And that outcome can be obtained by me — I don’t know about you — through a lifetime discipline of self criticism, making amends for my wrongs, and  keeping myself spiritually fit so that I can be of maximum service to those around me — all those:  dogs, plants, insects, people, trees (read The Secret Life of Trees if you doubt it), all life in short.   One day at a time.

That’s the foundation, and I am grateful that living by those principles is a matter of progress, not perfection.  ,

I look back at 19 years living on the ridge in Western North Carolina, and know now that this in one respect was exactly the worst possible spot on earth for me, just me, to have moved to.  The sort of stimulation I need to manage the mental maelstrom of ADHD does not include watching the grass grow, or just sitting and watching the view of the mountains in the morning–picture below.  (I just love the pano option on the camera on my iPhone 6!). For most it is an experience that brings serenity.  For me it brings that also, but only until I start to get restless and feeling vulnerable, irritable and discontented.  I realized after a while that our two first German Shepherds, Bruno and Zora (2000-2013) filled in the empty blank.  For reasons I now can grasp, but eluded me for decades, from them alone so far I get grounding and secure.


I am so grateful for the gifts of being permitted to live with Titan, Kaiser, Bruno and Zora.  Restless?  Kaiser or Bruno would just show up at my side, lean on my leg, put his head onto my leg and look, with those sad inviting eyes soothing the whitecaps in my mind’s tempest.  And Kaiser and Bruno did that without ever having been asked, not verbally anyway.


Now only Titan is left, and he has a diagnosis of  death sentence:  lymphoma. 

Titan does for Nancy what Kaiser (above with head on my leg) did for me. I get almost nauseated by the thought of her losing that because I know only too well what trauma the loss of Kaiser was just 8 months ago.

I’ve accepted that this might be the defining of the path to the end of this life for Titan, but could be just another bump.  I’ve reminded myself that there is no point in suffering from wounds that have not happened and in all likelihood, probably won’t.  The thought came and went, but it left in its wake a dark puddle of doubt and anticipatory grieving.  The image of being without my personal service GSDs is daunting at least.

How to get out of that?  How to relieve the distress?  The only trick I know is to stop the suffering and start the servicing. I can get release from that dead end built into my life, my ego, only by doing something for others and if at all possible, not get found out.  That sounds like some great moral principle, some spiritual maturity that will make my soul glow in the dark.  It isn’t.  It is purely self protection:  I feel better that way.  I”ve learned that I’m not so much a thinking person, as I am a feeling person.  So I need to smooth out the path of change in expectations so that the bumps are bearable.  Being of service to someone else diverts my attention from myself, feels good in and of itself, perhaps is of use to someone and most of all gets me back into the stream of life.  If I do that, then the searing conflagration of torture becomes the purifying refiner’s fire.

So today is the day to help Titan on whatever path his journey must take.  Today is the day to find other opportunities to get beyond myself and be helpful –and I know what those opportunities are but choose not to name them.  If I get credit, then all it does is boost my ego.  The spiritual pollution of ego boosting — no matter what the PR folks calll it — it seems to me, is glutting the spiritual and moral marketplace in this world.  Poison by any other name will still corrode as well.  Anonymous or hidden service, on the other hand, is still all too rare a commodity.  At age 75 I have little desire to add to the oversupply of pollutants or poisons.  God’s world does not deserve that.

Brave words.    I love my German Shepherds with all my heart, mind and soul.  They and I, like Kaiser-Bruno-Zora-Titan and I, can be a winning team.  We can share respect, we can help each other.  And they teach me how to love and give me a lifetime of opportunities to practice it without once getting it wrong.

Thank heavens the Gods do not demand perfection, but just ask for progress in learning to love.  

That’s all this old, tired, and –today — unsteady man really wants.